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Empathy in Musical Performance

25 August 2021
14:00 - 15:00 hrs (GMT+7)


Mieko Kanno

Sibelius Academy DocMus Doctoral School


Hayne Kim


Music can touch you while you cannot touch music.

Empathy characterises the power of music. We know much about how empathy works in canonical art music (and in commercial popular music), but we know less about how to generate empathy in music. The knowledge is even more scarce when it comes to communicating lesser-known or outside-of-the-norm musics and perspectives. The empathic power of music lies in its intangibility, yet this intangibility is often the barrier in musical communication.

This presentation explores the idea of an ‘interface’ between musicians and audience in contemporary art music today. We ask: what kind of relationship can we imagine and design between musicians and listeners? How do we create an environment in which non-canonical music can be experienced in their own right, from their own perspectives? These questions arise from observations in recent years that how we present music is in fast transition: the transformation is in the how, more than in the what we present.

I propose a system called ‘scalable performance’ to enable calibration of concrete parameters in the development of this interface for communication. ‘Scalable performance’ may be described as an operational toolbox with parameters that can be adjusted according to each performance situation. We examine and analyse the existing system; and then consider additional or alternative parameters and their scalability. Rather than creating something completely new, my intention is to develop musicians’ existing craftsmanship, and become more strategic in the approach towards musical communication.

Empathy requires both equality between the people who experience it and an effort from them in order to gain a holistic understanding of something that is previously unknown to them. We focus on these features of empathy in developing the new interface in musical performance.

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