Yesterday afternoon, at 4.15pm, Leiden University and docARTES saw Flemish composer Paul Craenen defend his research to become Doctor in the Arts.
The subject concerned “composed performers” and applied the perspective of the composer to investigate the body in musical performance. The remarkably well-written (Dutch) dissertation looks at this topic from a thoroughly thought-out set of angles, including the body of the composer himself, the relation between performing bodies and instruments, technology and space (physically sounding and mentally perceived) and embodiment of silence as well as non-linearity. More than showing how his insights influenced his compositional practice, the dissertation gives a very detailed and in-depth account of the status of this subject in recent history. The relation with his own, extremely creative work was revealed in the concert and lecture that preceded the day of the promotion.
The value of the research goes beyond showing how Dr. Craenen thinks about the bodies for which he composes music. Besides working out a complete set of concepts to frame his line of thought (including new meaning given to Lachenmann’s “musique concrète instrumentale”), this research is important as it details the reflections of an artistic practitioner on the trendy topic of embodiment. All too often, issues of embodiment are considered from a neutralizing distance that renders the research outcome theoretical rather than effective. Amongst other, his approach shows - once more but with compellingly novel evidence - why performances must be experienced live and visually. More to the point of artistic research yet, some of the conclusions indicate precisely how the old dichotomy between reproductive performers and innovative composers is out of date when compared to the musical potential that the bodily parameter, well… embodies.
Congratulations, Paul – we look forward to witnessing your ideas grow in your next compositions.