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The Acousmatic Musical Performance: An Ontological Investigation

Stansbie, Adam (2013). The Acousmatic Musical Performance: An Ontological Investigation. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)


This investigation provides an answer to the following ontological question: what is an acousmatic musical performance? Chapter 1 discusses acousmatic sound – a fundamental constituent of the acousmatic musical performance – and considers ways in which acousmatic sounds are determined in advance of, and during, a performance. Chapter 2 presents the acousmatic performance as an agent-centred, skilful enterprise that serves both composers and listeners through intentional communicative acts. Chapter 3 examines the nature of, and relations that hold between, acousmatic performances and acousmatic works. Chapter 4 considers interpretations of works and highlights some of the various ways in which interpretations are formulated, regulated and executed. Chapter 5 focuses upon the notion of performance authenticity and questions whether it is possible for an acousmatic performance to be considered inauthentic. Taken as a whole, these five chapters highlight the central constituents of the acousmatic
musical performance, unravel the collective input of composers, performers, listeners and technologies, and explicate the complex network of relations that coalesce within the performance environment.

The methods employed within this thesis relate to the practice of musical ontology, and have been significantly influenced by Richard Wollheim’s realist account of type and tokens (Wollheim 1980) and Stephen Davies’ notion of thick and thin musical works (Davies 2004). These ontological theories provided a method for identifying and discussing the relations that hold between acousmatic performances and acousmatic works, and were ultimately fundamental to the formulation of a bespoke type-theory that serves music of the acousmatic tradition. Accordingly, the research serves two distinct communities. On the one hand, it serves the ontological community; acousmatic music has received very little ontological attention and, as a result, this research broadens the investigative scope of the discipline whilst considering how existing theories may be applied to music of the acousmatic tradition. On the other hand, it serves the acousmatic community; by abstracting and explaining the central constituents of the acousmatic musical performance, this investigation clarifies the roles of composers, performers and listeners, and demonstrates how understanding of these roles may inform creative practice.

A portfolio consisting of six original acousmatic compositions has been produced. This compositional research allowed theoretical ideas to be tested, and works in the portfolio are cited to contextualise key points.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > Performing Arts > Music
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Communication & Creativity > School of Communication & Creativity Doctoral Theses
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