Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dr. Paul Craenen

Yesterday afternoon, at 4.15pm, Leiden University and docARTES saw Flemish composer Paul Craenen defend his research to become Doctor in the Arts.

Paul Craenen, artistic research

The subject concerned “composed performers” and applied the perspective of the composer to investigate the body in musical performance. The remarkably well-written dissertation (download here - buy the English publication here) 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. 

Paul Craenen, artistic research, Dubbel Gaan
P. Craenen: Dubbel Gaan (2007-08)

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of the conclusions indicate precisely how the old dichotomy between reproductive performers and innovative composers is out of date when compared to the musical potential that the bodily parameter, well… embodies. 

Paul Craenen, artistic research, Tubes
P. Craenen: Tubes (2007)

Monday, March 07, 2011

ARC/SAR/JAR 2 – have you created your first weave yet?

The Swiss city of Bern, official home to the Society for Artistic Research, was host to a large delegation of members from the ARC/SAR/JAR conglomerate come together for an update on where we are at with this important project. A previous post discussed the entities here, a brief recapitulation would explain the society (SAR) as a body that exists to publish the journal (JAR), with the Artistic Research Catalog (ARC) being the work group that helps set up the software platform from which the actual Research Catalog and JAR will operate. (Submission for JAR will have to be formatted to fit the Research Catalog first.) The whole operation started a year ago and ARC should be finished in twelve months from now. Then it will just be the Research Catalog and SAR publishing JAR.

Artistic Research Catalogue, ARC

The SAR activities in Bern were of a mostly administrative nature (voting a new executive board, informing members of ARC’s and JAR’s status, etc.) and JAR was present via a party celebrating its first issue. The main impact of the Bern meeting was to be felt in the fact that the eagerly awaited beta version of the ARC software was introduced. Some of the ARC coordinators (who oversee individual researchers trying out  the platform), including yours truly, gave a presentation of their own first attempts and findings, some workshop sessions were to ensure that the necessary information and knowhow to operate the platform can be passed on to the many researchers associated with ARC in the next few months.
This is going to be big. For the first time, really, musician researchers will be able to publish findings with sound and video as well as basically unlimited bytes of scores. The latter is at once the Achilles heel of JAR, but that should not spoil the fun yet. I, for one, can hardly imaging publishing anything on paper anymore. A book with a CD/DVD included? Forget it: that’s like developing apps for the telegraph. It is true that personal websites offer at least as many possibilities, but JAR will be peer reviewed, and that makes it the first potential quality control standard for published artistic research in music.

Have a look at JAR-0, and I am sure you’ll be convinced. But you’ll also notice that the future music researcher will not be adequately set up anymore with just a friend who is willing to read through his article before submission for the sake of linguistic and structural soundness. He will now have to scout for additional and new types of friends: those who have experience in lay-out design. Lay-out for paper publications is done by the designers that work for the publication; with JAR, the submitting researcher has to make many choices himself, before sending in his work. If it has already been found that it is not because visual artists are good at their art that they will be good at web-layout, than the consequences for musicians will be multiple.

Coming back to the copyright issue: JAR did a good job in finding a way to secure its own position against potential infringement litigation. But it shoved the hot potato into the hands of the researcher. How many will take risks, warranting that they have secured the rights when in many cases they will not even be able to do so? Existing laws do not adequately meet the demands of paper publishing, they certainly do not provide for the scale that JAR users will want to operate on.

Another worry is the peer review process, especially the choice of criteria for the visual arts submissions. Yet, the need for something like JAR is so great that attention may explode regardless of such worries.
The end of the tunnel is in sight: when the bugs are gone and newly discovered needs are met, we’ll be able to put all our research into the catalog for anyone to assess, have a first discipline-specific journal format, and see other publishers get a license to use the same platform. 

This feels really good.

Oh, and to find out what a ‘weave’ is, log in here. It all looks complicated, for sure, but you had better get used to it: it’s going to be the future!