Halla Steinunn Stefánsdottir
PhD Candidate in Artistic Research in Music
I Hear You / You Hear Me
“We live in a time I think, not of mainstream, but of many streams…” * Such were John Cage’s sentiments when looking over the music scene in a radio interview in 1992. Now, many years later, this still holds true; music is many subcultures. We also see a blurring of the lines between genres: a song by Björk can prove more demanding on the ears than so-called contemporary music. New recording technologies and the digitization of music have had an obvious impact, affecting aesthetics in ways that are still unforeseen. Another important game changer is the rise of interdisciplinary collaborations, often demanding of the participants completely new ways of conceptualizing and producing their art.
It is against this backdrop that I have launched my research on my work as a freelance performer and curator, active on the cusp of the 21st century. The focus of my research will be my activity with the musical ensemble Nordic Affect, of which I am a member and artistic director. Through a series of case studies, I will explore my aforementioned agency, in a time where the divide between creator and performer is being questioned in theoretical writings and in practice. Critical issues that I would like to explore at this point in my research are: i) As musical activity is a complex interplay of factors such as the social, the affordances of the instrument and the aesthetic impact of technology, I would like to unearth what shapes my artistic “voice”. ii) What are the processes involved in collaborations with agents whose knowledge creation is also tacit? iii) Given the multimodality in the construction of interdisciplinary projects: What importance does “out of time” activity hold vs. the “in time” properties of music?
By applying qualitative methods and analysis in connection with my collaborative work with visual artists, sound engineers, sound artists and composers, this art-led research is set to shed light on some of the processes involved in a musician’s meaning-making at this point in history.
* John Cage. Interview by Charles Amirkhanian. KPFA, Berkley, CA. January 14, 1992, cited in Writings through John Cage’s Music, Poetry, and Art, ed. David W. Bernstein and Christopher Hatch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001)
Calm of the Deep (2013)
Hymnodia Sacra (2010)