‘Leading’ as a strategy in the performance-practice of contemporary solo violin music

Maria Puusaari

Music Performance Research ISSN 1755-9219
Vol. 11, 85-107
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Dec 2023
The starting point for the present practice-based study was my observation of the diverse conditions regarding the focus-of-attention that occurs during chamber ensemble and solo performances of contemporary art music. As the violinist leader of a contemporary music ensemble, I focus my attention externally on multidirectional musical interactions with my fellow musicians and the audience. In contrast, when I am in a solo performance, I tend to focus more on my own internal, physical actions. More satisfactory musical results in leading interactive ensemble performances induced a hypothesis that ensemble leading practices can also be applied as a strategy to improve a solo performance. In this article, I provide a leading-based approach to explore ways in which leading can be used as a strategy in the performance-practice of contemporary works for solo violin and address which specific ensemble leading gestures can be applied in a solo performance. I suggest that leading in a solo performance serves two purposes: leading my own actions, and leading the audience to perceive the music and participate in the listening.
Both Toccatina for solo violin by Helmut Lachenmann and Gesti for violin, electronics and video by Jouni Hirvelä feature soft dynamics and extended playing techniques that demand innovative performance strategies. I reflect on the performance-practice of these two works and demonstrate how leading can be used to emphasize temporal structures, dynamics, articulation, phrasing and embodied narratives of music. The concepts of attentional focus and musical gestures inform the theoretical context for this study.
Attentional focus, contemporary music, gestural communication, leading, listening
Full article PDF