The Embodiment of Authority

Perspectives on Performances

by Taina Riikonen (Volume editor) Marjaana Virtanen (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 207 Pages


Performance is a forum for social action, embodied interaction and shared authority. Recently, as the various acts and agencies surrounding a performance have become the target of scholarly interest, the complex split between theory and practice has been challenged, as has the idea of a singular, disembodied authorial ownership of the socio-material meanings surrounding performance. The Embodiment of Authority approaches performance, issues of authority and negotiated knowledge production through multi-material research data and interdisciplinary methods. The book discusses the relationship between authorial questions and performances via the following topics: shared authorities, ontologies of art work, diverse roles of rehearsals in the performance process, and embodied knowledge.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Ontologies as epistemological interrelations
  • Bodies as surfaces and as visceral
  • References
  • On Musical Performance as a Creative Process: A Semiotic Perspective
  • Introduction
  • 1. On ‘performance’: terminological premise
  • 2. A semiotic model for approaching the art of musical performance
  • 3. Case-studies: artists’ views on creativity in performance
  • 3.1 The role of a performer
  • 3.2 The performer’s relation to the composer/work
  • 4. Instead of a conclusion: prospects for research
  • References
  • Breaking up the Fourth Wall: Playing with, Questioning and Crossing the Implicit Barrier between Performer and Audience in Arja Koriseva’s Stage Performance
  • Introduction
  • 1. The fourth wall and single focus
  • 2. Breaking up the fourth wall and liberating the focus
  • 3. Methodology
  • 4. The tour
  • 5. Crossing barriers at the Seinäjoki Sports Hall
  • 6. Use of the stage and auditorium space at the Jyväskylä Paviljonki
  • 7. Interplay between performance persona, character and real person
  • 8. ‘Rannalla’ (‘On the Shore’)
  • 9. ‘Nuori tumma’ (‘Zigeunerjunge’)
  • 10. ‘Tuulen värit’ (‘Colours of the Wind’)
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Different Pianists with Different Bodies: Does the Body Matter? Constructing Discursive-Material Interconnections in a Study on Piano Pedagogy
  • Introduction
  • 1. Description of the fieldwork
  • 2. Discursive practices
  • 3. About discursive materiality
  • 4. The pianistic body in the discursive-material (institutional) machine
  • 5. From teacher-directedness towards self-regulation
  • 6. Music is something done concretely with the body
  • 7. Analysis of the fieldwork
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Other sources
  • Curatorship as Conservation: The Role of the Curator in the Perpetuation of Performance-Based Artworks
  • Preamble
  • 1. Between the subject and the object: the subject
  • 2. Between the subject and the object: the object
  • 3. Between the subject and the object: the interval
  • References
  • The Ontology of Music and the Challenge of Performance: Identity versus Variety, and the Persistence of the ‘Text’
  • Introduction
  • 1. Performance functions and human agency
  • 2. Theories of performance variety: descriptions vs. explanations
  • 3. Archival notation, strategic notation, reading cultures and heuristic paths
  • 4. Un-notated performances and the persistence of a ‘text’
  • 5. Works of music vs. works for music
  • Afterword: the challenges of performances without a text-concept or work-concept
  • References
  • From Sketches to First Performance: Composer-Performer Interaction in the Creation Process of Jyrki Linjama’s Completorium
  • Introduction
  • 1. Studying composer–performer interaction
  • 2. The composing process
  • 2.1 Composer–performer interaction
  • 2.2 Score as script
  • 3. Rehearsals leading up to the first performance
  • 3.1 Rehearsal interaction
  • 3.2 Werktreue and the composer’s intentions
  • 4. Composer–performer interaction and the musical work: when will Completorium be finished?
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Video recordings
  • Interviews
  • Bibliography
  • Sound Art, Music and the Rehabilitation of Schizophonia
  • Introduction
  • 1. Ouija Group, Ecosonic Group and the valuing of schizophonia
  • 2. Critique of mutual engagement
  • 3. Emergence of schizophonia and the shadow-based Ouija board
  • 4. Working with schizophonia
  • Body posture
  • Anticipatory touch
  • Linking vision and hearing
  • Ouija as instrument of enlightenment
  • 5. In performance
  • 6. Condensation
  • 7. Displacement
  • 7.1 Displacement – an ethical question
  • Conclusions
  • Mimesis
  • Schizophonia and electronic media
  • References
  • The Impact of the Musical Instrument on Debussy’s La fille aux cheveux de lin: A Dialogue between a Pianist and a Kantele Musician
  • Introduction
  • 1. The different challenges of the pianist and the kantele musician
  • 2. About the individual instrument, tuning and time distribution
  • 3. A masterpiece or an interlude?
  • 4. The relativity of the dynamic scale
  • 5. About the vocabulary
  • Some final comments
  • References
  • Recordings and diaries
  • Literature
  • Reeds: Play within Shared Authority
  • Introduction
  • 1. The collaborators
  • 2. Development
  • a) Oxen Pond
  • b) Development of the score
  • c) Integration of movement
  • d) Workshop in Montreal
  • e) St. John’s, Newfoundland
  • f) Premier Performance 10 July 2010
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Signs and Messages of Love in Performing Handel’s Giulio Cesare
  • Introduction: research tasks and aims
  • 1. Previous research
  • 1.1 Previous namesake operas
  • 1.2 Introducing ideas, basis for a study
  • 1.3 Promoting the message of the opera – using metaphor via characterisation
  • 2. Performance versions and a sketch of a musical rhetoric/affect analysis
  • 2.1 Representation of the characters in the performances
  • 2.2 Power and justice by Caesar vs. love and beauty by Cleopatra
  • 2.3 Overall structure of the opera and the performances
  • An afterword
  • References
  • Manuscript
  • Printed and Online
  • Video (performance) recordings
  • Appendix A) The structure of the opera: musical numbers
  • Appendix B) The structure of the opera: The overall structure of Giulio Cesare
  • Flow and Gesture in Free Jazz
  • Introduction
  • 1. What is free jazz?
  • 2. How free jazz is realized
  • 3. The creation of a distributed identity in free jazz
  • References

