Research


My main research area is music performance studies. Within this sub-discipline of musicology, I carry out both theoretical and practice-led enquiry, focusing on: the phenomenology of artistic pianism in the classical genre; pianistic touch; the musical and social dynamics of chamber music practice; piano trio performance; the epistemology of live public performance; the role of the musical instrument in developing performance interpretations; cultural discourses surrounding classical pianism; the historical-cultural contingencies that set aesthetic and stylistic interpretative boundaries for canonical pieces of music; and the theory and philosophy of practice-led research in music performance. I also research the history of music theory and analysis, and its relationship with music pedagogy, psychology and aesthetics. Some of my research outcomes are summarised below.

“The Role of the Musical Instrument in Performance as Research: The Piano as a Research Tool”. In M. Doğantan-Dack (ed) Artistic Practice as Research in Music: Theory, Criticism, Practice. Aldershot: Ashgate (2015), pp. 169-203. ISBN: 978 1 4094 4545 6.
click to download

In this chapter, I present an artistic research project that integrates embodied pianistic expertise and music analytical thought in the context of the performance of the Finale of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 110 in A Flat Major. The research process is woven around the affordances of the instrument of the modern piano, which mediates the discursive and the embodied elements I bring into the research process by drawing together phenomenological, musicological, biomechanical, psychological and artistic insights and knowledge. In this sense, the piano acts ‘as a tool for exploration and discovery, for affective involvement, expression, thought and creativity, rather than merely as a medium for communicating some meaning that exists prior to or independently of its affordances.’ Originating in the phenomenology of artistic pianism, the project culminates in a recorded performance of the movement. In the first part, I investigate why the Arioso dolente from the Finale of Op. 110 has a different physical feel compared to other cantabile passages of music from the piano literature; this leads to the formulation of some basic principles with regard to normative pianistic cantabile practice. In the second part, I narrate how the theoretical insights and knowledge acquired during the research process motivated an original understanding of Beethoven’s expressive performance indications, in turn leading to an embodied conceptualization of the formal plan of the Finale of Op. 110. The project attests to the emergence of an interpretative performance alternative that is not discoverable through traditional score analysis, and a performer’s origination of musical signification. The chapter reveals the complexities of the artistic research process, including the non-linearity of its trajectory, the emergent nature of its methodologies, its reliance on contingencies and singularities, and the interrelatedness of situated-subjective insights and generalized knowledge.

................

“Artistic Research in Classical Music Performance: Truth and Politics”. PARSE - Journal of Art and Research, University of Göthenburg, Sweden, Vol. 1 (2015).
click to download

In this article, I discuss the impact of recent neoliberal policies on higher education institutions, particularly as this relates to some of the values that underlie current discourses on artistic research. From the moment of their inception, discourses of artistic research have been permeated by political judgments. I argue that a sustainable future for the discipline of artistic research in music will come not from any a priori political agenda that aims to carve out a niche within academia either in conformity with or opposition to the expectations of neoliberal higher education policies, but from keeping in clear sight the categorical imperative of the academic – and of the artist – as ‘truth-teller’. Artistic research will draw its strength from continually prioritizing and aspiring to realize the value of scientific and artistic knowledge and truth through artistic research projects, even when these might disagree with some immediate market values and academic managerial interests. As part of this argument, I focus on one particular idea that has been pervasive in discourses on musical meaning and performance expression – the idea that the pitches and rhythms notated in a given musical score exclusively determine their performance expression, which is to be achieved through the (only) correct ‘reading’ or ‘deciphering’ of the musical meaning of the written symbols. Through artistic research, I demonstrate the untruth of this idea, with the implication that what performance pedagogical discourses present to aspiring performers as the only way is only an option. While one of the primary roles of artist-researchers is to make known the insider’s expert perspective on art making, this is not the only aim or accomplishment of their work. Just as significant is the contribution they can make to unmask such ‘untruths’ and thus advance knowledge in relation to particular traditions of art making. This article is also available online at: http://parsejournal.com/article/artistic-research-in-classical-music-performance/

................

