Konstnärliga forskarskolan

Staffan Storm

Staffan Storm
Malmö Academy of Music, Lund University

Composition processes as seen from a phenomenological perspective

The goal of this research/Ph D project is threefold:

  • To approach the artistic creativity and the musical composition process from a phenomenological perspective.
  • This perspective is also the starting point for the compositions themselves that will be composed as a part of the study.
  • To discuss and reflect about the act of composing, questions concerning material and form as seen in a phenomenological light.

My interest in this goes back to the mid-90´s when I started to develop an interest in a more intuitive approach towards the composition process.  The sextet Abschattung from 1997 was a starting point. Here a kind of image of the creative process also became the structural idea behind the piece – how the music never is seen as a given whole, especially during the act of composition in itself, but is seen as parts that are continually changing. How the musical ideas emerges as from “a world of shadows” as sensory experiences – “intentions” – that are directed towards the “intentum”, the piece that is composed, and in that process appears in differentAbschattungen”. In this and other of my next compositions this way of thinking wasn´t only a general approach but also the actual point of departure for the composition process and the structure behind the pieces in themselves.

Some perspectives: I have assembled and continue to collect music literature that highlights these thoughts from a composer’s point of view. Jean Sibelius, Helmut Lachenmann, Elliott Carter, Hans Wener Henze and George Rochberg are a few examples in a very diverse group of composers whose approach to the composition process that I´ve found useful as a point of departure, in their music and often also in their writing about it.

My research: The purpose of my research is to illustrate the artistic creativity in general and the composition process specifically from a phenomenological perspective.
This is also going to be the starting point for what is created, composed, during the study. In that way questions regarding composition, material and form will be studied from a phenomenological perspective.
There will be many possibilities to look back on older music to enlighten this perspective and the historic examples can function as a reflection partner.
In my research artistic practice is both “object” and “method”, the compositions written during the process will be case studies and the creative process will looked upon from a phenomenological perspective

The first case: The first composition project was finished during the summer of 2010. It was a commission by the pianist Francisca Skoogh and the string orchestra Musica Vitae. The outcome was a four movement piece called Shattered Night for piano and string orchestra. The piece was first performed in September 2010 and a recording was made at one of the concerts.
The piece was written in the program Sibelius 6 and the composition process has been documented through pdf-files of different stages of the piece – from the first sketches to the finished score. Of course ideas exists before they are turned into specific pitches, rhythms, phrases etc, but with the help of this set of pdf-files I can get a picture that captures an image of certain stages of the composition process.
I also tried to write a work diary but succeeded only partly in this case. Before the piece was started and after it was finished it was possible to keep up, but during the actual composition period it was more problematic and all focus went into that work.
Among future composition cases that will be included in the study an orchestral piece for Malmö SymfoniOrkester can be mentioned. A series of solo end ensemble pieces with different instrument constellations, some of them in collaboration with instrumentalists and singers among teachers and students at the Malmo Academy of Music, will also be composed.

”The form of the fragment” One of my interests is also to find an appropriate form for a written text suitable to my research. It´s difficult to see that the standard model for dissertations would be fitting in this case.  For me it´s important to consider the music composed and the written text not as two different things but as a unity. Probably the end result will be a text that is unconventional compared to a more traditional dissertation. One of the interesting things with artistic research could be to expand the possibilities of what a dissertation can include – in this case text and music (scores and recordings) together.
For me, in this case, the form of the fragment would seem to be appropriate in a phenomenological study concerning artistic research.
The text will be possible to read “chronologically” should also be open to other sorts of reading options, so to say in different “Abschattungen”. That is to say, to create a text that will be an integrated part of the artistic work and the music that is created and not separated from it.


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