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Taina Riikonen


The Embodiment of Authority Conference was held at the Sibelius Academy (currently University of Arts Helsinki, Finland), at the Department of Doctoral Studies on Performing Arts in September 2010. Approximately 70 scholars and artists from all over the world participated in a diverse range of discussion sessions on authorships, embodied meanings of performing and performance and the continuing socio-material signification processes of art making and arts’ cultural values.

The idea of organising the conference had come about two years earlier, during the course of a research project called Shared Creativity in Finnish Contemporary Music, which was based at the University of Turku and investigated the creation processes of newly commissioned compositions. The project team included the project leader, Professor Tomi Mäkelä (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg), PhD Taina Riikonen and PhD Marjaana Virtanen.

The ongoing fluid changes in the spheres of performance, art studies and art making at the economic, social and institutional levels was very much materially present at The Embodiment of Authority Conference as an untamed mix of performances, papers, demo lectures and discussions. The effort to facilitate serious intra-action between different forms of narrating, arguing and crafting knowledge was evident. This effort was a concrete manifestation of one of the main themes of this book: there are no hygienic paradigms of knowledge production.

Inevitably, the language glitch remains in academia. A textual-based empirical observation is preferred as the primary source of knowledge production (Conquergood 2004); the gap between knowing and telling and the obsession with linear narrativity restricts historical meaning-making (White 1980); experiential authority is methodologically dubious (Jackson 2005); and theories of flesh rarely enjoy the position of ‘expertise knowledge’ (Madison 1998). Referring to Michel Foucault’s term ‘subjugated knowledge’, Dwight Conquergood states that silencing the embodied, tacit, intoned, gestured, improvised and co-experienced forms of knowing is the act of epistemic violence that, for its part, maintains the dominance of visual data in the production of knowledge and its close interconnection with the hegemony of literacy and print-based forms of scholarship. Orality, local variations and corporeal memories have been repressed and reduced to the categories of non-science and naivety. Conquergood calls for revitalising the connections between diverse forms of creation, reflection, analysis and politics in order to create a fissure in the ‘apartheid of knowledge’, where the division between theory and practice, abstraction and embodiment is stubbornly deep.

