I have organized this seminar to invite artistic researchers of all disciplines to discuss and reflect on artistic research methodologies.
Supported by ARIA Antwerp Research Institute in Arts, University of Antwerp, Corporeal research group, Royal Conservatoire Antwerp
The aim of this practice-based project is to search for new performance perspectives for the marimba (invented in 1910s) by inquiring into the West African music tradition--the balafon of the Bobo and Bamana peoples living in Mali and Burkina Faso.
Through a triangulation of research methodology—participant-observation (lessons with local musicians and interviews), literature (African ethnomusicology, phenomenology in music and music embodiment) and artistic practice (analyses and experiments in music)—I have gained insights on describing the artistic experience of stepping into the "unknown" balafon world. It is a discussion on how I have overcome the obstacles of learning, performing and listening to balafon music, and how these new experiences renewed and enriched my original artistic practice and ideas. Due to oral tradition, the balafon polyrhythm and melodic materials are embodied in forms of bimanual (two-hand) coordination patterns rather than symbolic representation. Music-making is largely informed by the performer's motoric sensory, and body movement is given a crucial role in music communication and sensory perception.
The second purpose of this research is, therefore, to apply these balafon practices in the Western performance. Most preceding Western composers and performers have initiated music projects to adapt the African musical materials to their creative processes, e.g. "Drumming" (Steve Reich, 1971), but barely a work grows out of an inquiry into the embodied performance practice of the non-Western genre. This yields artistic outcomes of five commissioned compositions for the marimba and a concert program "In the Heat of the Moment".
"During my field study of balafon music in the region of the Bobo and Bamana tribes of West Africa, I observed that this oral culture pertains to an embodied practice: musical concepts like rhythm and melody are embodied in forms of bimanual coordination and spatial distance of the two-arm striking movements. Through the method of participant-observation – in this case learning and rehearsing with local balafon musicians – my artistic views as a classically-trained marimba performer in a tradition depending on symbolic representation of the music, have been challenged and enriched."
Article published on Music+Practice vol.2, 2015
Drumming Steve Reich (1971)
Coach and research: Adilia Yip | Coach: Koen Wilmaers | Dans coach: Iris Bouche, Marta Coronado | Ensemble and dance: Royal Conservatoire Antwerp
Gele Zaal, deSingel | 11-12 December, 2014
The project is an experiment to study the application of the balafon oral tradition in the performance of Drumming (Steve Reich, 1971), a minimalism ensemble work written for 9 percussionists, 2 singers and 1 piccolo. Different to the conventional practice of score reading practice, Drumming is passed on among generations of percussionists orally, so did the composer who also taught his ensemble for the premiere of the work without using notation. In this version, I push the limit further: I asked the percussion students to watch the video renditions of the published score and they have to memorize the patterns and structure by heart. This alternative method integrates the performance practice of the balafon oral tradition, which I have observed during my lessons and rehearsals with the African musicians. The aim of the experiment is to test the feasibility of the alternative approach and to observe the effect of the method on the performance of the ensemble in terms of synchronization and cohesion.
Praxis is the process by which a theory, lesson, or skill is enacted, embodied, or realised. "Praxis" may also refer to the act of engaging, applying, exercising, realizing, or practicing ideas.
Rhythm in Africa grows out of actions. We can identify some basic polyrhythm concept in the daily activities. In music, African rhythm is also a pragmatic practice. It is manifested in form of performance and actions, rather than contemplative and in form of symbolic transcriptions. Rhythm is embodied in movement; so learning or understanding the African rhythm is a process of “doing-it”. The process involves our body and the actions of engaging, applying and exercising.
Published on ESMUC artistic research digital platform