“Philosophical Reflections on Expressive Music Performance”. In D. Fabian, R. Timmers & E. Schubert (eds) Expressiveness in Music Performance: Empirical Approaches Across Styles and Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2014), pp. 3-21. ISBN: 9780199659647.
click to download

To date, there has not been any systematic and thorough philosophical study of expressive music performance, as distinct from, albeit related to, philosophical studies about music performance. This chapter aims to initiate a tradition of philosophizing about expressive music performance, and to draw attention to the immense complexity of the phenomenon. After revisiting Carl Seashore’s definition in order to tease apart some of its conceptual and methodological components and implications, I discuss some of the epistemological premises that have pervaded psychological research on expressive performance, including the view that expression arises from the performer’s structural interpretation of the music. This is followed by an exploration of the connection between performance expression and emotional expression in an attempt to identify potential universals of expressive music performance. I argue that the meanings emanating from the sounds of a performance are the reflection of non-sonic factors, of historical-cultural contingencies, and of complex social dynamics that have not been targeted by the mainstream of expressive performance research. The chapter draws examples from both Western and non-Western cultural contexts, and argues for the inclusion of philosophical enquiry within the field in order that expressive music performance may be more fully understood.

................

"Musical Performance and Familiarity". In E. King & H. Daynes (eds) Music and Familiarity. Aldershot: Ashgate (2013), pp.271-288. ISBN: 9781409420750.
click to download

One of the basic hypotheses in psychology is that familiarity, or past experience with and prior knowledge about given phenomena, play a crucial role in human cognition and emotion. Over the last several decades, music psychology has provided abundant evidence that familiarity in this sense is also at the root of our cognition of and affective responses to music. In this chapter, I discuss the relationship between familiarity and musical performance based on my AHRC-funded Alchemy in the Spotlight project about the practice of a professional piano trio. I consider the impact of familiarity with the music, and of familiarity between co-performers, on the quality of live performance. There is an unwritten assumption among performing musicians that familiarity with a piece through repeat performances is a necessary condition for future qualitatively better performances. I argue that caution is advisable in accepting this assumption at face value, by discussing how performers continue to learn on stage. If we want to explain the relationship between familiarity and the quality of live performance, we cannot rely on the logic of linear causality: live music-making has an in-built indeterminacy, and familiarity constantly works with or against this unavoidable dynamics. I also argue that during the preparatory phase, there is a saturation point beyond which to increase the familiarity may become aesthetically undesirable.

................

“Tonality: The Shape of Affect”. Empirical Musicology Review, special issue on Music and Shape (2013), Vol. 8 Nos. 3-4.
click to download

The last decade has witnessed an increasing interest in studying music as it relates to human evolution, leading to the establishment of so-called evolutionary musicology as a new field of enquiry. Researchers in this field maintain that music indeed played as crucial a role as the development of language in the evolution of humankind. The most frequently cited musical phenomena in relation to various adaptive functions include rhythm, meter, and melodic contour. In this connection, the 
universal phenomenon of tonal organisation of pitch in musical systems received no attention. This article provides a hypothesis regarding the evolutionary origins of tonality as a system for the dynamic shaping of affect, and establishes further connections between music and affective states by proposing a link between the emergence of tonality and of the human capacity to regulate inter-subjective dynamics by shaping the course of affect towards stable states. The article also proposes that tonality provides an archetypal psychological space within which the human ability to shape different paths towards stable affective states could evolve.

................

“From Technology to Philosophy: Reflections on Recording”. Performance in the Studio Conference 2013 (AHRC-funded Research Network).
click to download

(Also available at: http://artofrecordproduction.com/index.php/ahrc-performance-in-the-studio/pits-online-conference)

