”I will carry you over hard times”, the impressive and very physical performance with percussion player Maarten Zaagman, continues to be performed and has been very well received by enthusiastic audiences in Utrecht, Leiden and Den Bosch, all in The Netherlands. Maarten Zaagman performed at the Betweter festival in Utrecht, and most recently at the renowned November Music, festival for contemporary music in Den Bosch.

A very special occasion was the performance at the World Cultural Council on November 8th at Leiden University. ”Hard Times” had been chosen to honour the winner of the Leonardo da Vinci Award of Arts, percussionist and ethnomusicologist professor Russell Hartenberger. And it was an honour for us indeed!

The entire award ceremony can be watched here.

The wonderful main courtyard of Dartington Hall, where the seminar tool place.
The wonderful main courtyard of Dartington Hall, where the seminar took place.

From 8-11 October the 16th seminar of the Innovative Conservatoire (ICON) took place in Dartington, UK. The theme and title of this seminar was Artists in Society. ‘listening’ as a core artistic and professional skill, and its role in evolving purpose and practice. For me personally, this is the start of an exciting series of seminars and conferences, in which I develop both the concept of Artistic Research as Integrative Practice, as well as work on the subject of artists in the society of the 21st Century. This theme has caught my interest since some time, lead by questions that are directed towards the core of higher professional arts education, and are concerned with the role of our institutions, and even more the role of the students as future artists and creative professionals in the society of the 21st Century. From this perspective, the 16th ICON seminar kicks off a series which continues with the December conference The Protean Musician: the musician in future society (abstract) in the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, and the Reflective Conservatoire at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London in February 2018.

Arriving at Dartington Hall.
Arriving at Dartington Hall.

The seminar’s booklet introduced the theme and its urgency to the participants:

There has never been a more important time for musicians to develop their sense of purpose and possibilities in society. Music and the arts have such potential to make a huge difference in the world. At the same time, as the music profession continues to change, life can feel unpredictable and confusing even as exciting opportunities open up. Developing a sense of purpose, artistic and professional identity, and being able to evolve these throughout a career, seems increasingly important for all musicians. In what ways can we prepare for and support this process?

As the title of the seminar suggests, the focus of the seminar was two-fold: exploring the theme of the musician in society, and different ways of addressing this theme and its interconnected questions, and within this theme, the specific perspective of listening, as being various processes and skills.

The ability to listen deeply is not only essential to us as performers, but also to finding new ways to connect as artists in society, and of course to teaching as we respond to our students as human beings. Listening, for example, is central to the practices of mentoring and coaching and to the Critical Response Process, with which we have worked in previous seminars. In all these contexts, listening may then also imply responding, a process of dialogue, exchange, give and take.

A number of questions were leading for the seminar, such as:

  • In what ways can we develop our listening skills, as musicians and as human beings? How may our sense of purpose (artistic, personal, professional), our knowledge and experience, and our value systems and life stories influence our listening and our response to what we hear?
  • How may our listening skills in one domain complement them in other domains, or even be translatable?
  • We bring our whole selves to our work as musicians – body, mind and spirit. How can we listen in each of these domains and how can we respond? How can we use our physical selves to listen to and through the body to enrich our playing, performance and ways in which we engage with an audience?
  • How can we develop listening skills that open up creativity, artistically, in learning and in developing our professional practice in the world?
  • How can we develop listening skills with students: in their individual practice; in their work with other musicians/peers/teachers; in going out into society?

Day One

Helena Gaunt introduces the seminar, its theme and approach throughout the coming days to the group of creative directors and participants.
What would you hear in this place?

Next to the introduction by creative director and founding member of ICON, Helena Gaunt, the first afternoon and evening were dedicated to the theme of listening and to a number of short exercises on listening. These included personal introductions of the individual participants to each other about where they come from and what brought them to the seminar.

The first exercises.

One of the session included a reflection on what the “artist in society” might mean to us and our work, written large notes on paper, put on the floor in various “constellations”. After hearing the story about such a constellation, the others in the group offered a short reflection on what they heard, in form of a musical-gestural-scenic improvisation. What I found striking, personally, was that the improvisation added an unexpected element to the story, which was playful and less serious than the story itself. This reminded me of “taking things lightly”, as an approach to having more distance towards a subject, which might provide me with the ability to make more informed and well-reflected choices. By means of this playfulness and lightness, the improvisation in fact achieved a discursive quality, which I had not realised ever before.

