Worthington, Emily (2016) Lecture-Recital: Learning to sing with another voice: embodying early recorded style using original instruments. In: Performing Knoweldge, 25-26 April 2016, Emmanuel College, Cambridge. (Unpublished)

In order to bring the embodied knowledge that is period-instrument playing technique to bear creatively on a given repertoire one must of course have an intimate physical understanding of the instrument in question. Yet the process of developing this physical understanding has rarely been discussed in the scholarly arena. Given the recent and increasing attention paid to tacit knowledge and the notion of the ‘affordances’ of musical instruments, the time seems ripe to draw attention to this as topic for future consideration through an account of my own recent work. In 2014 I embarked on a project to investigate late-19th century and early-20th century performing practices amongst wind players in Germany by drawing on a combination of written and sounding sources, and to use my findings to inform performances on original late-19th and early-20th century clarinets. At the heart of the project is a seemingly contradictory desire to embody as closely as possible the playing style captured on the recordings, whilst simultaneously maintaining my own artistic identity. Through the course of this still-ongoing project, numerous questions have arisen relating to how I, as a performer-researcher, establish and negotiate the affordances of the relatively unfamiliar instruments in my hands, the evidential status of the knowledge generated by the process, and its creative application. This presentation will chart the process of using two different historical instruments to explore the musical characteristics observed on early recordings. I will map the complex web of choices involved in bringing these instruments from the ‘attic’ to the performance arena, and describe the reflexive relationship between my developing embodied knowledge of the instruments and my interpretation of the historical documents. I will discuss how much information can be gleaned from these instruments as historical documents, the extent to which they allow me to embody the sound of an earlier time, and whether this goal is compatible with realising my own artistic ‘voice’ through a new (old) tool. Live performance on both instruments side-by-side, itself an act of research, will illustrate the intermediate results of this project and invite the audience to assess the impact of the different historical instruments on my (our) interpretation. The lecture-recital will include extracts from Brahms’s Sonata Op. 120/2 (ed. Oscar Schubert and Carl Freidmann, 1928), and Brahms’s Zehn Leichte Stücke (arranged Laurischkus).

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