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TEACHING & RESEARCH

TEACHING 

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Since the Bologna Declaration of 1999, the European research environment has been increasingly open to new ways of understanding how the performing and creative arts (classical and contemporary performance practices, composition, improvisation, etc.) can feed into the educational and research ecosystems. My work as an artist-educator has convinced me of the significance of drawing out ‘embedded knowledge’, particularly in the area of interdisciplinary teaching, as a means of enriching established artistic and educational modes of knowledge transfer. Thus, a combination of subjective and objective modes of knowledge enquiry in tandem with a curiosity for engaging with other modes of artistic and research disciplines forms the basis for enriched educational and research methodologies. Together, they represent a kind of hybrid process of inquiry and knowledge exchange that combines creative doing with reflexive being, that engages art as an innovative process and dynamic conduit for education. Such methodologies seek to enrich modes of inquiry that research ‘on’ something with modes that research ‘in’ something. This is the core of my philosophy of education.   

 

To summarise, my educational approach supports students to find out who they are as musicians, regardless of genre and discipline affiliation. I want to bolster their musical personalities through a balanced synergy between technique and expression, between detail and context. Towards this end, I harness educational methodologies that assist students to gain insight into their own work, to navigate and direct their creativity, and to encourage them to develop an awareness that allows them to tap into their full potential as musicians and, indeed, as humans.

 

My research practice emerges out of a confluence of many disciplines—classical performance, composition, improvisation, and musicology. And these are given further agency through an engagement with numerous theoretical frameworks including postcolonialism, feminism, intertextuality, Umwelt theory, and Assemblage theory. My research is practice-led but, in turn, that research energizes my artistic practices with new perspectives and insights. In this context, performance, composition and research are no longer separate disciplines but a dynamic amalgamation of modes of knowledge enquiry that work as one powerful ‘search engine’.

RESEARCH SUPERVISION (MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY)

as Director of Studies (lead supervisor):

  • Garth Knox (ArtsD): ‘The Extension of Contemporary String Techniques through Performer-informed Composition’

  • Joel Sharbaugh (PhD): ‘Twelve Tones on Six Strings: The Guitar Music of the Schola Fiorentina'

  • Mei Yi Foo (ArtsD): ‘Performer as Creator – Recreating Piano Recital Programmes’

  • Siobhán Armstrong (PhD): ‘Reconstructing the Lost Narratives of the Medieval Irish Harp’

  • Michael Haas (PhD by Published Works): ‘Restoration/Restitution: The Cultural Vandalism of the Nazis—Prohibitions, Exile, Extermination'

  • David Etheridge (PhD): 'A Musicological Assessment of the Music of Barry Gray in Jerry Anderson's Thunderbirds TV Series and Films (1964-1986)'

  • Kristina Ammattil (MA by Research): 'The Third Eye of Performance within Western Classical Vocal Pedagogy'

  • Reuben Ard (Masters by Research): 'Homesteader to Jazz: A Study of Music in Kansas 1850-1930'

as Second Supervisor:

RESEARCH THEMES 

  • Philosophy and Practice of Improvisation

    • My research into improvisation is an interanimation of practice and philosophical reflexion. I incorporate numerous lenses from ancient Vedic philosophy, Hegelian ‘sublation’ and Hegel's aesthetics of art, to recent developments in Umwelt theory (Euxküll, Sebeok, Cobley et al.) and quantum physics to explore the significance of improvisation as a primary mode of creativity and meaning-making.

  • The Musical Practices of Barry Guy

    • A virtuoso bass player, a Baroque specialist, a leading exponent of jazz and free improvisation, Barry Guy has also led the way in score notation that uses standard processes alongside graphic innovations. Building on a broad assessment of his achievements, I explore Guy’s innovative structural and aleatoric processes such as his ‘sieve’ techniques, that interweave separate bodies of music and temporal entities, guided by an improvised conducting practice.

  • The Classical Guitar of the 20th- and 21st-centuries

    • Manuel de Falla’s Homenaje (1920) initiated a movement away from music ensuing from the prodigious dexterity of the 19th-century virtuoso and the idiosyncrasies of the fret board to music that arose out of independent musical thought, music of a broader and more expansive semantic lineage. This is the core of my interest in 20th- and 21st-century guitar music. Both in my repertory choices as a performer and in my compositions for the instrument, I aim to explore unchartered territories—extended techniques, ‘prepared guitar’ procedures, the use of the bow, the utilization of microtonal potentials, and the exploitation of the instrument’s physiognomy to create new sounds from gestural actions.

