Research Proposal

Introduction: how my research proposal works

This is the starting point of my research proposal. My research proposal is based on my entire blog (madtech.me/artists/kayleighbeard), on which I have  been writing during the first year of studying MADtech.

The first thing you’ll see on that page is a collection of featured works, which are videos, pictures, and (process) descriptions of more or less finished works (the show-offs). At the end of this collection it says “EVERYTHING BY KAYLEIGH BEARD”, and all of my blog articles will follow. These articles are chronologically ordered and contain everything mixed: small notes, random thoughts, ideas, works in progress, reflections, finished works, experiments, inspirations, references, and so on.

To get this organised, I used tags to filter out specific topics and types of articles, and themes. And to make a connection between my works, thoughts, experiments, sources etc., I will write about the required elements for the research proposal and either refer to (1) a collection of articles with a specific tag, or (2) a specific article. These links can be consulted for more in-depth information. But also, if you are interested in a specific tag, you can click on the tag below the article, and you can see what else I published about that topic.

Moreover, I have categorised all my articles into the topics of the learning outcomes of the research proposal:

I will write about the following required elements:

  1. A short introduction to your artistic activities so far.
  2. An introduction to the starting points of your working period of the first year semester.
  3. A reflection on the activities and developments in your studio practice of the first year.
  4. A reflection on theoretical (or otherwise) investigations into the content of your work.
  5. A formulation of research questions, problems, or starting points that your working period and field of interest generated for you and that will be the starting point of your continuing practice.
  6. An outline of how to investigate/approach the topics and field of interest (what methods will you apply?)
  7. An overview of relevant sources (discursive/theoretical/visual/technical etc.) to be consulted.
  8. A (rough) timeframe for this investigation.
  9. A plan for the documentation of the research.

1. A short introduction to your artistic activities so far.

In general I have mostly been

2. An introduction to the starting points of your working period of the first year semester.

The year started off with getting inspired by works at Ars Electronica in Linz. The themes of these works that I found really interesting were human connection, a new way of experiencing sound in space, the real world v.s. the virtual world, and intense experiences.

Because I come from an Artificial Intelligence (AI) background, and have always been busy with music on the side, I was researching on what has been done in the combination between the two. Particularly I was interested in computer-generated music. I found these generative music examples. I also found a musical AI, it can generate any type of song you like, and I was really amazed by it. I wanted to experiment myself with automatic music generation and see what this could mean for me in my artistic practice. I received valuable feedback on this during a studio visit of Strijbos & Van Rijswijk, and I also got really inspired by them because they had a  work Walk With Me, somewhat similar to Sonic Wilderness that I saw on Ars Electronica in Linz: they composed music in space, instead of on a timeline.

But at the same time I was composing and producing music (Rainforest Light) which had a spiritual atmosphere, just like these inspirational sources and my blog Genuine Hearts about authentic living. But both during a studio visit of Ruud Akse and a studio visit of Marc Bijl, we realised that my own music was much stronger than my music generation project.

At the beginning I was afraid to play freely, but I got stimulated more and more along the way. I opened more up to this especially during workshops like the microscopy workshop from TEZ.

For my first feedback session I ended up performing Rainforest Light, together with my automatic music generation system. This performance raised a lot of questions, thoughts and feedback. It triggered me to start focussing on performing this year (and of course composing). But I wasn’t always sure if performances were the only thing I wanted to focus on. I still had my love for programming, hacking and tinkering. That’s why I also started to experiment with interactive music applications and installations.

3. A reflection on the activities and developments in your studio practice of the first year.

3.1. Performances

I enjoyed my feedback session performance, because it feels like music is such an important medium for me to express myself with. But I knew that there were a lot of improvements to be made in my performance, because at that moment, expressing myself didn’t feel entirely right. So I devoted myself to play around with different settings, technical things, visuals, etc. in my performances.

First, I participated in a workshop at the Minerva pop academy, in which I experimented with performance possibilities in electronic music. My eyes opened to all the new possibilities I learned, but at the same time I learned how to deal with being overwhelmed by possibilities. I immediately integrated what I had learned in my studio practice when preparing my music for live settings.

Second, I was happily surprised that I was admitted into the Music Makers Hacklab week of CTM Berlin. The theme of the week emotional invention really appealed to me, because it relates to my interests in humanity. I really enjoyed the collaboration with people from different fields, for example a psychologist. The combination with music and psychology made the week very interesting for me. We ended up doing a performance that was totally new to me: I improvised singing lyrics that were generated from a psychology dataset in real time. I went with tons of inspiration back to my studio.

