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Session 5: 'Gestures in Time'

Professor Eric Clarke (Heather Professor of Music, University of Oxford) Gesture(ing) in Music(king) – an Ecological Perspective

Writing about gesture in connection with music might be crudely divided into two types: an interest in the actual bodily gestures that are integral to making music and listening to music; and an interest in the gestural character of musical materials themselves. My talk focuses on the latter, and considers the difficulties that have been encountered in trying to define what a musical gesture is, what its necessary characteristics are, and who gets to decide. These questions arguably founder on the attempt to locate them in ‘the music itself’, as objective attributes. A different perspective, based in ecological theory, suggest that a more fruitful and appropriate way to consider the question is from the mutualist perspective of perceivers in relation to their environments, and with the help of gesturing and musicking understood as temporal processes rather than as static entities. Using the conceptual framework and terminology of ecological theory, I therefore re-frame the question as: how does musicking afford gesturing? In addressing that question I explore the perceiver factors and environment features that are at play, and their broadly aesthetic consequences, via some illustrative musical examples.

Professor Timotheus Vermeulen (Visiting Scholar in Art History, Harvard University) A Gesture is Time (x9)

A gesture, writes Carrie Noland, is not an expression as much
as a means of quite literally figuring out – curling one’s lip, rolling one’s shoulders, raising your finger – what you may be feeling or thinking about the situation you’re in. ‘Tatonnement’, is the term she borrows from Leroi-Gourhan to describe this: groping one’s way forward, like scrambling for a light switch in the pitch black. What everyone who has ever seen a horror movie knows, however, is that as you feel your way through the dark, you encounter more than you were looking for: spider webs, hard objects, sharp edges, wet surfaces, missing steps, a gradual caution, a slowing down of your movements, and terror, a deepening fear of the unknown. In the process of figuring out one’s attitude towards their reality, the relationship between the two becomes slippery, inconsistent, multiplicitous. Whatever the other kinaesthetic implications, what interests me is that each of these encounters instantiates a distinct temporal register, ranging from surprise to shock to the sensation of falling to rhythm to clock time to anticipation and anxiety. The gesture turns the body into a multi-sensorium of time. Remarkably, given how many of the discussions of gestures rely on temporal metaphors, not to mention the context in which Agamben’s essay, which has circumscribed much of the discourse on gestures, was first published – the book Infancy and History – there has not been much writing about this correlation between gestures and time. This paper provides a short meditation on this relationship, distinguishing between nine senses in which gesture may perform – that is, enact, produce the very possibility of – time: event, duration, narrative, rhythm, clock time, tense-aspect-mood, history, memory, and age.

Dr Lee Triming (Artist and Tutor, Ruskin School of Art, Oxford) No to Moving
or Being Moved

I want to think about gesture as betrayal.  About a ramping down that opens the way for this sort of gesture.  Tracing and measuring are slow processes which encourage states of transformative concentration and in/attention.  Yvonne Rainer, Agnes Martin, David Altmejd and Gertrude Stein each have their potent refusals, turnings away that make possible new types of release, lapse, decision, hesitation, intrusion, listening.  I would like to trace and measure them.

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