Day Two

On the second day a very special guest joined us: Liz Lerman. The American choreographer is, among other work, well-known for her choreographic pieces with elderly people, and for the famous feedback method Critical Response Process (CRP), which is practiced widely and for several years now within ICON and the associated institutions.

This day, Liz worked with us on themes that were interconnected with listening, yet focussed on the body and movement in space, listening through the body, awareness and concepts of translation.

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Film maker and visual artist Niek Pronk, who joined us during the seminar, made a short film about the work Liz did with us:

Day Three

After the first day being dedicated to listening, and the second day as an “interlude” with body work, the third day was entirely focussed on the participants’ work related to the seminar theme of the musician in society. Everyone was invited to bring his or her own question, or issue, into the discussion and the sessions on this day. We spent the day working in small groups that stayed the same throughout the whole day.

In a practice session, working on the seminar theme.
In a practice session, working on the seminar theme.

Concerning the work forms, this day presented one of the most continuous and complex forms within ICON seminars to date. The day was structured into three main sessions. In each session, one or two participants offered their story or question, related to the seminar theme. Yet, through this work, all participants were invited – or challenged – to work on their own question through the stories of the others at the same time. Different roles were assigned: the presenter, a group of responders including the session facilitator, and one “artist in the corner” who sat outside of the group, invited only in the end to offer his “artistic comment” of the work the group had done.

The presenter offered his story and questions to the responders, and the group responded with reflections, feedback, questions and other type of responses, by means of different work forms.

The day, and with it the seminar, ended in a final session in which the group shared meaningful experiences and important moments of learning, together with a collective reflection on what everybody will take away to the home institutions, to have further impact on art and music education in innovative ways.

The final evening of the seminar - the PARTY.
The final evening of the seminar – the PARTY.

On August 31st, the core team of the Professorship Performative Processes presented a collaborative lecture at the 5th Colloqium on Artistic Research in Performing Arts (CARPA), at the University of the Arts Helsinki, entitled Perilous Experience – Extending Experience through Artistic Research.

True to its title, the conference included a large variety of papers, presentations and workshops that were exploring ”borders”: from the speculative via voice hearing to the paranormal. We were particularly impressed by two keynote speeches on the first two days: Etzel Cardeña presented From Monkey-mind to Embodied Performance Presence (see here for Cardeña’s abstract and bio), and Lisa Blackman elaborated on Speculative Science, Threshold Experiences and Transubjectivities (see here for her abstract and bio).

The beautiful entrance hall of the University of the Arts in Helsinki.
The beautiful entrance hall of the University of the Arts in Helsinki.

Readers who follow the work of the professorship, or this site, will know the project If You Are Not There Where Are You? (IYANTWAY) already: science and art were connected to make absence seizures (a light form of epilepsy) experienceable. As artists and researchers we worked with a group of children and youths from a performative and co-creative perspective, in which knowledge has not only been described, but generated through artistic utterance: artist and artwork are not only objects of research but its main actors. Artists worked alone and in pairs with the participants, in a creation process that transformed from collaboration into sheer co-creation.

From right to left: Marieke Nooren, Falk Hübner & the Unicorn.
From right to left: Marieke Nooren, Falk Hübner & the Unicorn.

Children who suffer from absence seizures have little ways of sharing their experiences. Language does not suffice to explain the often fearful multi-sensory hallucinations, and the moments of ‘not being there’. Neurologists can measure brain activity to help the diagnosis, but fail to grasp the actual experience of these children.

In the presentation we aimed to show how artistic research as methodology has helped us to re-create experience, to realize impact on reality, and to strengthen our conceptions of co-creative work forms. We addressed several questions this project has raised on ownership, co-creation and ethics, illustrating the perilousness of engaging with absence seizures.

Marieke Nooren introduces the IYANTWAY project.
Marieke Nooren introduces the IYANTWAY project.

We chose for a kaleidoscopic and polyphonic approach to the form of the presentation, which aimed to address not only the various aspects of the project itself, but also the different personalities, and ways of working within the team of artist-researchers.

