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Bjørnar Habbestad: Chasing the Collaborative

How are developments in musical materiality connected to changes in the way composers and performers collaborate?

Field of study: Performance Practice


How are developments in musical materiality connected to changes in the way composers and performers collaborate?

This thesis is a search for traces of collaborative practice within the creation and performance of modern flute music from three perspectives: historical musicology, interview-based research and artistic research. From the perspective of historical musicology, Habbestad traces the history of one of the first novel instrumental techniques for flute. His understanding of these developments is then deepened through the analysis of extensive research interviews with flutist Roberto Fabbriciani. Finally, the findings from these two processes are operationalized in a sequence of performance-based research, in which Habbestad explores, experiments with and extends the different practices connected to the flute part of Luigi Nono’s Das atmende Klarsein.

In a complementary fashion, these elements exemplify how the advent of experimental methods and collaborative practice has influenced and changed the role played by performers in the creation of music, necessitating a rethinking of the notion of performer agency in music. These changes are traced in historical sources, verbalized in interviews, and investigated through artistic research.

Part I, which traces the history of the key click, illuminates changes in both materiality and practice, a gradual reconfiguration of the manner in which the flute is played. Part II, in which interviews and dialogues with the flutist Roberto Fabbriciani are analysed, shows how this reconfiguration of instrumental conventions has manifested itself in the practice of a significant performer. Then, in Part III, the analyses of these specialist narratives are used to inform performance and creation processes in and around Luigi Nono’s composition Das atmende Klarsein, using the flute part of this composition as a prism for viewing changes in performer agency.

This thick description of the gradual establishment of a new way of playing the flute offers a verbalization of skill sets, aesthetics, roles and tasks within contemporary music performance, casting new light on the origin of the sonic material found in different compositions. The uncovering of the complexities around intentional and unintentional erasure of performers is a byproduct of this process.

Bringing into relationship sound, collaboration, newness and agency, the thesis represents a concerted effort to calibrate our understanding of what performers do as music is made, recorded, performed and experienced. The joining together of studies of musical materiality, performer competency and collaboration in compositional practice using a synthesis of historical, social and artistic research methods, is a methodological consequence, and it forms a central feature of the thesis’ contribution to research.

The dissertation

Title: Chasing the Collaborative. Critical Studies of Performer Agency in Modern Flute Music.

The dissertation is a monograph, and it is written in English. The dissertation includes audio examples where Habbestad is the performer.

The dissertation is available in NMH's digital archive.

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Published: Oct 17, 2016 — Last updated: Apr 22, 2024