To the extent that an audio-recorded artefact emerging from the joint efforts of a producer, sound engineer and performing musicians is a collaborative product, the processes involved in a studio recording are by nature collaborative, presumably unfolding in accordance with a unity of purpose. Yet, there is no systematic study regarding the philosophies of performing and recording that the collaborating individuals bring to bear on the studio processes. Can we assume that because individuals work collaboratively in the studio to create a recording, their decisions stem from similar understandings of the relationship between performing and recording, as well as similar conceptions of what a recorded artefact represents? The main questions I pose in this article are ‘What does a sound-recording represent for those involved in its production in the studio?’, and ‘What do the performing and the recording processes represent to the same individuals?’ In addressing these issues, I adopt a philosophical-historical approach by discussing the different aesthetics of sound recording that can be gleaned from recording practices in different genres of music: recording as document, i.e. a truthful representation of a musical performance; recording as artwork, i.e. a creatively produced aesthetic object based on a musical performance; recording as an interpretation of a musical performance, i.e. technology employed to interpret a musical interpretation. I then critically explore what happened in the particular studio session we generated as part of the AHRC-funded Research Network Performance in the Studio, by scrutinizing the documented materials from the lens of these different aesthetic positions.

................

“’Phrasing – the Very Life of Music’: Performing the Music and Nineteenth-century Performance Theory”. Nineteenth Century Music Review, special issue (2012) Vol.9/1, pp. 7-30.
click to download

Our contemporary perspective of the relationship between the composer, the score and musical performance during the nineteenth century has been largely shaped by Lydia Goehr's widely accepted and equally widely contested narrative regarding the appearance of the regulative concept of the ‘musical work’ at the end of the eighteenth century. This narrative has been based on the assumption that during the nineteenth century the score was regarded as the locus of the work and the music. Goehr's account, however, is contrary to the essence of performance-oriented discourses of the nineteenth century. In this article, I present a narrative account of a neglected thread running along the music theoretical, aesthetic and pedagogical discourses of this period leading to the emergence and establishment of a profound conceptual transformation in the way the fundamentals of music making were understood and explained, and depict the rise of the concept of ‘phrasing’ as a specifically nineteenth-century phenomenon that diverges from the fundamentals of eighteenth-century performance pedagogy. I discuss the role of the new concept of phrasing in the performance theories of Mathis Lussy, Tobias Matthay and Stewart Macpherson and point out some of the widely employed metaphors and images in the teaching of phrasing during this period. The article posits that in the performance-oriented discourses of the nineteenth century, the performer's first and foremost loyalty was expected to be to ‘the music’ rather than to the score, the work or the composer.

................

“The Art of Research in Live Music Performance”. Music Performance Research, (2012) Vol.5, pp.32-46.
click to download

Live performance is an under-researched area within contemporary music performance studies, and currently there is a very limited research context for studying the creation of a live performance of music involving a score. In this article I present preliminary artistic research on live music performance from the perspective of a classical professional pianist working within a chamber music context. I address two broad questions: 1) How do performers continue to learn on stage? and 2) What methods are appropriate for documenting and analysing a live performance in terms of musical content, social significance, and as a research outcome for dissemination to the wider research community? I argue that performers continue to learn on stage, and that among other things a live performance is a site of knowledge production. The project takes the value of the live event for the performer as the starting point and thereby moves beyond the interests of merely gaining new knowledge and understanding into an area where artistic engagement with and commitment to the ‘object’ of research, i.e. the live performance, necessitates an interested and subjectively valorized positioning of the performer-researcher. The project also contributes to artistic research in music performance by motivating the emergence of a specifically performer-oriented discourse on live music-making.

................

“Practice-as-research in Music Performance”. In R. Andres, S. Boyd-David, E. Borg, M. Domingo and J. England (eds) Sage Handbook of Digital Dissertations and Theses. London: Sage (2012), pp. 259-275. ISBN: 9780857027399.
click to download

In this chapter, I argue for the vital importance of practice-based research projects by performers for the continual thriving of Performance Studies within contemporary Musicology. In spite of the recent paradigm shift from a score-based to a performance-based understanding of music, the dominant disciplinary discourse in Performance Studies involves traces of a monomodal conception of music – and of musical performance – that regards them as functioning similarly to a musical score-cum-literary text. The pervasive textual ideology diminishes the role and value of aesthetic-existential experiences, as well as the expert skills and knowledge of musicians in performance making. The chapter also puts forward the argument that while digital technologies played a crucial role in the establishment of Performance Studies as a discipline, the potentials they offer for multimodal knowledge production and dissemination, and for a multimodal conception of musical performance have not been exploited: digital technologies present performer-researchers with unprecedented opportunities to represent their artistry and scholarship through aural-discursive multimodal discourses to be listened to and read as both artistic practice and research. As a case study of a practice-based research project, I present my Alchemy project, which explores the processes of live musical performance and the embodied-aesthetic quest driving the practice.

