26- orakel gevonden voorwerpen, gefragmenteerde viool

Uit onderstaande tekst (een masterlezing uit 2007) wil ik twee verhalen pakken om opnieuw uit te werken. Het orakel van gevonden voorwerpen en de gefragmenteerde viool. Die twee verhalen gaan over de wending van kunst naar 'de kunst van het gesprek'. Of van kunst naar de kunst van het werk-vormen (als 1 woord)

Tekst uit 2007 in lectoraat docent van de 21e eeuw. Daar ligt start van het thema 'artistry'. Dat later muzisch is geworden. waarom je het over kunstenaarschap zou kunnen hebben. er zitten verschillende verhalen en werkvormen (maar ook redeneertrant) in die nu we het weer over 'artistry of the teacher hebben' opnieuw relevant worden. Mijn specifieke verkenningen richten zich op artistry of the art teacher (musician). Oprekken kunstenaarschap


Ask ten teachers what they understand as artistry and you will get ten different answers.


Some of them state that you have it or you don’t have it and that it is almost unteachable, unlearnable. Others articulate the complete opposite: each of us has the potential but this potential is often  sleeping waiting for a prince to kiss awake the powers of artistry. When talking about artistry opinions vary from pointing to the sparkle in the eyes to issues as identity, authenticity and a growing artistic personality.


Artistry is not in the scales, is not in tuning, is not in the rhytm, is not in the specialties for the violinist or the specialties for the percussionist or the composer. Its somehow beyond all that, it seems to be beyond skills, beyond theory. You could even say that Artistry is beyond the instrument.  


When you start studying at a school for higher arts education the main direction however is given by developing your skills. The instrument is leading. The instrument dictates large parts of the road: the pencil for the painter, the camera for the filmer, the voice for the singer. And when I widen the circle one step you see the same skill based pattern for other professions as well. Law defines the  lawyer, books the philosopher, medicine the future doctors.


Going from bachelor to master could however mean a vital change in this pattern. The basic skills are obtained. There’s a professional ground to make it possible that also artistry starts to play a role in giving direction to your future. As I see it artistry will define part your future mastery.  


But wait a minute. That is not easy. I see two difficulties in talking about artistry in a Conservatoire. A lot of musicians rather talk about musicianship than about art, being an artist or their artistry.

Art seems to be a too general category associated maybe more with visual artists than with musicians. Musicians don’t like to be categorized in such a general category. So when we choose musicianship we create a division between music and the rest. Within the field of music, with strong reasons, there’s a second division: musicians that create like composers are different than musicians that recreate or interprete like instrumentalists and singers. A third division comes from styles. Historical musicians claim with strong reasoning again, their own approach and so do the jazz players, world music, pop players, sonologist and so on. And from all these reasonable divisions in the field of music it is just a small step to articulate and accept the differences between instruments as well. A violin is completely different than a saxophone. That’s true, as true as it can be. And that leads as a self fulfilling prophecy to a conservatoire being a very interesting high quality collection off rather isolated people. By making all these and I say it again reasonable divisions we let imprison ourselves at the same time by our instrument, skills and specialties on a specialized isle. The instrument is leading. And we do not have a very articulated conversation about artistry.


I see a second difficulty. When I start talking with teachers about artistry I notice that there are some very strong and static unspoken convictions working under the surface. Being an artist, well that’s a perspective for only the very, very talented they say From this whole group maybe three to five people will become ‘a real artist’. Being an artist became of very and almost unreachable high status. The image of an artist is dematerializing, going sky high. This image building is of course maintained and cultivated by a culture of stardom, by CD- industry and media. Related to that a following observation. I notice immediately in a group of lets say ‘artistic people’ a competitive kind of ranking: who’s the best, the ultimate, who’s the real artist? That is not a fertile ground. That is the second difficulty to deal with. You cannot engage in a fruitful dialogue about art and being an artist today because the image is too much under pressure. 


That’s why I choose not to talk about becoming an artist, and I’m not going tot talk about pieces of art either. And related to the first difficulty I won’t go into this divisions of music and the rest until the individual instruments. I want to provoke a conversation that can be broadly shared. 

My proposition is therefore to talk about artistry. The word artistry gives open possibilities for personal interpretation. It is not yet completely fixed. It is a suitable issue to put on the agenda at a Master lecture for starting Masters. You are on a turning point.  You might develop some artistry the coming years. This artistry will guide you, can give direction. So leave the skills and specifics of your instrument or medium for a while and leave the high mountain images of ‘the artist’ and the pieces of ‘art’ and lets talk about artistry.  


