The arts of concert performance and teaching provide a wealth of possibilities for practice-based research. Theories about the aesthetics and intersubjective meanings of music are put to a test every time a soloist plays for an audience and senses (or learns about) the responses of its members. Hypotheses can be formulated and discoveries can be made with striking immediacy in live performance situations. In the area of pedagogy, observing which experiments worked or didn’t work (and why) with a particular individual student or workshop group can be revelatory.
My most recent venture in research is the formation of an investigative team as part of Texas Tech’s forward-looking Transdisciplinary Research Academy (inaugurated 2012). The project, currently under way, centers on an experiment that integrates technology (motion-capture imaging) and scientific findings (fMRI readings) with body movement issues in piano pedagogy. More details on the project, affiliated projects, and the research team can be seen HERE.
Such projects typify the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of my work in recent years. Among my current research affiliations are: (1) NNIMIPA (Nordic Network for the Integration of Music Informatics, Performance, and Aesthetics), (2) The Aesthetics of Music and Sound: Cross-Disciplinary Interplay Between the Humanities, Technology and Musical Practice, a research program within the Institute for Philosophy, Education and the Study of Religions at the University of Southern Denmark, and (3) The Journal of Music and Meaning, as a member of the Editorial Board.
I served a double term (2006-2011) as Chair of the Editorial Committee for American Music Teacher, the largest-circulation peer-reviewed journal devoted to studio music teaching in the world.
A 2009-10 appointment as Hans Christian Andersen Guest Professorial Fellow at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense) offered me a singular opportunity to expand my research horizons and develop a continuing and wide-ranging research partnership with one of the university’s faculty members in philosophy, Cynthia M. Grund. Among the fruits of this philosophical and musical collaboration have been joint “conversational performance lectures” focusing on gesture, multimodality, music and meaning, pedagogy, embodiment, pragmatism, etc., and presented throughout Denmark (and on Danish television), as well as in Iceland, Finland and the U.S., and at the 2010-13 annual meetings of the American Society for Aesthetics. In 2010 we co-authored a research report in photo-essay form on a cross-disciplinary working NNIMIPA session in Oslo, Norway, that involved studying the encounter between (1) body-centered musical pedagogy and (2) laboratory experiments that analyzed musical gesture through the use of state-of-the-art motion capture technology.
My home institution, Texas Tech University, has been the setting for other cross-disciplinary projects. As a Fellow of the Institute for Studies in Pragmaticism I have co-taught courses with its director, Kenneth Ketner, addressing such topics as creativity and the intersections between science and art. Under the auspices of the Institute I spearheaded an international symposium (2009) “Meaning in the Arts: An Interdisciplinary Conversation.” I also initiated, organized and participated in a 2003 colloquium “How Artists Read Philosophy and How Philosophers Think About Art – the Writings of Susanne Langer.”
2003 was also the publication year of my book The Perfect Wrong Note, in which reflections and insights from outside the field of music are brought to bear on (1) issues of skill mastery in the practice room and (2) the quest for musical authenticity through the traveling laboratory of my “Un-Master Class” performance workshops.
Article: “Movement and Musical Meaning”
Profile in Texas Tech’s new online research publication (May 11, 2011) about Westney and cross-disciplinary investigation
Grund, C. M. and Westney, W. “Narrative and Music: A Flexible Partnership on the Performing Stage and in the Rehearsal Studio.” Working with Stories. Narrative as a Meeting Place for Theory, Analysis and Practice: Proceedings from the 2nd ENN Conference, Kolding (Denmark) 2011, pp. 78-92. Publisher: European Narratology Network (ENN). Collected by Per Krogh Hansen, Chairman of the ENN.
Research report in photo-essay in book form (November 2010): – Music, Movement, Performance & Perception:
Perspectives on Cross-Disciplinary Research and Teaching within NNIMIPA – Nordic Network for the Integration of Music Informatics, Performance and Aesthetics. An essay in words and pictures recounting the NordPlus-sponsored Coordination Meeting for NNIMIPA held at the University of Oslo, February 18-19, 2010. Text: Cynthia M. Grund and William Westney. Photography: Cynthia M. Grund. Online version available HERE.
(2010) Jensenius, Alexander Refsum; Kristian Nymoen; Cynthia M. Grund; William Westney; Stale A. Skogstad. “Video Suite in Three Movements: Jensenius-Westney-Grund on Motion-capture, Music and Meaning.” Multimodal webpage presentation of original motion-capture video with accompanying audio, including original documentary-and-interview video-and-audio about the motion-capture labwork. Webpage: http://www.nnimipa.org/JWG.html, finalized on April 25, 2010, on the website for NNIMIPA: Nordic Network for the Integration of Music Informatics, Performance and Aesthetics, a network funded under The Nordic Council of Ministers’ NordPlus Program. NNIMIPA Webmaster and Network Coordinator: C.M. Grund.
Lecture “Experience and Inquiry: A Musical Journey” (November 2009), presenting my research at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense). Broadcast on ALTV, Denmark. Click here to watch.
NNIMIPA – Nordic Network for the Integration of Music Informatics, Performance, and Aesthetics
The Aesthetics of Music and Sound: Cross-Disciplinary Interplay Between the Humanities, Technology and Musical Practice