Moving on from Liveness to aLiveness: Applying Intermedial Theory to Orchestral Music
Sureshkumar P. Sekar, Royal College of Music
Abstract: Live or not live, all any performance art aims for is to come 'alive' to its audience. Philip Auslander’s (2008) “liveness” is about being connected to people. aLiveness is being connected to the art. aLiveness occurs when the audience becomes conscious that the work of art is presenting, with least ambiguity, its most essential truth—the truth of its form and content, and aesthetic and affect.
In the ever-accelerating all-pervading screen culture, all art aspires as much to the immersion of moving images as to “the condition of music” (Walter Pater). In this paper, I use Lars Ellestrom’s (2020) intermedial theory to illustrate the aLiveness of orchestral music in audiovisual form, a form through which it can make its internal structure and patterns intelligible, and its pleasures accessible and enjoyable, to all audiences.
Ellestrom suggests that when a text is transferred from one medium to another, it is transformed. Music as notations on paper is transferred to sound when performed by musicians, and then to moving images when the performance captured with multiple moving cameras is edited into a cinematized concert, or when made into an alternate audiovisual representation. A meaningful transfer means “keeping something, getting rid of something else, and adding something new”, and it involves two stages: deconstruction of the source text (eg. live concert) and reconstructing it to fit into the target medium (eg. cinematized concert). Imbued into the transformed art are the traces of these two processes, and therein lies the potential for aLiveness.
Bio: Sureshkumar P. Sekar is a third year PhD candidate from the Royal College of Music, London, and a RCM Studentship holder. He holds an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. As part of his PhD, he is investigating the experience of the audience attending Film-with-Live Orchestra concerts, and building a theory called “aLiveness” as an update to Philip Auslander’s concept of “Liveness”. His video essay “Film-with-Live-Orchestra Concerts: A New Hope” has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed, audiovisual academic journal [in]Transition.
Hacking Hitchcock: Intermediality in Nicole Lizée's Hitchcock Études
Caroline Ehman, Brandon University
Abstract: Among the most unique voices in the international new music scene, Canadian composer Nicole Lizée (b. 1973) is known both for her genre-bending eclecticism and for her innovative use of obsolete technologies. While articles on Lizée’s music (by Maxime McKinley and Amanda Bayley) have focused primarily on her integration of approaches from turntablism and electro-acoustic music, the importance of film and its extensive use in her concert works has received little scholarly attention.
This paper focuses on the interaction of live musical performance, soundtrack, and film in Lizée’s Hitchcock Études (discussing both the original 2010 version for piano, soundtrack, and film, and the 2014 version with string quartet and percussion). As in her other works that incorporate film scenes as found objects, such the Kubrick Études (2013) and the Lynch Études (2016), Lizée suspends moments from the films by isolating and manipulating specific sounds, gestures, and speech fragments which creates a “glitch” effect in dialogue with the live performer(s). Drawing on theories of intermediality by Chiel Kattenbelt and Matthew Causey, among others, I discuss how the relationships between the aural and the visual, as well as the live and the mediated, are continuously reconfigured in this work. This paper argues that the intersections between the manipulated film scenes and the live musical performance create a liminal hybrid space, in which Lizée explores new approaches to temporality, narrative, and the relationship between sound and gesture.
Bio: Caroline Ehman is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Brandon University. After completing her PhD at the Eastman School of Music, she was on the faculty of the University of Louisville from 2013-2019. She is completing a book project on treatments of the Faust legend in opera since 1980, and her publications include a book chapter on Italian composer Luca Lombardi’s Faust-themed opera and a forthcoming festschrift chapter on portrayals of Faust in 21st-century opera. Her current research also encompasses portrayals of motherhood in the operas of Kaija Saariaho and the intersections between live performance and film in opera and new music performance, focusing particularly on the works of Michel van der Aa and Nicole Lizée.
The Refusal of Time? Simultaneity and Circularity in William Kentridge’s Wozzeck (2017) and The Head & the Load (2018)
Lawrence Alexander, University of Cambridge
Abstract: What is the value of distortion for media archaeology? This paper considers South African visual artist William Kentridge’s media archaeological sensibility as one that illuminates the violent distortions that continue to haunt Western narratives of history, representation, and linear models of temporality. For Thomas Elsaesser, these questions entail thinking of media archaeology in relation to a constellation of contemporary crises: ‘of history, causality, and memory, and of representation and the image’ (2016, 188). Against this turbulent background, Freud’s conception of Entstellung (‘distortion’, but also ‘dis-placement’) is instructive as a means of thinking the archaeological and the symptomatic together. This paper evaluates how Kentridge’s media archaeological practice renders the distortions which always contour the construction of historical narratives, and in particular, the deformations of landscapes and bodies – African and European – ravaged by industrial warfare and colonialism in the early twentieth century.
I explore Kentridge’s production of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck and the use of the cinematographic apparatus to render visually the composer’s ‘anti-temporal’ palindromes and retrogrades. This practice distorts a sense of linear temporal continuity with a sense of time turning back on itself: a negation – or refusal – of time. Meanwhile, in The Head & the Load, Kentridge’s kaleidoscopic, intermedial production rendering the experiences of African carriers during the First World War, I argue this logic of simultaneous spatial organisation is expanded further still. Kentridge’s production figures an assemblage of displaced objects and bodies, dislocated from fixed moments in historical time – and space – carried in a procession of unfolding simultaneity. I argue that this approximation and complication of cinematic projection allows Kentridge to activate a multiplicity of media histories exposed in an artistic practice that reveals and reclaims distortion to narrate the ‘forgotten’ histories of the colonial archive.
Bio: Lawrence Alexander is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Film and Screen. His research focuses on the theme of ‘face value’ in the moving image practices of Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl, and William Kentridge. Lawrence’s doctoral dissertation adopts the Deleuzo-Guattarian model of ‘faciality’ as a framework to consider these artists’ engagement with late capitalist and colonialist structures of power and control. This focus probes related questions of individual and cultural memory in dialogue with media-archaeological, postcolonial, and critical race theoretical perspectives on moving image scholarship. He is the recipient of a studentship jointly hosted by the Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership and Churchill College.