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John Rink to appear on Radio 4’s “Something Understood”

John Rink speaking during a recent guest residency at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music

Professor John Rink, who is Director of Studies in Music at St John’s and Professor of Musical Performance Studies in the Faculty of Music, will be appearing on the BBC Radio 4 programme Something Understood this weekend to discuss the creative aspects of music-making and performance.

The programme, entitled “Who Makes The Music?”, will be broadcast at 06:05am on Sunday on BBC Radio 4 and will be available shortly afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

Its theme is linked to recent research by Professor Rink and colleagues which has examined how musical performance, rather than simply being a means of realising a composer’s intentions, is a creative act in its own right.

Until relatively recently, musicians were expected to revere composers and to act as a conduit through which the original “inspiration” might be conveyed to an audience. This point of view is now being challenged and reassessed by many scholars who highlight the importance of performers’ own musical imagination and creative engagement with the works that they perform.

Between 2009 and 2014, Professor Rink was Director of the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (http://www.cmpcp.ac.uk), which studied live musical performance and creative music-making. The Centre explored, among other questions, the processes which make performance in itself creative, how music takes shape over time in performance, and how musical performance as a creative practice varies across different contexts, cultures and performing conditions.

Many of its findings form the basis of a new five-volume series, Studies in Musical Performance as Creative Practice, of which Professor Rink is General Editor and which Oxford University Press will soon publish. He is also the co-editor of one of these volumes, Musicians in the Making: Pathways to Creative Performance.

Professor Rink is both a musicologist and a pianist. In a recent essay on “impersonation” in performance which draws on his experiences as a musician and the testimonies of many others, he argues that: “One’s identity as a performer is shaped by one’s sense of identity with the music. The musician’s individuality may therefore be denied and realised at one and the same time in the act of performance.” He observes that as well as simply learning to play or sing a piece, musicians need to “internalise” the music. This in itself can be an intensely immersive and creative process, in which the imagined sound is inextricably linked to the physical act of producing it and to the feeling that this elicits. These elements coalesce into the embodied musical understanding unique to each musician. Through this process, the performer “personifies” a work, rather than just interpreting it.

“Who Makes The Music?” will examine the links between the author of a work, its various performers and the audiences who listen to it, featuring music from Chopin, Billie Holliday and the Edwin Hawkins Singers, among others. Full details about the programme may be found on the BBC Radio 4 website.