8 October 2021
Artistic Research Journeys
Practice, Research, Art, Metaphysics, again
There is, it seems to me, a set of views around the relationship between (artistic) practice and (scholarly) research, which might be, with a little over-simplification, categorised thus: first, artistic practice isn’t (really) research; second, the artistic field in question (composition, performance, largely, from the musician’s perspective) constitutes a (sub-)discipline, such that work in composition or performance (again, speaking as a musician) contributes intra-disciplinary research to that area (which is to say, composers have things to say to other composers; performers have things to say to other performers); third, artistic output—in whatever field—can be yoked to research insights and the research ‘proper’ occurs in the iterative process that obtains in the making of an art object.
I’m not unsympathetic to any of these views. On the contrary, though the first, at least, may seem wholly antithetical to the other two, I’d argue that each one strikes at something truthful. Moreover, I have no intention of defending any one of these positions against the others, not least since they hardly need my defence. Rather my aim is to advance a quite different claim: that the production of art—in this context, I mean through the making of music, through musicking, that is—constitutes a sort of species of metaphysical enquiry. I do this both because it seems to me that it resolves many of the apparent antinomies between these more established positions and, too, because it seems to me to be a truthful reflection of a deeper stratum of what practice-researchers do, which reflects the largely profound relationship that humans more generally seem to have with music, and with aim more broadly.
Martin Iddon is a composer and musicologist. He studied at the Universities of Durham and Cambridge, and is presently Professor of Music and Aesthetics at the University of Leeds. A portrait CD, pneuma, was released by Another Timbre in 2014, with a second, Sapindales, scheduled for release in 2021. His books, New Music at Darmstadt, John Cage and David Tudor, and John Cage and Peter Yates are published by Cambridge University Press, while John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra (co-authored with Philip Thomas) is published by Oxford University Press.