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Nicolas Donin & François-Xavier Féron: Tracking the Creative Process in (Stefano Gervasoni’s) Music

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  • Seminar
When Oct 15, 2013
from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM
Where A-832, New Music Building, 527 Sherbrooke Street West.
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Please note that lunch is provided at this talk.


What does the day-to-day, or bar-to-bar, creative labour of composers look like? We know a lot about musical pieces and compositional techniques, but not so much about the activity of music composition. As various papers from the “Tracking the Creative Process in Music” conference show, there is a growing interest in finding appropriate methodologies to question the practical as well as cognitive aspects of this activity. We will discuss samples of the methodologies and results displayed in our recent work on Stefano Gervasoni and the composition of Gramigna (2009–). The creative process of Gramigna was documented not only via retrospective monitoring based on a close reading of drafts and sketches, but through data collection during composition as well. The resulting data is highly suited to questioning various aspects of compositional cognition: for example, generation and use of rules, filling in the score in course of writing, decisions about ending or restarting a process, etc.


François-Xavier Féron has a Master’s degree (university Paris VI-IRCAM) in musical acoustics and a PhD in musicology (university Paris IV). His PhD thesis, defended in 2006, focuses on the impact auditory illusions have had upon the field of musical creation. After teaching at the university of Nantes (2006-2007), he was a postdoctoral researcher in psychoacoustics at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (McGill University) where he studied perception of auditory rotational sound sources (2008-2009). He then joined the team Analyse des Pratiques Musicales at IRCAM as a postdoctoral fellow within the MuTeC project (2009-2011) – which aims to study the creative process in music –, then the GEMME project (2012-2013) – which examines the use of gestures in contemporary music. Since October 2013, as a research fellow at the National Center for Scientific Research, he has been working at the LaBRI (Bordeaux) and IRCAM. F.-X. Féron received two grants from the Paul Sacher Foundation to study the genesis of Gérard Grisey’s cycle Les espaces acoustiques (1974-1985). His researches focus on the interaction between music and acoustics and have been published in Analyse musicale, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, L’éducation musicale, Genesis, Découverte, Intermédialités, Filigrane, Contemporary Music Review, Musicae Scientiae and the collective work Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) aujourd’hui (Paris: CDMC, 2008).


Nicolas Donin is a musicologist at IRCAM, where he founded and directs the team “Analyse des pratiques musicales” within the laboratory “Sciences et technologies de la musique et du son” (IRCAM–CNRS–UPMC). His research deals with works, practices, and musical aesthetics through a double approach: the historical study of contemporary music since the end of the nineteenth century, and empirical musicology in collaboration with composers, interpreters, and listeners of today. As part of this research program, he has realized studies on the beginnings of musical analysis in France, the aesthetics of Schoenberg, and on the creative process of various contemporary musicians. He has also contributed to the development of computer technology for musicology (tools for multimedia publication and assisted musical analysis). He is the author of numerous publications in the field of musicology as well as the humanities and social sciences. He recently co-edited (with Rémy Campos) the volume L’analyse musicale, une pratique et son histoire (Genève, 2009), and (with Laurent Feneyrou) Théories de la composition musicale au xxe siècle.

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