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Playing With the Viola da Gamba

Byrne, L. (2022). Playing With the Viola da Gamba. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, Guildhall School of Music and Drama)


This thesis is the result of a practice-led research project that took place at the Victoria & Albert Museum from 2016 to 2019, under the auspices of a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The work picks up the discussion about Historical Performance and authenticity as it stands at the beginning of the 21st century, and proposes a new model for the practice of playing a historical musical instrument, borrowing ideas from material culture studies and focusing on the instrument as an object central to musical experience, and suggesting a new model for creative interpretation called the expressive variable. This reframing becomes the jumping-off point for a series of three performance experiments conducted at the museum involving unaccompanied 17th-century viola da gamba music, each one devised to explore diverse relationships between listener, performer, repertoire, and space, and all three aiming to find ways of sharing the practice of music-making with museum audiences without putting on a traditional concert. The discussion of the performance experiments draws heavily from the techniques of autoethnography, combining analyses of recordings and field notes with reflective writing relating to the author’s personal, psychological, and cultural history. The outcomes of these analyses focus themselves into four main sections: risk, time, presence, and agency. Over the course of the intertwined examination of these and other emergent topics, the writing becomes an increasingly self-reflective attempt to understand the friction between the author’s self and the musical practice.

The original PhD thesis was submitted as a website, with fifty multimedia examples embedded in the text, in addition to self-referential hyperlinks within the work. It is the author’s intention to permanently host that more ideal version of the thesis at (password: orlandogibbons). However, for library archival purposes, or in the event that the online version somehow ceases to exist, this current offline version is a collection of the nine pages of the website as nine rich-text PDF files. Some hyperlinks (only to external sources) and images have been retained in the body of this text, but the audio and video multimedia examples have been moved to a supplemental folder within this ZIP archive. At those points in the text where an audio or video file would have been embedded, the reader will find a bold, red text with an old-fashioned Example Number, which refers to a media file in the supplemental folder. The page numbers of the PDF files should serve as page numbers for reference purposes. The author also apologizes for the use of endnotes, but they were an irreversible artifact of the footnote system used in the original website version of the thesis.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Departments: Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of 1. Abstract and Introduction]
Text (1. Abstract and Introduction) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 2. Background and Inspiration]
Text (2. Background and Inspiration) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 3. The Early Music Problem]
Text (3. The Early Music Problem) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 4. Inside Voices - Risk]
Text (4. Inside Voices - Risk) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 5. Inside Voices - Time]
Text (5. Inside Voices - Time) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 6. One Piece - Presence]
Text (6. One Piece - Presence) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 7. In Front of a Live Studio Audience - Agency]
Text (7. In Front of a Live Studio Audience - Agency) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 8. An open conclusion]
Text (8. An open conclusion) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of 9. Bibliography]
Text (9. Bibliography) - Accepted Version
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[thumbnail of Media examples] Archive (Media examples) - Accepted Version
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