The multiple interpretability of the score from prefigurement to performance.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Between 2014 and 2016 I investigated as an artist-researcher the multiple interpretability of the score by conducted ensembles. I conducted five pieces twice each to investigate how the conductor can prefigure, rehearse and perform the same work in differing interpretations. My point of departure was the assumption that there is no single correct ‘interpretation in performance… of musical works specified by scores’ (Davies, 2003). Over 30 hours of video footage were collected, of which 18 hours were thematically analysed with more than 12,000 codes applied and collated. The methodology also included auto-ethnographic writing (a 25,000-word practice diary), chronometry exercises, listening in silence, semi-structured interviews, the creation of ‘energy’ graphs and the use of Sonic Visualiser.

Although there are numerous studies that compare different performances of the same piece, and consider the extent to which differences are intentional and/or creative (see Clarke 2012, for a review), none has been undertaken by a conductor in the role of artist-researcher. Similarly, studies of prefigurement, or ‘mental rehearsal, mental practice, aural or internal representations, inner hearing, or visualization’ (Clark, Williamon, and Aksentijevic 2012, 352) neglect the work of conductors. My approach to prefiguring multiple interpretations of the score has resonance with a wide span of musicological research from recent decades, including writers such as Cone (who advocates accepting that ‘there will be other performances’; 1968), Abbate (the idea of allowing different ‘voices’ to speak from the music; 1996), Rosen (who notes that performances of twentieth-century music can variously emphasise a work’s ‘radical nature, or … try to to indicate its nineteenth-century origins’; 1998) and Hovland (that performers can ‘emphatically [take] control of time’; 2015). It became clear from my study that the move from prefigurement to performance is not hermetically sealed or unidirectional due to factors including the collaborative nature of the rehearsal process, the way in which the music ‘incubated’ inside the players between rehearsals and performances, and the welcome influence of eventness.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2016
EventOxford Conducting Institute International Conducting Studies Conference - St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Jun 201626 Jun 2016


ConferenceOxford Conducting Institute International Conducting Studies Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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