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Research Seminar: Against Togetherness in Performance? A Case Study of John Cage’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Wednesday 14 October 2020, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Emily Payne (University of Leeds)

A conventional view of ensemble performance emphasises togetherness, communication, and intersubjectivity, a coming together in a shared communal experience. And, while the distribution of authority in orchestral performance is less hierarchical and more complex than it might appear at face value, there is a general consensus that most orchestral musicians attend to playing together in a coordinated and cohesive manner, guided by a unified group intention. But what happens when that unity does not exist, whether through chance, or deliberate resistance? This paper examines ensemble dynamics in indeterminate music, using as a case study John Cage’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1957–58). Drawing on interviews and observational studies undertaken with the ensemble Apartment House, I examine the role of temporal indeterminacy in the socio-musical interactions that characterise performance, and its implications for the musicians’ experiences. More broadly, I consider the ways in which issues of authorship and authority are negotiated in such interactions, and how the dynamics of these negotiations present a sociality based on a ‘separate togetherness’, whereby performers are invited to play (out of time) with one another.

Emily Payne

Emily Payne is a Lecturer in Music at the University of Leeds, having joined the department as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant on the AHRC-funded project, ‘John Cage and the Concert for Piano and Orchestra’ (2015–18). Her research interests include performance studies (particularly of post-war music), creativity, collaboration, and materiality. Her work has been published in Contemporary Music ReviewCultural GeographiesMusic & Letters, and Musicae Scientiae. She is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of Time in Music (forthcoming) and Material Cultures of Music Notation: New Perspectives on Musical Inscription(Routledge, 2020). She is Assistant Editor of the journal, Music & Science.

Location: Meeting ID: 915 8006 2656 Passcode: 840125