Physicist and feminist theorist Karen Barad speaks of a ‘representationalist’ view, the tendency to believe in the power of words to ‘represent pre-existing things’ (Barad 2003, 803). This representationalism is based on the ontological separation between representation and the ‘reality’ it purports to represent. According to Barad, ‘there are assumed to be two distinct and independent kinds of entities — representations and entities to be represented’ (ibid. 804). In the case of performances, this cruel division of two entities seems obvious; there are performances and there are representations of performances. However, if we understand the performance itself ← 7 | 8 → as being highly multifaceted, as something that is not ‘only’ a ‘restored behaviour’ (Schechner 1985), nor solely a ‘methodological lens’ (Taylor 2004), but more as a fluid process that includes transforming the registers of an event, a machinic set-up, a ritualistic utterance, a fleshly strategy, then the representationalist division becomes problematic. Most performances — understanding the term quite broadly within art and in an everyday context — are fluid, fragmented and temporally divergent, and the specific nowness momentum of a performance can be understood merely as one component of the process in motion. Performance is explosive and extravagant, and as Della Pollock says, it ‘overflows its borders, marking and filling other performances, running off unpredictably, growing exponentially’ (1998, 8).

The embodiment of authority in this book touches first and foremost on the flesh and corporeal practices in and on the skin of authority, the issues existing within performances. It is not about ‘turning’ flesh into words, but about exploring practices, actions and encounterings as processes that might include diffractive rather than merely reflective elements and authorial twists (see Barad 2003, 3). Performance and issues of authority operate at the intersection of creation, analysis and the politics of the body and impact the way in which knowledge production is negotiated. Discourses as practices that subtly adjust the notion of what can be said and how it can be said are shaped at the hazy intersection between words and non-words.

Tacit, silent or other types of fleshly knowledge play an important role in this book in several ways. For instance, the presence of the rehearsal process for a performance, with its diverse shapes and practises within the continua of knowledge production, assumes particular importance. Rehearsals cannot be separated from the performance; on the contrary, they actually inhabit the space-time of the performance. Therefore, their existence has no pre-quality per se; every act in and around the rehearsal process already includes material signs of the upcoming performance. Rehearsals are repetitive gatherings arranged by authorial agents, all of whom have diverse performative tendencies and trajectories with their own various socio-material interests at stake. Of course, rehearsals include lots of verbal communication, but at the same time they are heavily guided by complex gestures, vocal registers, touching, sensing, spatio-temporal experiences and other visceral elements. In general, the close interrelationship between creation, reflection and knowledge production is somehow deeply inherent in the rehearsal situation, where the authors do the actual bodily deeds of repeating and training the body for the performance (as it exists in the rehearsal) and sculpting the upcoming performance (as a future moment and movement).

In this book, the rehearsal process is present in various ways, both subtly and more apparently. In her article, Marjaana Virtanen investigates composer-performer collaboration through ethnographic data focusing on the role of rehearsals in the creation process of a commissioned composition, Completorium, by the contemporary Finnish composer Jyrki Linjama. In Virtanen’s words, ‘the focus is on the interactive situations in the various phases of the process, from the composition phase and the initial sketches to the rehearsals leading up to the first performance’. The research material includes field notes, audiovisual recordings of the interactive rehearsal situations, interviews with the participants and sketches and the printed score of Completorium. Virtanen notes that the interconnected use of speech, non-verbal communication and musical performance (playing or singing) formed the dynamics of meaning making during rehearsals. The fluid role of the rehearsal process, especially when considering ← 8 | 9 → the borders around ‘performance’ and ‘work’, is prominent in the study. According to Virtanen, ‘already during the composing process, there was reciprocal interaction that impacted the formation of the resulting score. When the score was encountered by the same participants in rehearsal, the performers’ direct interaction with the composer even modified some of the composer’s compositional and interpretive choices’. In other words, the score was not an abstract solo creation of the composer, but more a fleshly process shared between different authors.

Rehearsals for a performance usually happen behind closed doors, where the performers and audience are kept separate during the whole — in most cases, at least, almost the whole — rehearsal process. This division emphasises the hierarchical differences between the diverse division of labour and meaning-making registers during the performing process. It also implies accuracy, expertise and high levels of control during the rehearsal period; these elements are often considered to be slightly secretive features of the exclusive craft of quite homologous performers. However, there are a number of performances where the performers do not share similar backgrounds or thought processes at all; on the contrary, all or several of the units and participants in the performance are intentionally arbitrary.

