lyric song in idea and performance


What is the lyric and how do we make it?

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

amanda glauert

DATE: 21 JUNE 2012, 9.30-20.00


Keynote Speaker: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music)

Convenor: Dr Kathryn Whitney (Institute of Musical Research)

The SongArt Performance Research Group warmly invites you to our 3rd Annual Meeting, which in 2012 will take the form of a single-day workshop exploring the theme “Lyric Song in Idea and Performance”.


2012 Theme: “Lyric Song in Idea and Performance”

Research Question: What is the lyric and how do we make it?

Although the idea of the lyric presupposes poetry reaching out to music and music reaching out to poetry, the actual point of lyric intersection between the arts can remain remarkably elusive. Herder defined the lyric as preparing for the moment when we hear the poet’s ‘I sing’; a lyric must be made and tested through actions of performance and response. Unlike with the drama and the epic, it is hard to lay out the lyric’s generic traits in advance, except perhaps to indicate how it is neither of those two other modes of communication. How then can we make a lyric, or know when it has been made? What models can be found and how might these illuminate the essential art of lyric song performance?

This workshop aims to offer a platform for setting out and testing definitions of the lyric, through discussion of practical models from performers and composers (past and present), and through exploration of their implications for our idea of the lyric as a genre.


9.30Registration and coffee
10.00Welcome: Dr Kathryn Whitney (Institute of Musical Research)
10.15KEYNOTE: Professor Amanda Glauert (Royal College of Music): Preparing for the event of performance
Abstract: Many recent scholarly debates in the field of performance studies have focused on how performers, or those studying performance, seek to find words for describing what happens in the act of performing. George Steiner in Real Presences (Faber, London, 1992), however, suggests words are usually impotent to explain anything about what musicians do. Any useful reflection on the act of performing has to happen through the act of performing itself: ‘Asked to explain a difficult étude, Schumann sat down and played it a second time’. Schumann might be taken as seeking to shut the mouths of scholarly enquirers in this recounted scene. Yet the kind of action invoked here, one of repetition with this second performance being taken in a different listening context as an answer to a question, might provide an interesting way forward for those seeking to capture what performers do. In the Schumann anecdote the second performance is layered on the first, as both a literal repetition and a mimesis or recapturing of what has just happened. The comparison of the experiences between a ‘then’ and ‘now’ gives ontological weight to the performance act as something deliberately made that can be held as an object in the memory. Goethe’s ways of seeking to model lyrical performance often make reference to this distinction between a past and present utterance, with emphasis on a reflective space before the actual moment of reenactment. In this Goethe reveals the influence of his teacher Johann Gottfried Herder and his ideals of lyric song. In addition to discussing these ideals, the session will draw on two specific cases where Goethe offers a physical measure for this in-between passage of reflection. The practical implications of this physical measure will be discussed in relation to a live performance of Beethoven’s Der Bardengeist, a song also written under Herder’s influence. The presentation will explore how performers, like poet and composer, can enhance awareness of both the ‘now-ness’ and ‘then-ness’ of lyric song.
11.15Session I: Lyric creation in performance
Louise Gibbs (Singer, independent researcher)
Lecture-recital: The Twisted Lyric: unwravelling jazz vocalese
12.15Session II: Poetics of the Lyric
1. James Archer (Durham) Paper: Dichterliebe, the lyric, and the politics of poetics
2. Kathryn Cox (Michigan) Paper: Meaningful meaninglessness: the connection between the lyrical text and performed vocables in Paul McCartney's songs
13.15Lunch break (lunch will be provided)
14.15Session III: Schoenberg and the lyric "I"
1. Dr Kristof Boucquet (Leuven) Paper: Representation and Idea in Schoenberg's Songs
2. Dr Carola Darwin (Singer, independent researcher) Lecture-recital: "The Voice of humanity"?: Erwartung's lyric "I"
16.00Session IV: Performing the lyric
1. Diana Gilchrist (Edinburgh) Lecture-recital: Exploring the lyric through expressive vocal gestures
2. Dr Päivi Järviö & Dr Assi Karttunen (Sibelius Academy) Lecture-recital: Cantate: a nexus of living meanings
17.30Round Table: Respondents: Dr Kathryn Whitney (IMR), Professor Paul Barker (Central School of Speech and Drama), Dr Natasha Loges (Royal College of Music)
18.30Drinks reception