After Marieke Nooren’s brief introduction and a film trailer, Nirav Christophe talked about co-creation and creation strategies from the perspective of the artists, after which Falk Hübner shed light on the aspects of ownership and creation on the side of the participants.

Henny Dörr elaborates on the work process from rehearsal space towards the final installation.

Henny Dörr and Joris Weijdom followed with a staged “Q&A”-like dialogue on their approaches to the creative work in their respective collaborations, in order to ”re-create the experience” of the participants. In particular they elaborated on the relation between the abstract and the concrete, which worked differently in both cases – Henny went through a process in which the material became more and more abstract, and Joris exactly the other way round, towards more concrete material.

Joris slide WP
Visualisation of the two “moves”: Henny went from concrete to abstract, whereas Joris started with abstract shapes and moved towards the concrete and physical.

In the third part, Marieke presented a number of quotes from participants and stakeholders of IYANTWAY to illustrate the impact of the project. The quotes were projected on the screen and the team was provoked to react on these quotes quickly and intuitively, recalling the mode of a quiz show.

We closed with the first step of Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (CRP), a form that specifically aims to facilitate qualitative feedback.

The audience space in the CARPA theatre.
The audience space in the CARPA theatre.

The presentation was paralleled (or counterpointed) with the Helsinki Hindsights, a page containing statements or provocations that resulted from our work in IYANTWAY. These statements were provided to the audience by simply laying them on the chairs.

As the first post of this season, this is a brief newsletter about a new publication and three, partly collaborative, conference presentations in Helsinki, Oslo and London. There are also several other projects coming up, which will be covered more in depth in the following posts.

Maartje Nevejan, initiator of IYANTWAY
Maartje Nevejan, initiator of IYANTWAY

The new publication of the core team of the Professorship Performative Processes, When you are not there, where are you?, is in its final stages. This concludes a large project initiated by Dutch documentary maker Maartje Nevejan, which spans many activities during the last two years, including the practical work of the team of the professorship with a group of children suffering from absence epilepsy seizures, a collaborative performance lecture in Prague, the performance installation Down next to a whole range of other artistic work, and the lecture Transforming Absence. Art as Bridge from Multimodal Experience to Transdisciplinary Collaboration in Cape Town in December 2016. In the end of August, the core team of the professorship (Nirav Christophe, Henny Dörr, Joris Weijdom and Falk Hübner) will present another collaborative performance lecture called Transforming Absence. Re-creating Experience through Artistic Research at the Carpa conference in Helsinki.

Participants and artists of the IYANTWAY project
Participants and artists of the IYANTWAY project

In November I will give a lecture on artistic research as “integrated practice” at the conference ‘The Protean Musician’: the musician in future society. This is the first lecture in which I develop this concept of artistic research in relation to higher music education and the students’ future in society. A wide array of presenters will join the conference from many countries around the globe, and this promises to be a most interesting and impactful conference “examining the roles of musicians in our increasingly complex world.” (Darla Crispin) The conference is organized by The Arne Hordheim Centre for Artistic Research in Music (NordART), The Centre for Research in Music and Health (CREMAH), The Centre for Educational Research in Music (CERM) and The Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE) (abstract).

Finally, in February I will join forces with Christina Guillaumier, pianist, Head of Undergraduate Studies at the Royal College of Music in London and a Creative Director of the Innovative Conservatoire (ICON). Together we will present The Musician in Society – From Craftsmanship to Creative Citizen at the Reflective Conservatoire Conference at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London. We will address conservatoire reality nowadays, in relation to the quickly changing development of our world and social surroundings, and use the work of the Innovative Conservatoire as a case study that might provide a toolkit for innovative practice both in student and teacher training.

Dr. Christina Guillaumier
Dr. Christina Guillaumier

Apart from these scholarly activities, two artistic projects are still in process and will be concluded this season: the music theatre silencio with trumpet player Sef Hermans, and a new participatory music theatre work with the Dutch vocal quartet Quatre Bouches. More on these projects in the upcoming posts!

