Who knows what?
There are obviously relevant research findings and theories in the fields of neuroscience and psychology which may help us describe the phenomena that emerge when we investigate our practice processes. Our practice is an extremely complex and refined interaction between conscious and automated actions, where the goal is strong communication between people. At the same time, we have probably the most abstract system of mediation of all art forms, namely the musical notation, which is basically built up mathematically with halving and doubling as the formal basis. Therefore, we have the opportunity to draw on a great many types of knowledge if we want to put other perspectives down on our explorations
That is why it has been important for me to clarify:
– When are my own experiences and reflections of myself (and those of my academic environment) sufficient and when can external knowledge contribute with increased insight, which not only may explain the phenomena of our practice but also have the potential to improve it?
I strongly believe that we can gain a lot by orientating ourselves outside our own area, and for that reason during the project FormingPerforming, I have looked extensively into recent research in cognition. However, I have chosen not to link to research results in all the places where this could have been possible.
The reason is, that I fear I might easily fall into what could be called an “explanation trap”: In the moment that a theory from a more traditional research area describes parts of a phenomenon that I experience in my artistic practice, it’s tempting to classify all of these experiences in relation to the given theory. It is of course also the essence of the traditional scientific method: that we try out a theory in practice, and then afterwards, with help from our experiences refine the theoretical description. So the temptation to take a metaphorical breath of relief (if I found theories that could describe some of our experiences as artists), I perceived as a real danger to me. As artists, we should basically equate our praxis with other types of human activities, including the different types of scientific research. Otherwise, we risk that our investigations and their potential to change us in a positive direction are hampered by the values and methods of other professionals. That we in a certain way end up seeing ourselves as experiments, which attempt to test a specific theory and thereby at risk of losing sight of what might separate our kind of experiences from other types of experiences. The consequence may be that our view on our own practice is narrowed.
This is primarily an analysis of trends I have observed in myself and my project, but I think it pays off to pay attention to the problem as soon as one is open to involving other areas of knowledge in one’s descriptions and conclusions. You can use the “outside” look to spot common elements between artistic areas and other areas, but you should also be aware that this look may not in any way exhaust all which is interesting from an artistic angle.
However, I have chosen to include a single researcher’s concepts and framework of understanding in this text: The French researcher in neuroscience, Marc Jeannerod. He brings together many different research fields and has important points that I think fit well with my own considerations during the project. His concept of motor cognition lies within the paradigm of “embodiment”, which has gained ground in psychology and cognitive research in recent decades. The paradigm contains the idea that our understanding of the world has significant non-conceptual aspects and that our motor systems play a basic role in the way we think. Within this paradigm, there is space for the embodied way of thinking that we have refined as classical musicians, and therefore I have experienced it as promising to inform myself in this direction.
It has also been a point for me, that I would like to find knowledge that I have not seen related to musical practice previously. At the same time, it is also practically convenient for specially interested readers to get a grasp of his thoughts, as they can be found in one place, namely, in his book Motor Cognition (Oxford University Press 2006)