Putting the product back in the process: on fluxus, viruses, organisms and the Instant Composers Pool
In this paper I connect musicological interest in performance with the new materialism that is growing in the broader humanities, and use this background to argue for a reconsideration of the score in relation to performance.
I present some elements of my fieldwork with Dutch improvising group the Instant Composers Pool (ICP). The group has a background in Fluxus, the art movement that took flow and process as its central purpose, but that based all of its performances on written instructions that they called ‘scores’. Similarly, the ICP uses a vast amount of compositions in their still fundamentally improvised performances. One subset of these they call ‘viruses’, small notated fragments that can be instigated by the musicians at any moment, to disrupt, end, or redirect whatever the others are playing.
Drawing on the ‘philosophy of organism’ of A.N. Whitehead, I will reconsider the concept of the work as an organism, not in the traditional musicological sense of an ‘organic whole’, but as a fundamentally incomplete and adapting entity.
Floris Schuiling is a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge, working under the supervision of Nicholas Cook. For his PhD, he investigates material sources of creativity in the performance practice of the Instant Composers Pool, combining ethnographic methods of observation and interviews with close listening and musical analysis.
Anthony Gritten (Royal Academy of Music)
Towards a methodology for research into musical distraction
Musicology’s performative shift emphasised two things. First, fluidity and dynamism are characteristic of all events, from creation to consumption. Musical meaning, for example, is made rather than discovered and thus evolves. Secondly, music poses questions about auditory perception with wider significance for how humans relate to the world, as with insights into proto-musicality in human development.
These two things pose methodological challenges to documenting musical processes. A persistent one is distraction. Distraction is omnipresent: art, work, war, sport, medicine, and travel. Culturally it overlaps with entertainment. Cognitively it relates to earworms. Ontologically it underwrites perception (but is usually criticised as inattention).
This paper discusses the functions of distraction and how to address these better in research. Of interest are perceptual shifts in listening, and how we might broaden our understanding of listening to be a fluid balance between attention and distraction, rather than, as generally presumed, a triumph of attention.
Anthony co-edited two volumes on Music and Gesture (Ashgate, 2006, 2011), and is contracted to co-edit Music and Value Judgement (Indiana). He has published in English and German, in artists’ catalogues, on continental philosophy, and in music journals. He is Head of Undergraduate Programmes at the Royal Academy of Music.