Maarten Zaagman performs at Sweet St Andrews in Brighton (photo: Chloe Hashemi)
Maarten Zaagman performs at Sweet St Andrews in Brighton (photo: Chloe Hashemi)

Maarten Zaagman and I had just been back from Brighton, with five performances of I will carry you over hard times, when we received the news about the next performances: in November 2017 we will perform at the prestigious Dutch November Music festival, as part of the KunstMuziekRoute. We are very happy and excited about taking part in the wonderful festival in Den Bosch! Keep an eye on the site for dates and times, as these will be announced soon.

Back in Brighton, it was not only great to perform the work for several times in the beautiful little church of Sweet St Amdrews. Maarten and I also gave a workshop on our creative process; and it was particularly rewarding (and fun!) to perform on the sunny streets of Brighton.

During the workshop "Experiencing Hard Times".
During the workshop “Experiencing Hard Times”.
Performance on the streets in the centre of the city!
Performance on the streets in the centre of the city!

From 8-12 April 2017, the ICON Creative Directors team and participants worked under the guidance of professional coach Jane Cook on the theme ”coaching and mentoring”. Jane comes from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where she is Head of Leadership and Coaching.

The location of the seminar: The main building at Kallio-Kuninkala, about 40 minutes from Helsinki.
The location of the seminar: The main building at Kallio-Kuninkala, about 40 minutes from Helsinki.

The seminar was aimed at anyone in teaching, mentoring and management roles: working with students as a one to one teacher or mentor, or with students in groups, or having line management responsibility for colleagues in one’s home institution. The red thread of the seminar’s activities and session was to work on core mentoring-coaching skills, such as

  • listen for and illuminate meaning
  • ask questions that prompt new learning
  • how to motivate and encourage new and creative thinking

The international group of teachers started the first evening with a series of sessions that involve “sources of inspiration”. Everybody brought 2-3 objects, images or quotes that have a relation or connection to the seminar theme.

A collection of sources.
A collection of sources.

During the seminar days, participants worked on real issues with each other in the different roles of client, coach and observer. The core of the seminar programme was constant feedback practice from “real life”: “We will not role play. We ask you to work on real material with each other. You cannot learn how to be an excellent mentor-coach if you have never understood what it is to be a client.” (ICON programme booklet)

Picking images before a group session.
Picking images before a group session.

ICON is well-known for its variety in innovative work forms. The most common forms of this seminar were either sessions with the whole group, in which Jane Cook demonstrated specific approaches to coaching with one or two participants, or practice sessions in duos.

A welcome new form during the intense days was the late afternoon walk in pairs, in which the participants reflected on the day and the sessions. This was done in a mode of telling and concentrated listening and asking questions, so that essential coaching skills were still practiced, while enjoying the last hours of the light of day.

The lake close to Kallio-Kuninkala right before evening.
The lake close to Kallio-Kuninkala right before evening.

“Coaching and mentoring skills […] can enable us to take ownership of our development, generate new perspectives, and access our ‘best possible selves’ and those of the people we work with, be these students, colleagues or other professionals around us.” (ICON programme booklet)

Workshop leader Jane Cook gives an introduction to a group session.
Workshop leader Jane Cook gives an introduction to a group session.

In the last months a small team at HKU University of the Arts has been working on the development of a new research environment: Studio 118. The studio is a place for conducting, sharing and disseminating practice-based research at the HKU Utrechts Conservatoire.

Next to individual research projects, the space hosts events and workshops for students or teachers of the conservatoire, such as the series on Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process

In January, I worked with Sef Hermans on parts of our music theatre work silencio, which will be premiered next season and also includes sections of live video.

This focus on live video has been continued during the last weeks, when the second series of the dedicated Live Video Research has started. These sessions focus on the development of the first artistic work within the project: a performance installation for prepared double bass, objects, live electronics and live video.

I am conducting these session together with Juriaan Achthoven, a young and talented theatre and media scholar, interested in artistic research. The collaboration involves both practical as well as conceptual-theoretical work, leading to a lecture performance on the 2nd of June, 2017, in Studio 118 at the HKU Utrechts Conservatoire.

live video collage Kopie

After many acclaimed performances last year, the recent performance I will carry you over hard times with percussion player Maarten Zaagman has been invited to the Brighton Fringe Festival, as part of the “Dutch Season”. This will be the first series of performances in the UK, and we are much looking forward to this.

