inside song performance

insidesongperformanceWhat are we doing when we perform song in concert?

Singers, pianists, actors, poets, composers, musicologists: join us and join the discussion

13 MAY 2011, 9.30-18.30
A Royal Musical Association Supported Research Event.

Organiser: Dr Kathryn Whitney (Institute of Musical Research)

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


“Inside Song Performance: mapping the interior of the performative act” 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?


10.00Welcome: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music)
10.15The Singer's View: Dr Kathryn Whitney (Institute of Musical Research)
Inside song performance: structured or unstructured space?
11.15The Poet's View: Dr Fiona Sampson (Award-winning poet, author "Music Lessons: Poetry and Musical Form")
Point Counterpoint.
13.15The Pianist & Scholar's View: Mr Sholto Kynoch (Oxford Lieder Festival) & Dr Helen Abbott (Bangor)
Collaborating with performers: Baudelaire's poetry revisited through music.
14.15The Actor's View: Professor Jane Boston (Central School of Speech and Drama; International Centre for Voice)
Re-constructing the voice of Elizabeth Bishop: An exploration of interpretative vocal pedagogy within contemporary actor training.
16.00Round Table. Respondents: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music), Professor Paul Alan Barker (Central School of Speech and Drama, author "Composing for Voice"
17.30Drinks reception

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

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

Please address all enquires to Dr Kathryn Whitney: