Saturday, April 02, 2011

AR at the Master level

Answering to an invitation by a conservatory to be part of the jury assessing the artistic research projects of its Master students, I found myself taking a sample of the youngest generation of potential artistic researchers in an institution that wants to answer to the challenge of preparing them for an AR future.

In total 48 students presented their research, of which I saw 8. The range of projects and creative ideas was inspiring: an aspiring ballet accompanist collected professional experiences, insights and habits that are normally left inaccessible to anyone outside of the little circle made by this type of pianists; a cimbalom player who was a musically illiterate virtuoso when entering the conservatory made some stunningly effective transcriptions of Debussy piano works; another pianist came up with evidence to refute the attention that is normally given to Bellini when considering bel canto influences in music by Chopin; etc. It was heartwarming to see the efforts made to enter the new field of AR.

Although it could seem that some students didn't always grasp all the basic characteristic of a research attitude, it was in fact the lack of clarity and focus of the conservatory AR policy that best explained the uneven quality of what was offered. While some of the teachers (who were part of the jury) showed precise affinity with the essentials of AR, others had no clue. Nobody seemed to know whether a written report was actually required, some confused the lesser distance between subject and object (as compared to purely scientific research) with a complete lack of neutrality towards the research topic. The result was an often poor supervision of students that had greater potential than they ended up being taught to take advantage of.

Besides the lack of a fully worked out vision for implementing AR on a Masters level, the short supply of Doctors in the Arts must be taken into account. It is very much to be hoped that many doctorandi graduate in the shortest term possible, and that they find their way to the Higher Education institutions. Provided that those create post-doc positions for this expertise.

Something else struck me: one student delivered a splendid presentation, accompanied by a top-notch written-out report of a research project that left nothing to be wished for. While studying at the conservatory, she was also preparing for a PhD in Informatics. There is no doubt that her academic master had prepared her for applying - all by herself - the necessary standards to her AR project. Considering that academic masters do not really include courses specifically engineered to gain sufficiency in scholarly standards, it is curious to see that immersion in the academic biotope is enough to make up for the shortcomings of a traditional conservatory education aiming to integrate AR in the curriculum.

1 comment:

Valerie Kraemer said...

I admit to having been bitten by the research bug a long time ago, post college, because I identified with the subject studied. While as student, my professor of German stated that it was the desire of most educators in colleges and universities to divest themselves of as much classroom time as possible so that they could be at liberty to do research of their own free will for private enjoyment and not with any intention to teach others how to do it. There is something to be said for comparative suitablilty for higher learning--the autodidacts v.s. those with a merely workmanlike amound of drive. I'm not sure that everyone can be taught to be a classic autodidact, though they can be given practical guidelines as a substitute for that which they lack. An analogy could be made with "a great doctor v.s. a good doctor", where in the former case one can truly witness the art of medicine in its purest form--seeming to pull ideas out of a hat, while the latter example would only respond when he is forcibly asked. Reasearch always ends up needing an outlet, be it a lecture, a book or a blog, and it might be more natural for some people than others to "hold forth"--that is to say, be the "long-winded" type. Invariably, in my experience, the best researchers have been prolific talkers to the extreme.