shaping liveness in song performance

kathryn whitney & sholto kynoch, holywell music room, oxfordaudienceDoes liveness impact audience reception?

Do audiences contribute to the creation of musical content in performance?

Join us and join the discussion

AHRC Centre for Music Performance as Creative Practice Experimental Song Performance Workshops in central London, hosted in association with the AHRC Centre for Music Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP)


Dates: 12 June, 26 June, 10 July, 2012.

Time: 2.00pm – 4.30pm

Principal performer and co-researcher: Dr Kathryn Whitney (Singer and Visiting Fellow, CMPCP)

Co-Researchers: Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson (CMPCP, King’s College, London); Dr Helen Prior (CMPCP, King’s College, London); Mats Kuessner (CMPCP, King’s College, London)

Respondents: Professor Daniel Leech-Wilkinson (CMPCP, King’s College, London);Professor John Rink (CMPCP, Cambridge); Professor John Sloboda (Guildhall School of Music & Drama)

Shaping liveness in song performance

The AHRC Centre for Music Performance as Creative Practice, in association with the SongArt Performance Research Group, held a series of experimental song performance workshops on the theme “Shaping Liveness in Song Performance”, in June and July 2012 at the Strand Campus of King’s College, London.

These exciting and innovative workshops, which were open to all, were designed to explore how performers and audiences interact to create music in live concert performance.

We experimented with ideas about how audience members may act jointly with performers to shape musical content in performance. We also explored what the quality of “liveness” may contribute (if anything) to the value of music experience for audience members in “live” concert performances.

Audience participation was a key element of these public events, which offered an unprecedented opportunity for music enthusiasts to take part, through their listening and their feedback, in the production and interpretation of song performance in a concert setting.

The workshops followed a two-part format: 1. live experimental song performances; and 2. brief (10 minute) topic-specific talks by Kathryn Whitney and an invited speaker from the CMPCP, followed by open discussion between the audience, performers, and researchers.

In all workshops, the two sections were separated by a complimentary tea.

To help us to learn more about your thoughts on the experimental song performances, we asked audience members to fill in a brief questionnaire in Part 1 of the workshops.

Programme of Events:

Workshop 1: (Tuesday, 12 June 2012, 2.00 pm): Shaping Liveness in Song Performance in Concert: a performer-audience paradigm

This workshop kicked off our series with an exciting interactive workshop designed to bring performers and researchers together with music enthusiasts interested in how music may be jointly shaped in live concert performance by performers and audiences. The experimental song performances contrasted live and video recorded material, and the brief talk and open discussion offered the opportunity to explore differing perspectives of what makes a “live” performance, and how audience members may impact what performers do as they create music in concert. We also explored the ideas of “live” vs. “recorded” musical performance, and were interested to hear how you make those distinctions as audience members as part of the open discussion after tea.

Workshop 2: (Tuesday, 26 June 2012, 2.00 pm): The Morphology of Liveness: performer-audience interaction in live vs. video recorded song performance

The second workshop explored one, over-riding aspect of the experience of musical performances: the idea of musical “morphology”, also referred to as the “shape” music takes as we make or hear it, whether in concert or on recordings. Audience members heard two different short song programmes (one “live” and one recorded) and were given the chance to comment on how the performances may strike them as similar or different in “shape” (whatever that term may mean to each of you personally). The brief talk, response, and discussion invited audience members to share their experiences of “shaping” music in performance, whether through their own amateur or professional performance, through other modes of musical “shaping” such as musical analysis or written commentary, or independently as listeners in concerts or to recordings.

Part 2 of this workshop featured a special interactive session between performers and members of the audience. Audience members were asked to make interpretive suggestions to the performers, who tred to reply on the spot with new, entirely un-rehearsed creative responses. We were very interested to hear what you come up with, and to learn whether our performers respond effectively (in your opinion) to your creative suggestions.

Workshop 3: (Tuesday, 10 July 2012, 2.00 pm): The Mechanism of Liveness: audience expressivity and the shaping of musical content in live vs. video recorded song performance.

The final workshop in the series sharpened our focus on audiences’ experience, and explored how audience members may act “expressively” to shape the music they hear in concert or on recordings. The experimental performance offered two separate short song programmes (one “live” and one recorded).

After the tea break, the concluding brief talk, response, and final discussion addressed how listeners may be “expressive” as they listen, and how this may complement the actions of performers in important ways. Like Workshop 2, this final session also allowed for free experimental interaction between our audience and our performers, who explored how they might produce “joint” interpretations of song in concert, both through heard sound, and through silent expression and reflection. We will encouraged members of the audience to explore their own reactions, both to the performances in this session and to the series as a whole.

further information

Those who may have questions are very welcome to write to Kathryn Whitney at: