Conference review: Art Song Out of the Concert Hall

The Art Song Platform: Art Song Out of the Concert Hall
February 12th, 2021, Goldsmiths, University of London
(Online Event)

This online study day explored the impact of digital technology on the performance and reception of art song. The format included three lecture panels focusing on topics of reappraisal of the existing works, creation of the new repertoire and reflections on performance, and a round-table Q&A panel with leading performers of art song. While providing different perspectives, the panels addressed the same questions: blurring boundaries between live and mediatised performances, issues of space and intimacy in the modern domestic settings, changing receptions and expectations of performance in a digital sphere, as well as the more mundane topics such as the practicalities of using everyday technology for performance.

Frankie Perry (Royal Holloway, University of London) explored how Schubert’s An die Musik and its promise of a better world captured the imaginations of musicians during the Covid-19 crisis, collating wide range of home-spun performances and lesser-known instrumental arrangements. Louis De Nil (Royal College of Music, London) turned to Schubert’s Erlkönig, designing an online experiment to examine responses of contemporary musicians and audiences with streaming performances. Closing the first panel (chaired by Jennifer Ronyak, University for Music and Performing Arts, Graz) was a presentation by Abigail Sin, Jade Tan and Sulwyn Lok (Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore). Together with Iranian filmmaker Mahan Khomamipour, they reimagined Ravel’s Asie, “artfully interrupting” the Oriental fantasy of Klingsor/Ravel by confronting it with real images and sounds from the Orient.

Broadening the debate on the genre boundaries, Arian Bagheri Pour Fallah (Jagiellonian University, Krakow) discussed the nature and the many forms of ‘collaboration’ between composers and performers of art song within contemporary electroacoustic music. Closing the panel (chaired by Philip Bullock (University of Oxford) was a presentation by Chen Zhangyi (Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, National University of Singapore) and Shridar Mani (The Opera People). They explored intersections of the creative, collaborative, and performative aspects of curating art song presentations within contemporary societal experiences including HIV, COVID, xenophobia, and border control.

In the round-table Q&A session moderated by Natasha Loges (Royal College of Music, London), Helen Charlston, Heloise Werner, Simon Lepper and Roderick Williams shared their experiences of online music making. Discussion on changing approach to programming and performing, use of technology, possibilities of connecting with wider audiences online, as well as the issues of finance, resources and training needed, continued in the last panel (chaired by Nicole Panizza, Coventry University). Tim Langston (Goldsmiths, University of London) reflected on his practice of singing for the online audience using his own pre-recorded piano tracks, questioning benefits and limitations the newly re-discovered ‘domestic’ performance space. Verica Grmusa (Goldsmiths, University of London) explored the Oxford Lieder Festival 2020 performers’ reflections on the live recital online streaming experience, teasing out the findings in the context of the levels of identity at play in art song performance. Stewart Campbell (University of Birmingham) compared a sample of audience members’ in-person experiences of live art song at the 2019 Oxford Lieder Festival, with the same sample’s experiences of the online-only festival the following year. His argument for the ‘digital live’ art song experience as a bi-modal setting providing dividends for performers, promoters and audience alike, gave cue to a lively closing discussion collating the positives for the future live art song experience.

Programme Committee

  • Dr Verica Grmusa, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Stewart Campbell, University of Birmingham
  • Professor Natasha Loges, Royal College of Music, London
  • Professor Laura Tunbridge, University of Oxford

Verica Grmusa (Goldsmiths, University of London) is a singer and a scholar, with principal research area in voice and art song performance.

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