In her article, Catherine Lee1 examines a site-specific collaborative work that includes various unexpected and heterogeneous elements. The work is Reeds and it is inspired by the soundscape of Newfoundland, Canada. She examines the development of the score, the integration of movement and music, the workshop sessions and the work done at the site itself in terms of shared authority. The audience and the site also actively participated in the performance, which challenges the conventional hierarchy of composer, performers and audience.

Reeds was shaped during several phases, each of which included different activities and authorial processes. First, local bird-watchers were contacted and consulted, and their detailed advice helped to create a specific bird soundscape as the basis for an instrumental score. The particular form of environmental engagement by those bird-watchers therefore shaped the sounding possibilities of the score significantly. After making the first version of the score, one that offered the players a number of alternative choices for making modifications, the musicians began practicing it together. Then, the performers incorporated movement into the work; they tried different ways of walking in nature and also elaborated upon the idea of becoming absorbed into the soundscape both through sounding and moving acts.

In Reeds, the audience was immersed in the botanical gardens, they were called on to move though and within the performance space, and thus to actively participate with it. All of the audience members were active participants and authors of the performance: their moving through the performance space created specific sounds. Moving people as the audience also create a particular sense of bodily intra-action that allowed for diverse cross-performative encounters between the audience members, players and transformative garden environment.

As noted earlier, the rehearsal process, or any kind of preparation for a performance, may include ritualistic elements of hiding and enshrining clandestine abilities ← 9 | 10 → and knowledge regarding the upcoming performance. At the same time, this process of hiding constitutes a highly performative event, even symbolic foreplay for the performance itself, and it allows the audience to anticipate an astonishing ‘aura’ experience during the performance. According to Walter Benjamin, the ‘aura’ experience is based on the fact that the performance ‘is definitely presented to the public by the actor in person’ who ‘can adjust to the audience during his [or her] performance’ (2001, 55).

The concept of an ‘aura’ is present in Yrjö Heinonen’s article on how a Finnish popular singer Arja Koriseva reconfigures the symbolic barrier between the stage and the audience space during her live performances. Heinonen focuses on ‘the spatial interrelationships and performer/audience topography, with a special reference to how they contribute to the meanings of the songs performed and to the identification of the audience with the performer’. Through a cultural analysis of several songs, Heinonen explores the intimate relationship and interaction between Koriseva and her audience (as crossing the implied barrier, the local focus, taking the auditorium), which is characteristic of cabaret, and how she breaks down the performer–audience separation institutionalised both in the illusory fourth wall of traditional picture-frame proscenium theatre and in the single focus of the conventional concert practice. Heinonen shows that there is constant interplay between a pattern based on the pre-written structure of the show and the diverse elements of a one-night programme, structured both in terms of classical song recitals and popular nightclub gigs.

The question regarding the rehearsal processes for a performance is closely intertwined with a methodological discussion on multi-material data and the analysis of it. Usually, the ethnographic research done during the rehearsal process generates a vast amount of material with diverse qualities and properties. Different research materials ‘speak’ differently; they capture different registers and layers of doing as well as different processes, relational set-ups, fields, stages, accomplishments, communities, and so forth. Considering all this, it is important to reflect on the role of the researcher in the process of collecting the material. For example, if the material is collected through ethnographic methods such as interviewing, observing and writing field notes, then the presence of the researcher has, at least somewhat, affected the entire conversation and practices of actively producing the material. The tension between participation and observation may make the researcher’s presence ‘disruptive’, but a sense of obtrusiveness and provocativeness could also be used as critical strategies for data collection (Harrington 2002). Ethnomusicologist Michelle Kisliuk has introduced four interdependent levels of conversation (both literal and symbolic) that occur in ‘full-performance ethnography’: ongoing conversations between the researcher and the people among whom she or he is working; the interactive microconversations within the performance (e.g. singing, dancing, storytelling); the researcher’s reflections upon the materials, experiences and issues involved; and the writing and textual production of the first three elements (1998, 14). Kisliuk remarks that the whole process is imbued with a heavy state of constant selection, and it needs to be added that during the selection phase the different materialities of diverse data are also constantly being assessed, whether this is desired or not.