  • The Music of György Ligeti

    • My research into Ligeti’s music centres around the composer’s processes of self-regulation as a means of confronting what he saw as the cul-de-sac of mid-century modernism. This led him to adopting past forms such as the passacaglia and isorhythmic processes, and engaging with scientific and mathematical strategies such as the Fibonacci series, the harmonic series, and chaos theory, etc. A core idea is Ligeti’s rationale: he creates structures to enact a breaking out from them. He also breaks out from jealously guarded musical methodologies by embracing indigenous forms, jazz perspectives, a fractured minimalism, and a unique engagement with micro-tonality.

  • The Music of Benjamin Britten      

    • My work on the music of Benjamin Britten explores his desire to engage with silence. His methodologies include ‘reverse variation form’ leading to greater simplicity rather than to greater complexity. His use of a disintegrating passacaglia (in his Op. 70) leads to a self-destruction of musical syntax. Additionally, I explore his deep connection to the musical rhetoric of John Dowland (1563-1626) and how this has influenced his own text settings.

  • Irish Modernisms

    • While Ireland produced three of the leading modernists of literature in Yeats, Joyce and (later) Beckett, the developments that took place in music have, for various complex reasons, not featured strongly in the national consciousness. The reasons for the slow emergence of modernism in music are rooted in Ireland’s strong connection to Britain’s peripheral relationship to 19th-century European music, tensions between indigenous and European models in Ireland into the 20th century, and a paucity of support by the Free State (later Irish Republic) for educational and artistic endeavors relating to music. While late to the arena, a distinctive Irish modernism in music emerges in the late 1960s. The 21st century witnesses a prolific expansion of modernisms, postmodernisms and neomodernisms emanating from multivalent, global influences rather than singular schools of musical thought.​​​

  • Irish Art Music from 1700 to present

    • My research here explores the social, political and cultural contexts in which classical music emerged and developed in Ireland over the past 300 years. A central concern is the sectarian divide between indigenous forms and perceived colonial aspects of the Anglo-European tradition of the ruling class, and how that divide was bridged.

RESEARCH OUTPUTS for the RESEARCH EXCELLENCE FRAMEWORK (REF) 2021

MIDDLESEX UNIVERSITY​ - Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries (UOA33)

REF RESEARCH OUTPUT 1:

The Blue Shroud Project and the Development of an Innovative Free-improvisation Approach on Classical Guitar

 

 

 

 

 

 

REF RESEARCH OUTPUT 2:

SacrumProfanum

 

 

 

 

REF RESEARCH OUTPUT 3:

WHAT IS THE WORD

 

 

 

 

 

CONFERENCE PAPERS & INVITED LECTURES 

 

INTERNATIONAL

 

Fondation Fyssen (Pavillon Henri IV Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France), Translation, Multimodal Interaction and Context. Cross-disciplinary Perspectives, 2017: ‘An Aesthetics of Damage—Modelling Cultural Loss through Music’

 

Orpheus Institute, Ghent: Sound Work—Composition as Critical Technical

Practice, 2016: ‘KnowingUnknowing—Thoughts on the Dynamics of Improvised and

“Crystalised” Composition’

 

soundSCAPE Festival, Milan, 2015: ‘Traditional Irish and Postmodern Contours in the

Music of Gerald Barry, John Buckley, Roger Doyle and Frank Corcoran’

 

soundSCAPE Festival, Milan, 2014: György Ligeti and the Future of Maverick

Modernity Conference: ‘Apophatic Aesthetics: Ligeti’s Metamechanics and Self-

destructs’

 

Maharishi University of Management (Iowa), Distinguished Lecture Series, 2014:

‘Music and Transcendence’

 

University of Iowa, 2014: ‘Transcendence as a System: Britten’s Reverse Variation

Form’

 

Florida State University, Ligeti Symposium and Festival, 2013: ‘Teleology or

Transcendence? Perspectives on Ligeti’s Collusion with Automatism’

 

European Shakuhachi Society Conference, Barcelona, 2013: ‘“…la beauté des bois

en cendres”: The Intersectionality of Shakuhachi and Contemporary Compositional

Practice in jouisssance…by Benjamin Dwyer’

 

DePaul University, Chicago, 2012: ‘Breaking Ground: Composition and Performance Innovation in Benjamin Dwyer’s Twelve Études’

