Shifting Identities. The Musician as Theatrical Performer

Name: Falk Hübner
PhD, University Leiden, 2013
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The doctoral research project Shifting Identities, finished in 2013, is an artistic research investigating reductive approaches when working with musicians in the theatre. In most of the theatrical situations where musicians “perform”, their profession is extended, which means that they not only sing or play their instruments, but also perform additional tasks such as walking on stage or reciting text. These diverse tasks, and the struggle and effort to perform them, result in the extension and transformation of the musician into a theatrical performer. As an alternative strategy to the use of new elements, reduction (or the reductive approach) introduces and focuses on an opposite approach: the subtracting of specific qualities or abilities of the musician’s profession. The audience watches musicians not doing certain things they are used to, such as performing without instruments. Exactly through subtracting the instrument, but still using musical actions as performative material, it is possible to discover and develop new theatrical potentials within the musician’s performance.
The study argues that through the reductive approach the visual and choreographic aspects of musical performance, or, more precise, of musical actions, may be enhanced. Throughout the book, a variety of artistic works, examples of both expansive and reductive approaches are discussed, with a focus on the creation strategy and on the activities and performative actions that musicians have to carry out in these works. In the conclusion the alleged dichotomy between expansive and reductive approaches becomes deconstructed and destabilised again. A final paradox is elaborated on in the conclusion: while extension and reduction are different strategies for working with musicians on the theatre stage, they should be considered as two sides of the same coin, with the common aim of making it possible for the actions of musicians to trigger and stimulate a theatrical imaginary.