Norges musikkhøgskole Norwegian Academy of Music
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Music of the Margins

What role has the instrumental practice in works for solo guitar by Brian Ferneyhough, Richard Barrett and Klaus K. Hübler? PhD fellow Anders Førisdal examines this in his doctoral project.

The full title of the thesis is Music of the Margins. Radically Idiomatic Instrumental Practice in Solo Guitar Works by Richard Barrett, Brian Ferneyhough and Klaus K. Hübler.

The project seeks to assess the role of instrumental practice in works for guitar solo by Brian Ferneyhough, Richard Barrett and Klaus K. Hübler. In these works, the composers have extracted the musical material directly from the instrumental practice and the concrete physical properties of the instrument and the performing body, restructuring the relationship between musical material and practice from its most minute details in what Richard Barrett terms a radically idiomatic approach to composition. Although clearly central to the interests of the composers in question, the radically idiomatic has been largely ignored by the reception of their works.

The analytic framework of the study takes Michel Foucault’s notion of discursive practices as a point of departure in order to grasp the corporeal materiality of the compositions. Drawing heavily on the writings of Jacques Derrida, the inclusion of the physical conditions of musical realisation within compositional technique is understood as a deconstruction of the work/realisation-dichotomy.

Extending the Foucauldian perspective, the project also establishes a theory of instrumental practice as a means of subjectivation. The deconstruction of instrumental practice found in the radically idiomatic works is thus viewed as a critique of the concrete microphysics of power invested in the instru­mental tradition, and as a critique of the notion of performer subjectivity so central to Western aesthetic thought.