Intermezzo The oracle of found objects

Once I heard a story about a painter. He questioned himself standing in front of the white paper ‘why painting this specific image’? Why adding something to the collected ages of paintings? He suffered severely under the pressure of producing a so called ‘masterpiece’.  He went out without painting, walking down the street. And as always under these circumstances he found small objects, thrown away, but sort of interesting. The more he found, the more he was fascinated by these objects: a small anchor from a toy ship, an unidentified coin, a plastic spoon, a small picture from an old lady and so on. He found dozens of them on his ‘non-painting walks’ intrigued by the hidden meaning, the interpretation of his found footage. He started dreaming of revealing all those meanings in an oracle of found objects. What he did was the following. Participating in a summer festival he occupied a small tent for only one visitor at a time. He asked the entering visitor ‘what is the question you want to ask at the oracle of found objects”? It could be any question. ‘will I be happy with my new girl friend’ or ‘what to do with summer holidays, Cyprus or Helsinki’?

Than the visitor put his hand in a large handgloove connected with a box full of found objects. ‘Pick three of them and place them unseen on a flat surface behind a curtain’. A hidden fotocopy machine made a copy on specially, with basic patterns, designed  paper. The copy ended with a sudden flash of light. This was ‘the moment’.

The magician (that used to be a visual artist) presents the copy end invites the guest to interprete the found objects in relation to the asked question. Step by step a storie rises from the objects and produces a meaningful answer for the visitor. It works! 9 out of 10 times visitors found real answers to their questions!

This is one of my favorite stories about artistry.

It’s about ‘the element of play’, a creative step on a moment of severe pressure ‘delivering a masterpiece’? It leaves the solid art work and turns to a fluid process of meaning. It reveals a basic aspect of artistry: 

‘ Picking up different things and connecting them in creative combination’. Creating meaningful order out of chaotic diversity.   


Back from this story now into this room. I’m going to be an orchestral musician, I’m going to be a composer or a music educator you might say. What is the relation from this story with my future profession? Well that is the movement from inside the atelier the known, to the outside, the unknown. This move will be made by a lot of us. By more maybe than we now expect.


About this move I have to tell another story. A story about the context of our profession. In what world do we present our music? What is the larger framework, the wider context for orchestra’s, composers, ensembles and music education? Like the painter we leave now the atelier and go out on the street. What do we find in society?   


Society and driving forces and changing artistry

We see a  society with an increasing speed of change. We see a society with people in different phases of transformation. It’s a society without great stories to give direction, without clear political ideas. A society that in a way is feeling strong influences of what we could call ‘driving forces’. 


Globalisation is such a driving force. It shows us how things are equalizing, getting more and more the same, in shopping, in trends, in taste worldwide. Technology, another strong force, has an enormous impact on how we live, how we deal with information, how we experience our own identity. Demographic changes make all places cultural diverse with related problems in how to deal with diversity. The influence of media and new media are immense in how we perceive our selves and the surrounding world. The dominating economy is changing our language, our desires. While all these forces work freely into each other we live in a more and more fragmented and complex world. (I sound almost as the queen on prinsjesdag- I’m sorry for that). 


What does this mean for me, for us? What does it mean for musicians, for professionals in the art and for our subject of artistry?


There’s a big demand to experience meaning again in nowadays society(betekenis). How can my life be meaningful? How can I contribute? How can I make the difference? In this perspective we can understand a fundamental shift in values that is taking place. (indicating deep cultural transformation) 

Authenticity becomes important. The real thing is what we want. Personal networks with strong relations between people become more influential than official positions. Wellness and well being are a big issue. As is spirituality and different activities to obtain new balances between head and heart. There’s a  strong demand for culture. More than the fun for an evening out is culture asked as a supplier of meaning. We not only want the concert. We want the making of and meeting the artist as well. Imagination plays a larger and larger role as a necessary counterpoint for the cognitive approach. The cognitive approach is not enough any longer to take decisions in real complex situations. Intuition and improvisation are upcoming values as well. And there’s a new engagement, a new kind of practical idealism. Where and how can I contribute to a world that suffers and struggles with difficulties. And in all this diversity conversation or dialogue is a key issue. How can we connect between isolated specialized people, situations and institutions. How can we engage in a connecting conversation?


This list is representing a fundamental shift in values in society. I see a close relation between the mentioned upcoming values and what we could see as changing artistry. Very nice that I see that. But can I prove it. Can I make credible that artistry is something essential in the changing practice?


I mention three concrete examples of fundamental change in

1- the orchestra,

2- music education,

3- community music :

The Dutch Orchestra’s came together last year to discuss their future. The audience and their relations to schools and other art institutions make them change from orchestra’s into a more productive and diverse music house in future. This means a wider variety in tasks and roles for musicians. The simple sentence to express that is that directors of these orchestra’s will look behind the curtain in future auditions. What can the musician do beyond playing the instrument at the highest level? Values to look for behind the curtain are ‘conversation’ , ‘improvisation’, ‘the art of teaching’, ‘collaboration’.