Maarten Zaagman performing "Hard Times" in Leiden in the public space, December 2016.
Maarten Zaagman performing “Hard Times” in Leiden in the public space, December 2016.

The performance will happen in the lovely location of St Andrews Church.

Next to the performances Maarten and I are also going to give a practical workshop, going into the experience of creating a musical choreography, in interaction and with the material of the participants.

From 16.-19. October the fourteenth seminar of the Innovative Conservatoire took place in Kallio-Kuninkala, Finland. Falk is member of the team of Creative Directors of ICON. The theme of this seminar was

Improvisation and Playfulness.

Relationship to identity, artistic development & professional practice.

 

The main building of the beautiful area of Kallio-Kuninkala
The main building of the beautiful area of Kallio-Kuninkala

The seminar was led by Bart van Rosmalen en Jo Hensel, and was designed to work with and on improvisation in all of its variaties. This means first of all different musical genres: jazz, free, classical, tonal, contemporary and experimental. From this point on, also interdisciplinary improvisation was included, as not only musicians, but also actors and dancers attended the seminar. Finally, the seminar explored broader ways of understanding improvisation in situation of one-to-one teaching, group lessons, professional collaboration and leadership.

The extended session
The extended session “The Art of Questioning / A Theatrical Dialogue”, led by Bart van Rosmalen.

During the seminar, the ICON-goers experienced the usual variety of different kinds of sessions: The whole group followed a physical movement session led by choreographer and dancer Kerry Nichols, while improvisation experts such as pianist Anto Pett, vocalist Anne-Liis Poll and pianist Aaron Shorr offered dedicated ensemble sessions in slightly smaller groups. This combination of forms was accompanied by several slots in which both participants as well as Creative Directors offered theme sessions for small groups, in which they worked on more individual and experimental themes, or on forms they use in their own work. Falk led two sessions here, one using a playful work form called Plaii, developed by Dutch art educator Annemarie Geerling, and Learning by Making, an already more tested-out form that explores the relationship between artistic practice and reflection, developed by Tet Koffeman, Bart van Rosmalen en Falk Hübner.

Participants during the
Participants during the “The Art of Questioning” session.

A special part of the seminar was devised by two time slots on the second and third day. The main house of Kallio-Kuninkala was transformed into a place of quietness and reflection, called the ”Reflective House”. Participants were invited, though not obliged, to come and reflect on the sessions, the collected experiences and viewpoints. It was possible to do this individually or to join in with dedicated reflective work forms, such as ”Improvised Writing” (Bart van Rosmalen), ”Silent Coaching” (Gerda van Zelm) or ”Reflecting through Making” (Jo Hensel).

Working quietly in and during the
Working quietly in and during the “Reflective House”.

As part of the preparations for the seminar, each participant was asked to bring some of their own books to the seminar that were related to the main theme. These books were collected to be part of a pop-up “library”, which was part of the Reflective House. Everybody could come here, look through the impressive yet contemplative variety of the books, read, and leave a trace – in form of a written note, a small drawing or any other kind of tangible reflection.

The collected books of the pop-up
The collected books of the pop-up “Library”.

The participants’ reactions on this seminar of the Innovative Conservatoire was overwhelmingly positive, with many participants voicing their enthusiasm in long feedback emails, asking for more continuous collaboration among the new-found colleagues and friends.

The performances of I will carry you over hard times at the Amsterdam Fringe festival have just been concluded. Maarten Zaagman performed the work at different places in the South and West of Amsterdam, and a number of performances in the heart of the festival, the Compagnietheater.

Both audience as well as professionals were enormously positive about the work. Many of them were impressed by the rhythmical virtuosity of the synchronicity between live gestures and soundtrack, the immense physicality of the closing sections, and the diverse intersecting layers of musical structure, bodily movement and objects in the stage space.

It was fascinating to witness and to experience the enormous and unexpected flexibility of the piece. Outside, in black box theatres, during lectures and in university spaces. Falk and Maarten leave the festival with a few more thoughts for the performance’s further development, which will lead to hopefully exciting experiments during the upcoming performances in Rotterdam in October (see dates).