PhD Thesis

I have recently completed my PhD at Bath Spa University under the direction of James Saunders. My thesis was entitled “Living Scores: A Portfolio of Orally-Transmitted Experimental Music Compositions”. An abstract can be found below:

This commentary reflects on a portfolio containing five of my recent orally-transmitted experimental music compositions created between fall 2013 and fall 2016. These living scores investigate transmission, community, orality and forgetting, which are the major themes of my original work. This commentary relates particularly to two main research questions: 1) what happens to the traditional practices and relationships surrounding composers and performers if the material aspect of the musical score is removed; and 2) what musical materials and processes are particularly suited to an orally-transmitted compositional method?  

After a brief introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 provides context to the portfolio, exploring the terms experimental music and living scores. The term living scores has been used by a variety of artists in contexts ranging from dance collaborations to digital media. A new definition of living scores is proposed based on a synthesis of these existing uses to mean contexts in which all compositional instructions are transmitted, rather than fixed. Living scores are essentially participatory – they foreground collaboration and encourage the formation of micro-communities. Because they eschew written notation, living scores allow the act of forgetting to become a vital part of the creative process. Composers such as Éliane Radigue, Meredith Monk and Yoko Ono are discussed in this new context.

Chapters 3 and 4 discuss my work within the paradigm of living scores. In Chapter 3, after a typical transmission of my work is outlined, aspects of oral and digital transmission are detailed, including the media, length, density and frequency of transmissions. Many of these aspects are discussed in relation to the act of forgetting, which through this creative work can be seen as a productive feature of artistic creation. In Chapter 4, the musical material of the portfolio is discussed, with an emphasis on the use and transformation of borrowed musical source material. A solution for the integration of the collaborative process into performances of these works is proposed: partial transmissions overlapping with performances.

A brief conclusion outlines the possibility for future research that explores other modes of transmission, further musical explorations and repeated use of this compositional method.

Other Publications

Nickel, L. (2016). OCCAM NOTIONS: COLLABORATION AND THE PERFORMER’S PERSPECTIVE IN ÉLIANE RADIGUE’S OCCAM OCEAN. Tempo 70 (275), 22-35. doi:10.1017/S0040298215000601

After nearly 40 years of creating recorded electronic music, Éliane Radigue has, for the last 10 years, created music exclusively in collaboration with performers using solely oral and aural transmission. Radigue’s music invites performers and listeners to carefully investigate the depths of sonic minutiae, such as the way high frequencies form quiet constellations overtop steady fundamental pitches. Focusing on the details of Radigue and her collaborators’ distinct “scoreless” working method, this article offers a rare view into the performer’s perspective on Radigue’s Occam Ocean (2011-), a series of 22 infinitely-combinable solos and over 20 chamber pieces. Through a series of 11 interviews, both with the performers and Radigue herself, a composite understanding of the elements of their collaboration is reached, focusing on the emergent ideas of virtuosity, memory, images, scores, hospitality and non-hierarchy. A typical transmission and collaboration is described, and a new lense for viewing this method is proposed, the living score. The article concludes with a brief discussion of how Radigue and her collaborators’ alternate and non-hierarchical model of compositional collaboration might add vital “heart” to a broader compositional framework.