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    On dialogues between sound and performance physicality: Compositional Experimentation, Embodiment, and Placement of the Self

    Ma, Bofan (2021) On dialogues between sound and performance physicality: Compositional Experimentation, Embodiment, and Placement of the Self. Doctoral thesis (PhD), The Royal Northern College of Music in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University.

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    Abstract

    This body of work consists of eleven original musical compositions of a varied format that encompasses live solo or chamber instrumental concert music performance, performance art, site-specific/responsive performance installation, digital production of audio-visual content, alongside an accompanying critical and reflective commentary. Created as part of my practice-led research concerning an entangled relationship between sound and performance physicality, this work connects to and extrapolates from an array of existing, heterogeneous theoretical and practical discourses on instrumental theatre, the involvement of the human body in sound-making, a normalised composer-performer hierarchy, technology, and an elusive interstitial territory between sound’s multi-faceted articulations. This research, therefore, addresses issues surrounding compositional experimentation and embodiment, as well as sonic and human agency in music-making, drawing on features of autoethnography and a hybrid model of musical practice, in which the acts of composing, performing, devising, curating collectively afford an understanding of an emergent transnational creative identity. The eleven compositions chronicle the manifestation of an expanding and expansive compositional vocabulary of my own. Through interrogating the cultural and historical significances associated with the musical score, and through foregrounding and recontextualising a range of peripheral and understated actions and objects found within a conventional instrumental performance practice, these compositions eventually outline a new compositional and artistic paradigm that is intrinsically shaped by my lived and living experience of being Chinese inside a Western society. This research gives rise to a highly personal contribution to a growing area of scholarship that considers subjectivity, identity, and holistic ontological transformations as inherent facets of, and catalysts for an embodied practice of musical and compositional experimentation. It is an invitation for new ways of contextualising transnational encounters into the process of making music, thus normalising a multitude of resistances–especially those towards stereotyping and misrepresentation–as a mediating facilitator of compositional and artistic intentions.

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