Writing with respect to multi-material research data is very much a ‘nervous’ endeavour according to Della Pollock in her essay ‘Performing Writing’ (1998). In Pollock’s discussion of nervousness, the act of oozing the text ‘crosses various stories, ← 10 | 11 → theories, texts, intertexts, and spheres of practice, unable to settle into a clear, linear course, neither willing nor able to stop moving, restless, transient and transitive, traversing spatial and temporal borders […]’. Nervous writing ‘follows the body model: it operates by synaptic relay, drawing one charged moment into another, constituting knowledge in an ongoing process of transmission and transferal, finding in the wide-ranging play of textuality an urgency that keeps what amounts to textual travel from lapsing into tourism, and that binds the traveller to his/her surging course like an electrical charge to its conduit’ (1998, 90–91). When thinking like an ethnographer with an extensive amount of diverse data, e.g. recorded interviews, photographs, video material, field notes, written or drawn descriptions of diverse situations, or email correspondence, the process of textual travelling may often seem like being teleported to an unknown terrain of wormholes. The varying dynamics and the continent multiplicity of diverse materials can make writing as embodied practice both intense and controversial. Diverse materials have diverse temporal pulses and tactile procedures. Additionally, the researcher’s view of the material changes all the time, at every point of contact. The notion of replay calls attention to a fluid re-resonancing between the material as process and the researcher ‘inside’ the specific scholarly apparatus. The researcher’s craft is actually shaped by the ongoing genetics of the performance (see Kershaw 1999), transmitting its academic-cultural genes through socio-material institutional labyrinths. Also, the research materials may change during the research process. In Virtanen’s study, for example, the primary material, the sketch of the composition, transformed organically during the rehearsal process; the material in essence formed a multifaceted — partly ephemeral — ‘route between immateriality and materiality’, as Virtanen remarks.

The issues around rehearsal as becoming-performances, multi-material research data and nervous writing are intriguing to ponder through Karin Barad’s notion of ‘agential realist ontology’, which is based on the idea that phenomena do not emerge as the result of ‘laboratory exercises engineered by human subjects’.

For Barad, agential realism is a way of understanding the features of material-discursive practices, and particularly those practices ‘through which different distinctions get drawn, including those between the “social” and the “scientific”’. Barad’s thinking takes shape through her investigation of ‘apparatus’ (further developed from physicist Niels Bohr’s apparatus as specific material practices) and discourse as dynamic practices. In her elaboration, Barad denies the mechanic, neutral, ‘natural’ or static definition of apparatuses. According to her, apparatuses are ‘dynamic (re)configurings of the world, specific agential practices/intra-actions/performances through which specific exclusionary boundaries are enacted’. Therefore, apparatuses are open-ended practices. Correspondingly, the discourse is understood as a fluid set-up of constraints and conventions regarding diverse social practices.

Now a longer quote from Barad’s theorisation on agential realism is relevant:

Reality [as the dynamic relation generating between apparatuses of bodily production and the phenomena they produce] is not composed of things-in-themselves or things- behind-phenomena but ‘things’-in-phenomena. The world is intra-activity in its differential mattering. It is through specific intra-actions that a differential sense of being is enacted in the ongoing ebb and flow of agency. That is, it is through specific intra-actions that phenomena come to matter—in both senses of the word. The world is a dynamic process of intra-activity in the ongoing reconfiguring of locally determinate causal structures with determinate boundaries, properties, meanings, ← 11 | 12 → and patterns of marks on bodies. […] The world is an ongoing open process of mattering through which ‘mattering’ itself acquires meaning and form in the realization of different agential possibilities. […] The universe is agential intra-activity in its becoming. The primary ontological units are not ‘things’ but phenomena—dynamic topological reconfigurings/entanglements/relationalities/(re)articulations. And the primary semantic units are not ‘words’ but material-discursive practices through which boundaries are constituted. This dynamism is agency. (Barad 2003)


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (March)
musical performance sound art performance studies
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 207 pp., 4 b/w fig., 4 tables, 21 graphs

Biographical notes

Taina Riikonen (Volume editor) Marjaana Virtanen (Volume editor)

Taina Riikonen, PhD, is a sound explorer who works at the intersection of sound arts and research. Her interests include tactile recording, body sounds, machine noises and the issues surrounding performance, performativity, bodies and site-specific arts. Marjaana Virtanen, PhD, is a researcher at the University of Turku’s Department of Musicology, in Finland. Her research interests include performance studies, performance-oriented music analysis, musical gestures and contemporary Finnish art music.


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