 

DePaul University, Chicago, 2012: ‘Transformational Ostinati in the Sonata for Solo

Viola by György Ligeti’ 2012 DePaul University, Chicago: ‘“Within it Lie Ancient

Melodies”: Locating Dowland’s Musical Rhetoric in Britten’s Songs from the Chinese

 

Estonian Academy of Music and Drama, Tallinn, 2012: ‘Stasis and Movement in

Contemporary Irish Composition’

 

Estonian Academy of Music and Drama, Tallinn, 2012: ‘Breaking Ground:

Composition and Performance Innovation in Benjamin Dwyer’s Twelve Études’

 

 

UNITED KINGDOM

 

What does Improvisation mean to You?, Middlesex University, 2023: ‘Hegelian “sublation,” Umwelt theory, Vedic philosophy and Quantum Physics—Proposals towards Non-linguistic Modes of Meaning-making’

 

New Pathways in Improvisation@MDX, 2021, Keynote Speaker: ‘Towards a Transcendental Philosophy of Improvisation’

 

Middlesex University, 2015: ‘Traditional Irish and Postmodern Contours in Gerald

Barry’s Piano Quartet No. 1’

 

Kingston University, 2015: ‘“Sundering and Reconciliation”—Confronting Cultures

through “Found” Processes in Benjamin Dwyer’s imagines obesae et aspectui ingratae

 

University of Cambridge, Commonwealth Creativities in Intercultural Arts Network

Building Interdisciplinary Bridges Across Cultures Int'l Conference, 2014:

‘“Sundering and Reconciliation”—Confronting Cultures through “Found” Processes in

imagines obesae et aspectui ingratae

 

Middlesex University, 2014: ‘Visuals, Composition, Text, and Performance –

Unconcealing Interstitial Practices’ (with Garth Knox, viola)

 

Middlesex University, 2013: ‘“Sing in my ear, O Littleblood”—Aural Ekphrasis in Benjamin Dwyer’s Scenes from Crow

 

Middlesex University, 2013: ‘Practice-as-Research: Thoughts and Conclusions’

 

Middlesex University, Inaugural Professorial Lecture, 2013: ‘Excavating the

Irrational: Music, Narrative and Tragedy in Benjamin Dwyer’s Umbilical

 

 

IRELAND

Irish Composition Summer School, 2021 (four filmed lectures):            

1. ‘Homenaje: The Influence of Debussy on de Falla’

2. ‘On Improvisation’

3. ‘On Benjamin Dwyer’s SacrumProfanum’

4. ‘Language into Music—Tackling Beckett’

Dublin City University, School of Applied Languages & Intercultural Studies, 2018: ‘“Sing in my ear, O Littleblood”—Aural Ekphrasis in Benjamin Dwyer’s Scenes from Crow

 

Light Moves—Screendance Symposium, Limerick University, 2017:

KnowingUnknowing— An approach to Translative Epistemologies’

 

Dublin Institute of Technology Conservatoire of Music and Drama Guitar Conference, 2017: ‘Britten’s “Aldeburgh Version”: Discovery and Assessment’

 

National Concert Hall, Dublin, Handprint 2014:         

Public workshop on Dwyer’s Étude for piano (with Thérèse Fahy, piano)

 

Dublin City University, 3rd Biennial Irish Sexuality Studies Conference, 2014: ‘Music, Poetry and Sexuality in Benjamin Dwyer’s Strange Country

 

National University of Ireland (Maynooth), Sonic Symbiosis Symposium, 2013: ‘Sonic Symbiosis and the Illumination of Embedded Knowledges’

 

National University of Ireland, (Maynooth), Composition as Research Symposium,

2013: ‘“Grammars of Creation”—Challenges in Articulating and Evaluating Composition-

as-Research’

 

Royal Irish Academy of Music, Guest Lecture Series, 2012: ‘Excavating the Irrational: Music, Narrative and

Tragedy in Benjamin Dwyer’s Umbilical’

 

Dundalk Institute of Technology, Annual Conference of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, 2012: ‘Overt Simplicity, Covert Complexity: Britten’s Recalibration of Variation Form’

'Towards a Transcendental Philosophy of Improvisation'

The Irish Compositional Summer School 2021 Lectures (as Guest Director)

No 1: Language into Music - Tackling Beckett

No 3: SacrumProfanum

No 2: On Improvisation

No 4: Homenaje - The Hommage

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