The research aims with GoL were above all to find new ways for Oi to interact with other agents in the classical music field. As experienced in my work with gender and performativity analysis, I have found it useful to focus aspects of structure to investigate the potential of impro-visation for classical singers. In research the public outreach (tredje uppgiften) is an important part of the work, with its aim to communicate outcomes and results of research to community, not only to the research field. As performers, we have a given format for the public outreach: performances. However, these can ony to a limited degree instigate change in the very practice of a field, aimed as they mostly are versus a public (paying) audicence and in some cases critics. Rather it is the symbolic level that is in focus in performances, in terms of what story is perfor-med from stage, on what (optionally other work) it is based and how it is conveyed. It was therefor important for us to find strategies to interact with other singers in experimental work. As there are no institutions in opera improvisation, or classical vocal improvisation, the ensemble took an initiative to create a platform for knowledge exchange and development. Many in the ensemble work as pedagogues in singing and stage performance, so creating a workshop format was a rather logical step in the development of the practice., also to give all members of Oi the chance to take on this role, articulating our knowledge in relation to other singers.
GoL as format for transgressing roles and norms of musico-structural performance
Collaborating with a composer was an important step for the ensemble. Our practice is very young as compared to vocal practice and opera, and in order to develop new musical qualities and a, increased awareness of musical aspects of improvisation in terms of structure and musical components, new knowledge from experts is crucial. To create a format with partly composed music offered challenging problems in terms of creating an open, yet clear dramaturgical structure, with enough time and space for both choir singers and opera improvisers to contribute to the emergent musico-dramatic narrative.
Some central notions were to find realistic and abstract strategies for using the acting vocal body in the scenic space, and finding ways for the singers to work individually with actions and dialogue out of their own artisitc choices, in a drama format. My experience of using the theatre/master class format in improvisation is that it is to be used most carefully and only with in groups who are firmly etablished, with a safe and creative atmosphere. Anyone who has attended master classes in classical singing knows that it is almost impossible for a musician to present her or his work on the level where it actually is when meeting musical masters such as prominent teachers and/or musicians from the professional field for the first time. In fact, I have often found that musicians loose some of their qualitities and power in such situations, but not for musical och technical reasons, but merely for social reasons.
Needless to say, working with masters on a musical field can be extremely rewarding and developing in many ways. GoL as project has not the musico- structural dimension as primary perspective, but to create space for creative interaction in a meaningful whole. My criticism versus music-structural , work-centered performance practice lies rather in the norms of hierarchical structures which so heavily affect these situations. In my perspective, they have often turned out to be manifestations of a naturalized view on music, where the roles and performative agencies of performer, work, author, master and pupil stand firmly based in the Western cultural capital of the canon. But wouldn’t it be possible to separate the work with the music from these performative norms? In order to achieve change in the field of classical music, it is vital to use a critical eye on the formats and structures through which knowledge and views on music is mediated. This is in line with Harding’s (1986) third level as described above, as well as both Bolt (2016) and Till’s (2004) notes on the importance of finding ways of transformation of the artistic field through the transformation of the artist’s own practice.
Investigating dimensions of the acting singers agency
Early in the project, we set a goal to explore both what we call abstract and realistic acting techniques. The main difference is that the singers in the first case do not act in character in terms of a dramatic situation, but mainly as acting vocal bodies. In abstract techniques the singers voices and bodies do not correspond to a mimetic meaning, replying to the situated, dramatic actions by others on stage. Instead, the singer interacts on musical, movement and dynamic levels (see ). In the realistic techniques, the singers acto ”as if” (see The Analytical journey) they were in a dramatic situation, and responding to the implses of the other characters in the emergent musico-dramatic narrative in terms of a story. This can be seen as reinvestigating my earlier research experiences regarding the parallell layers, or situations, of the improvisations (Wilén 2013a, 2013b, 2015).