Forum Artistic Research

Lecture Performance

The Polyphony of Contemplative Practice

Jakob Stillmark

on  Thu, 13:40in  Neuer Saalfor  30min

Contemplative practice, although often practised in community, is most commonly directed to foster subjective experience and reflection. Especially theorists of aesthetic contemplation such as Martin Seel highlight the fact that contemplative experiences are impossible to be expressed intersubjectively. Nevertheless, art opens up a wealth of possibilities to exemplify, document, and therefore share them retrospectively with others. In my lecture performance, I aim to demonstrate, based on the insights from my compositional research, how polyphonizing can be utilized as a concept in both contemplative listening and the documentation of the resulting experience through musical composition. Polyphonizing is a term I developed within my research during my ongoing doctoral studies. It describes a practice of contemplative listening where the present experience of sound is reflected in its complex simultaneity of relations to the past and future by imagining them as set in tension within a polyphonic soundscape. I will therefore share the methodological approach that I applied in my work “Poly-Momente” for piano, saxophone, percussion, and electronics, which focusses on the use of musical quotations and samples. I will argue that by the means of the techniques of repetition, fragmentation, and variation within the conceptual framework of a contemplative polyphony, composition can become a way of documenting indentations of the subjective experience when listening to quotations, and how this concept enables a non-appropriative perspective in using the work of others. More generally I want to propose to view the concept of contemplative polyphonizing as a non-utilitarian approach to listening to the works of others which is driven by the urge of “aesthetical contamination” rather than taking possession of intellectual or cultural property. As my approach builds also on practical and experiential knowledge, I use a hybrid presentation format that involves a session of polyphonizing together (a special form of guided sound-meditation), followed by a contextualizing lecture and the presentation of a sound installation, which gives an example of one possible way of documenting contemplative experience.

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