"This is not a drum". Towards a Post-Instrumental Practice
Artistic production, Research report
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Abstract. - This is Not a Drum: Towards a Post-Instrumental Practice thematizes the role of the performer in contemporary music. - One of the oldest crafts in musical arts, percussion playing, especially within the Western contemporary music tradition, has developed rapidly and been subject to significant change over the last 60 years. The growing presence of percussion as an autonomous source in classical music was primarily linked to avant-garde movements flourishing in the first decades of the twentieth century. Along with extra-musical objects such as household implements, and electronic devices such as radios, tape recorders, and turntables, percussion emerged as a fresh medium for expansion and alteration of Western music’s building blocks, perfectly suiting an escalating quest, characteristic of the period, to break new musical ground and move beyond the romantic tradition and mainstream conformism. This movement also fostered a new breed of performers. Emerging first as multi-tasking percussionists within the classical orchestra, these performers developed in the works of European and American experimentalists of the 1950s and 1960s into co-creators of a new genre. In the process, they developed skills that were unparalleled in classical music: using all imaginable sound-producing objects as instruments. My project takes as its starting point the notion that percussionists have so many instruments that, in effect, they have none to with which the can genuinely identify. The ambition of the project has thus been to liberate or decouple the intent of percussion from the materials of percussion, and to influence new developments in our field by investigating an expanded area of practice. The idea has been to try to understand how the genre and the role of its performers have evolved and to offer what I consider to be relevant and necessary responses to its current state. I have reflected on recent tendencies emerging in contemporary music that pursue the experimental spirit of percussion music from the midtwentieth century onwards, but that are not directly connected to percussive techniques or instruments. My investigations have been centered on nine case studies in two parallel lines of research, the first developing five new works employing unconventional techniques and instruments, the second investigating interpretational potential in works that already existed when I began the project. Most of these compositions do not fit the common definitions of percussion works, since they do not involve instruments or techniques associated with general percussion. The fact that I and other percussionists perform them and works of similar nature poses fundamental questions about what performing percussion might imply today. My claim is that we see emerging the contours of a new practice, which I tentatively would like to label post-instrumental. I have drawn on my own artistic practice as tool and method in the generation of this text. Through reflecting on the various processes posed by my case studies, I have examined my research questions, hoping to contribute to the ongoing discourse among performers, composers, and musicologists in the field of New Music. The written reflection is to be understood as a complementary side product to the artistic portfolio that accompanies the project.
Critical Reflection - The Norwegian Artistic Research Programme - The Norwegian Academy of Music - 2010–2014