................

“In the Beginning was Gesture: Piano Touch and the Phenomenology of the Performing Body”. In A. Gritten and E. King (eds) New Perspectives on Music and Gesture. Aldershot: Ashgate (2011), pp.243-266. ISBN: 9780754664628.
click to download

This chapter presents research on initiatory physical movements in piano performance. These movements take place at the beginning of, and in between, musical gestural units. As such, they are often performed in silence. Because empirical performance research that aims to explore the microstructure of gestural shapes performers give to melodic patterns employs measurements that start with the onset of a musical sound, initiatory performance gestures have been entirely neglected in research – as there is nothing to measure in the absence of sounding phenomena. Nevertheless, such preparatory gestures are an integral part of the sounding pattern both physically and psychologically. They prepare the moment of impact between the body and the instrument, and have a profound effect on the expressive/affective shape of the sounding part of the complete gesture. They greatly contribute to the elusive performance phenomenon of pianistic touch. In this chapter, I first consider the implications for musicology of the recent advances in neuroscience that provide evidence for the fully embodied nature of cognition and affect. I then go on to explore the nature of pianistic touch in terms of phoronomic experience, and give a phenomenological account - through a thick description of the sensation of initiatory gestures - of the ‘singing touch’ on the piano. I argue – based on recent research on the acoustics and psychology of pianistic touch – that the way a pianist touches the keys does make a qualitative difference in the sound produced. I conclude that unless empirical performance research takes these ‘silent’ initiatory gestures into account, resulting accounts of performance expression would necessarily remain incomplete.

................

“Recording the Performer’s Voice”. In M. Doğantan-Dack (ed) Recorded Music: Philosophical and Critical Reflections. London: Middlesex University Press (2008), pp.292-313. ISBN: 9781904750277.
click to download

In this chapter, I argue for the urgency of establishing a performer's discourse within the discipline of performance studies, which would give recordings an integral role in representing the performer's voice. While recordings are studied as documents of performances within the discipline, musicologists do not regard them as documents of the performer's expert musical knowledge. After discussing how the dominant disciplinary discourse misrepresents the performer's identity as a musician, I argue for the necessity of developing a discourse that originates in the act of music making, and provides a textually and musically accurate representation of the performer within performance studies. Towards this aim, I discuss the second movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata Op. 13 from a pianistic perspective and present my recorded interpretation of it.

................

“Timbre as an Expressive Dimension in Music”. In R. Reigle & P. Whitehead (eds) Spectral World Musics. Istanbul: Pan Press (2008), pp. 63-74. ISBN: 9789944396271
click to download

In comparison to pitch and rhythm, timbre has received very little attention in studies of musical meaning and expression, partly because there has not been much consensus among music theorists and psychologists on the precise nature of this complex phenomenon. This chapter puts forward some premises regarding the expressive meanings of timbre in Western classical music.

................

"Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True: Questions of Aesthetics and Epistemology in Using Recordings". 6th CHARM Symposium, University of Royal Holloway, 2008.

The ubiquity of recordings in the discipline of performance studies is matched by their widespread use in the processes of professional performance-making. There is ample anecdotal evidence that performers listen to and use recordings professionally, as part of their embodied aesthetic–epistemological quest to create musical meaning in their performances. Although the ways performers use recordings have not been systematically and rigorously documented and investigated, existing evidence, which comes mostly from interviews with performers, reveals that using recordings is a continual process, and an integral part of practical knowledge-production for many of them. Accordingly, these uses extend from learning a new piece aurally to seeking creative solutions to interpretative problems. Such professional practices that involve using recordings raise important epistemological and aesthetic questions: for instance, how much authority do performers typically ascribe to the score during the various stages of learning a new piece, and how much of this authority has been taken over by recordings during the course of the twentieth-century? What are the aesthetic implications of borrowing interpretative solutions from other performers and how does this influence our conceptions of creativity and singularity in musical performance? And in this context, does the "anxiety of influence" become a problem for performers? In this article, I address these and other similar questions.