The music education is embedded more and more in schools for art education. Teachers of regular lessons are more and more challenged to collaborate with other arts like theatre, dance and video. Music teachers are challenged to develop fundamental the values of music in projects, presentations, network relations. How can they (to use the other key word) stay ‘authentic’ and close to the true meaning of music within all this?

More and more musicians leave the stage and go out on the street into the community. They want to be in real close interaction with people that are more participant than audience. Key word for them is a ‘connecting conversation’ and be as much as you can of concrete meaning. A lot of artists feel this rather new artistic and social engagement.       


All the key words mentioned in the practical examples correspond with the rough overview given of a changing society. These upcoming values authenticity, intuition, improvisation, connecting conversation ask us to redefine artistry. It challenges us to broaden the concept of artistry and go beyond the instrument and the skills at one hand and break down the statue of the artist as the unique star on the other hand. 


Ask ten teachers what they understand as artistry and you will get ten different answers. Now this image of growing diversity in roles and tasks in the context of changing society is unfolding we better understand this diversity in opinions as being fruitful. The professional practice gives indeed lots of new space to diversity. It gives you a lot of freedom with one hand and asks you to be more conscious than ever in your own development with the other.  


Myself. The last paragraph of part 1 focuses on one of the ten possible tracks. It says something of my own practice. 

I was taught to be a cello player. And I did one year of composition as well. After my school I started to play in the field of small scale music theatre. I played with music theatre group Orkater. I had and still have this life long fascination for bridging between language and music. I’m always fascinated to bring music and language as close or integrated as I can. I did that with Orkater. We performed our pieces with a lot of recitatives and all kinds of singing speaking and in between. Musicians were always a personage as well. And I did the same when I started working for Dutch radio. Bringing music and language as close as I could. In documentaries, Live performances and whatsoever, there was always some experimental side in that.

When I stopped with Orkater I stepped out of the art world you could say. I did a lot of other things. But I never managed to ignore my background. On the contrary, it was always there. When I programme a festival, make a radio documentary, moderate a  conversation or do a lecture I always owe something to my basic and original source of artistry. Not being an artist and at the same time constantly developing and exploiting my artistry is how I  found the fundamental importance of artistry. 


Leaving the art world made that I struggled several times with the ‘to be or not to be’ question of being an artist. But I realized at the same time that some artistry never left me in whatever context I was working (and that were many). That’s how I learned that artistry is indeed about authenticity, about knowing to relate to silence as a source, that it is about ‘playfulness’ in serious settings, that it can be about health and well being as well, that it relates to the right kind of daily exercise, that it is about creating meaning in chaotic and diverse society, that it is about connecting seemingly different poles in paradoxical situations, that it is about deepening and broadening the conversation. I got to know artistry as an integrative process were personal inspiration and ambition, highly developed professional skills and the demands from changing society become ‘one’ on a higher level.                   


To conclude. The royal conservatoire aims to be ‘leading musical institue for education, research and production’ I read on the homepage. Therefore the changing demands of society and professional practice are of utmost importance to deal with. Not to fulfil them as a juke box with ‘music on demand’. No, what we can do is be aware and conscious about what is happening outside and use that as a stimulus to discover and develop our changing artistry as an answer. That’s how we can understand to be ‘leading’. So lets talk about artistry. Let’s make it a subject in our every day work and conversation now we entered the Master fase. And when we start to develop our research let us integrate in whatever subject we choose a bit of this artistry as a fundamental added value as well.


Masterlecture part 2 Artistic Reflection

We all know that research is a basic part of the curriculum of the Master. When Higher Arts Education came into the bachelor master structure it became part of the academic context. This means the necessity to develop research. You will have to do it. But what is it? What can it be? Research.

Off course we will slowly explore this the coming months helping you developing the basics. What is method? How can we connect with books and relevant sources. How to place a hypothesis in context and so on. This all will come at the right time. 


In my contribution part two tonight I want to introduce the idea that there are also forms of research that stay directly connected with the music. This can be during the research which can be practice based for a large part and also in the presentation of the outcomes in a more artistic way.  You might name this form of presentation maybe ‘artistic reflection’.


Research in the arts can explore forms that are different from research at the university. There are really difficult discussions going on about this subject. Next week for instance I will moderate some parts of an international conference on how to position and deal with phd’s in the arts. Instead of a very boring intellectual debate I’d like to do here some small examples of my own practice. They are a bit provoking. Don’t take them for granted. I warn you. They are meant to stimulate discussion and want to help in opening some ideas and possibilities.


