poetry - performativity - song - creation


Inside Song Performance:

Mapping the interior of the performative act



A Royal Musical Assocation Supported Research Event.

Organiser: Dr Kathryn Whitney (Institute of Musical Research)

Co-chairs: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music); Dr Kathryn Whitney (IMR)


This IMR SongArt Study Day "Inside Song Performance" was a public, performance-led, cross-disciplinary research event that forms the second stage of our research into the "art" or the "making" of song performance in concert.

We aimed to identify characteristics and qualities of the act of song performance that will aid our understanding of the process of live song creation for performers, composers, and audiences.

We were especially interested in exploring the performative potential of poetic text - how poetry requires performance to have meaning - and what this might mean for song performers, composers and audiences.

We hoped to learn more about the role performers play (if any) in determining text / music relationships in concert (can we say that live performance is "creative" or has "structure", or has this been determined in advance by poets and composers?).

Our overall goal was to sketch a preliminary "map" of the interior of the act of performance as experienced by performers and audiences.

Throughout the day, our focus was on the act of performance - our concern is not to understand the rehearsal process, but to learn more about what performers can (and cannot) do expressively and/or creatively in the moment of performance before a live audience.

Our speakers included professional singers, pianists, actors, poets, composers, musicologists, and literary theorists. The study day featured a series of lecture-demonstrations - each including both discussion and live performance - and a moderated panel discussion.

Research Questions

Our meeting addressed the following research questions:

1. What is the performer's role in creating poetry and song in a live concert setting?

2. Can we describe performers' contribution to poetry and song creation in concert, and if so how?

3. What (if anything) can we learn from "internal" (performers') descriptions of performance by poets, actors, singers and pianists?

4. How might poetic structure dictate the expressive content and structure of the performative act in a live concert setting?


09.30 Registration
10.00 Welcome: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music)
10.15 1. The Singer's View: Dr Kathryn Whitney (Institute of Musical Research)

"Inside song performance: structured or unstructured space?"

11.15 2. The Poet's View: Dr Fiona Sampson (Award-winning poet; author "Music Lessons: Poetry and Musical Form")

"Point Counterpoint"

12.15 Lunch break
13.15 3. The Pianist's and Scholar's View: Mr Sholto Kynoch (Oxford Lieder Festival) & Dr Helen Abbott (Bangor University)

"Collaborating with perfomers: Baudelaire's  poetry revisited through music"

14.15 4. The Actor's View: Professor Jane Boston (Central School of Speech & Drama; International Centre for Voice):

"Re-constructing the voiceof Elizabeth Bishop: An exploration of interpretative vocal pedagogy within contemporary actor training"

15.15 Tea
16.00 Round Table: Respondents: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music); Professor Paul Alan Barker (Central School of Speech & Drama; author "Composing for Voice")
17.30 Drinks reception

A Report on the study day will be forthcoming shortly.

We thank all those who participated, as well as those attending the study day, for their many interesting insights and challenging discussions.

We are also grateful to the Royal Musicological Association for their kind sponsorship of this event.

Please address all enquires to Dr Kathryn Whitney.




P U B L I C- -E V E N T






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