(Also available at: http://www.charm.rhul.ac.uk/content/events/symp6.html)

................

Mathis Lussy: A Pioneer in Studies of Expressive Performance. Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2002. 187 pages. ISBN: 390676950X.

What are the historical roots of the rapidly growing branch of performance studies in contemporary music psychology? During the nineteenth century, the Swiss music theorist Mathis Lussy proposed a highly original theory locating the source of expression in performance within the musical structures rather than solely in the inspired soul of the performing artist. In this book, I present a comprehensive account of Lussy's theories of musical rhythm and performance based on a survey of long-neglected archival sources and publications against the backdrop of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century psychology and aesthetics. 



Introduction
click to download


Chapter 1: Historical Background for Lussy's Theory of Musical Expression
click to download

Chapter 2: Foundations of Lussy's Theory of Rhythm and Expression
click to download


Chapter 3: Lussy's Theory of Rhythm as a Foundation for a Theory of Performance
click to download click to download

Chapter 4: The Elements of Expressive Performance 


Chapter 5: Connections Between Lussy, His Successors and Recent Developments in Theories of Rhythm and Expression

................

AHRC-funded Research Project:
Alchemy in the Spotlight: Qualitative Transformations in Chamber Music Performance

The Alchemy Project concerns investigating the cognitive and affective processes involved in performing live in public in the context of a professional piano trio, which has been specifically established for this project (Marmara Piano Trio). One of the aims of the project is to identify and explore the qualitative transformations performers experience during live performance. The term 'transformations' is used to indicate certain processes that are peculiar to live performance contexts as distinct from the processes involved in rehearsals and practice sessions. During a live performance, the cognitive/affective world of the performers and consequently the interpretation of the music they perform often undergo certain qualitative transformations. These transformations are related to such phenomena as increasing expressive freedom, increasing affective involvement, unplanned creative interpretative choices, and certain alterations in time-consciousness. The Alchemy Project explores the conditions of emergence of such transformations in the context of a professional piano trio preparing and performing selected works from the Classical, Romantic and Contemporary repertoire; it compares and contrasts the processes that take place in rehearsals/practice sessions with those that unfold during a live performance. It also examines the broader issue of the acquisition of new insights and knowledge during live music performance by identifying how performers continue to learn on stage about the music they perform. One further aim is to identify the conditions under which live performance becomes a site for positive affective experiences. Workshops and public concerts are organised and documented for subsequent analysis.
click to download

The main objectives of the Alchemy Project are:

1) To investigate the cognitive and affective processes that are involved in live public chamber music performance, and to compare and contrast these processes with the ones involved in rehearsing and practicing chamber music.

2) To identify and investigate the nature of the qualitative transformations that take place during live public performance in the context of expert professional classical chamber music performance practice, and to explore their relationship with the cognitive and affective processes that shape a live performance. These qualitative transformations, which performers experience distinctly in live performance situations as opposed to rehearsals and practice sessions, are related to such phenomena as increasing expressive freedom, increasing affective involvement, and certain alterations in time- consciousness.

3) To identify the conditions of the emergence of the qualitative transformations in question.

4) To benchmark live performance as the object of research, and to document and analyse the acquisition of new insights and knowledge during live performance.

5) To contribute to performance pedagogy by exploring the positive affective dimensions of live music making and thereby counter-balancing the exclusive emphasis in recent research on negative affective experiences grouped under the term 'performance anxiety'.

6) To counter-balance the focus on solo performance practice in majority of contemporary performance studies by addressing issues that arise in the context of piano trio (piano, violin, cello) practice.