1- My first example is form my own study at the conservatoire. I had to do a (scriptie- assignment) on the fourth string quartet of Bartok. I became fascinated by everything I could find in the library. Without knowing before this work was one of the most thoroughly analysed works in music history. An endless list of theoreticians had been unfolding theory, form analysis, harmonic, melodic, structure, gulden snede and so on. So I was reading and reading. I wrote down a paper (I think in one day and one fluid curve but I don’t remember exactly)  and went to the assessment. There was Tristan Keuris the famous Dutch composer sitting (he died far to early). Almost immediately when I sat down he gently but decisively pushed away all the books. He was not going into all that. He took the score and asked me to sit next to him behind the piano. Than he started playing fragments from the score in the meanwhile singing the missing parts and talking and almost shouting the remarkable moments and essential moves. Everything he said was connected right with the heart of the music. Although I had been studying the work for half a year I now entered the work. Everything he said was nowhere to be found in the books I studied.

When I recall my study this was a deep reaching moment. It struck me completely that sudden shift from books back to music.


What Tristan did could not be done in another way. He presented all his knowledge, all his understanding, all what he learned about music, about bartok and about this piece in a kind of living performance. He presented a piece of artistic research by doing it instead of writing about it or talking about it. He kept ‘the element of play’ alive in his expression and sharing results of research. 


I believe very much in researching this kind of elementary experiences. They can tell you a lot. Go into these moments describe them and so on. And the next step is the question how to present this moment. The best presentation of this material of course is playing it in an almost theatrical scene. The scene is strong and dramatic. But Tristan is dead. There is no look alike. I cannot play the score. Is than the alternative to do it in meta language? Like: Artistic research is about staying close to the musical event itself. We describe what we hear and see more than what we on a theoretical basis could prove and so on…No I don’t want to do that. I loose the essential thing. But I might find a way in between. I tell the story as a narrative like I did and than do a simple act to contribute to this moment and try to recall really what it means. So I do the opening bars of the movement and slowly push away the books imagining the wild Tristan at the piano. This is what I call an artistic reflection. It tells something I cannot say in words. 


2- another example.

Off course you have to relate somehow to history. We classical musicians stand in a tradition. We have to deal with interpretation. We have to deal with dead composers. You could say a lot about that. How to find your own place? How to stand in this tradition?

I have off course been reading about this subject. I’ve been studying interpretation of bach suites quite deep. Once however I found extra knowledge about this subject in a curious way. I was sitting in a room with this old gramophone 78 player. In a variety of records I found ‘la fille aux cheveux de lin’ Ravel. I turned the record and in the meantime was fiddling a bit around with my cello. Suddenly I was struck by the idea that I expressed something about my relation to history and dead composers. I was actually taking a place in tradition. I just give a very short sample to illustrate that.


3- the third example is about the project improvisation- conversation.

We improvise and we talk. That is the basis approach of research in this project. We research similarities and differences between improvisation and conversation. We come across very interesting points, about beginning, the function of silence, the whole idea of freedom, ways of intervention. All of that just by playing and talking. Than at a certain moment we include reading. We read books about improvisation and about dialogue than we move back and forcer between what we read, with playing and talking. We write down the outcomes in a research log. At a certain moment we want to share some outcomes. 

We can present endless pages about what we did and how we went on but this makes little sense in sharing with others. So we try to play some of the outcomes. We dramatize the situation as in a documentary. We make a kind of music theatre approach of what are the essential things and that we share as a result in for instance a workshop or an international conference.

Example 3


4- last example is about society.

I have been researching quite a lot on changing society, changing professional practice and the role of artistry. One piece of the lecture part 1 was about that. That was the part with the big words spoken as the queen on prinsjesdag. Those words try to describe a complex situation. My own experience is that this goes a little bit over the top. What I want to communicate is the fundamental relation between inner inspiration and outer society. That nowadays a changing society and our changing perspective asks us to redefine our artistry.


Well you see again big words. How can I express this in a more artistic reflection? Again with a lot of coincidence I found something that might be helpful. For this concluding artistic reflection I need 6 to ten volunteers. It is not scary. It is simple. I just ask you a question. And ask to join me.  


The first question is to think a moment for yourself. What do you want to contribute to society? Why do you do what you do? Try to bring it back one or two key words. 

Once I walked down in my cellar. Without knowing that it was there I found an extremely interesting object that could be a strong image of nowadays society complex/ fragmented, a bit horrifying too. This broken violin. 


The question to my volunteers is if they can choose one of the fragments out of it and think of a sentence that connects their intentional key word with the choosen fragment. And make one or two sentences out of it as a short statement what you want to do. What you want to add as a value.     


We perform the statements with just some simple cello plucking.


I conclude with a proposal 

As a project from the lectorate I want to start a small group of  master students called lab21 or something like that. What we share in this group is that we like to explore the creative approach in research. To combine parts one and two. This group is interested in exploring some artistry in research. We meet for instance one afternoon a month and bring in our own subjects. I might bring in some guests. We might play and we discover the use of different media to tell a story.     


Bart van Rosmalen 2-10-2007