And then I was thinking about my individual performances again. But I was also struggling with this. I had questions like: What do I want to say? What feels right? Where to show it? Do I want to be in the spotlight or not? I was talking about this with Jan Klug & Ruud Akse. When Marc Bijl visited me, he thought my music was strong, but was worried, because it still wasn’t out of my studio. Sometimes I was struggling to work on my performances, because I had the feeling that I needed to ‘add something’, which felt unnatural. I talked about this with Jan. Conclusion: don’t worry too much, just try, experiment, and do it.

And so I playfully did when preparing the performance Mutations @Minerva Theatre, with which I was really satisfied. I felt that the visuals were not just a ‘decoration’, but really strengthening the music and the concept. My audience got the feeling of the spiritual atmosphere. This performance came close to something that feels right. But was it because I wasn’t in the spotlight? Or was the setting better for the performance?

One question that came out of this performance was “how do you fill up a longer performance?”. So I tried to do this and performed a 20 minute live music set during a dinner that I organised. But even though my music making went well, the setting of this performance felt wrong. I felt like I was imposing my music on an audience that didn’t especially came for it. I had to deal with negative reactions (and worse: no reactions) and that really made me think about why I was doing what I do.

Later I did a similar performance in a setting where people did know what they came for. I did a 30 minute performance @The World We Live In in the main hall of the conservatory. For the first time I felt more mature in my performances. I thought about the performance as a whole: my clothing, lightning, visuals, telling stories before songs. People were really amazed by it, asking for my contact details, my CD, etc. Many said it gives them a calming feeling, just like I often hear. But I also got new reactions: some thought I sounded like Aurora and Enya, two artists that I really admire. I felt like this performance got me closer to a kind of performance that feels right to me. I knew I had to keep performing to improve this even more. Also, since I realised more than ever, that visuals can strengthen my music a lot, I wanted to experiment more with visuals to my music.

So I experimented with making visuals to my music for my performance @De Nieuwe Kolk in Assen.  I performed with my phone cello. It felt comfortable to express myself with an intuitive instrument. To prepare this performance I challenged myself with a new way of working: I was making visuals (filming things, editing, making them interactive) without having an idea about the end result. For this process I learnt to let go of perfectionism and have peace with showing something ‘unfinished’. Even though it was nerve wrecking to show something I thought was imperfect, I was still satisfied with the end result. Because just like the previous performance, I thought about the performance as a whole. Also other people thought I was maturing in my performances. Someone was really touched by it and got a lump in her throat.

  • Reflective conclusion: My process in my performances during the last year was all about opening up to experimentationdaring, not to worry and overthink too much, and just doing what I stand for. This really helped me in figuring out in what way performances feel right to me, and to bring across my message in a stronger way. At the beginning of a performance, there is always this moment for me that I suddenly switch into a flow-like state. I’m suddenly immersed in the whole performance. I think I have to focus on this feeling. I’m not there yet, though, but I think I’m on the right path and just have to keep going to get even more mature, comfortable, and strong in my performances.
3.2. Composing

Composing music feels like a very natural process to me. When I’m doing it, I’m in a flow that is hard to describe. But I tried to describe it in this article.

But at the beginning I spent way too long producing Rainforest Light. I was getting really perfectionistic, to an extent that I think I didn’t really improve the song, but instead wasted my time. I felt the need to work more iteratively in songwriting. Start with songs that are performance-ready.

So I wrote Mutations and  Human Dissonance. Both of these songs have the common theme of our tradition with meat consumption, but presented in a more spiritual way: related to the state of mind of the human (in Human Dissonance) and related to spiritual evolution of the human (in Mutations).

I also wrote the song My Hunters Lead the Way, which is about the feeling of being chased by society, which I also describe in this note.

I wanted to do live studio sessions, to at least have some documentation of the songs that I was writing but not producing:

When I was worried about my work and struggling with perfectionism during the preparations of my performance in Assen, I suddenly “felt it again”, the flow, when I was writing To Become a Child, No More for that performance.

  • Reflective conclusion: For me, my composition process is all about the spiritual flow-like state, and to be able to understand things that keep me busy in my own language.
3.3. Interactive installations & applications

Like I said before, composing & performing music didn’t feel like the only thing I wanted to do. I still had my love for programming, hacking, tinkering.

I used my previous experiment in automatic music generation to create the installation TardiSpaces, together with colleague student Desta Matla. It translates movement of micro-animals into music. We learnt a lot about setting up for an exhibition.

As a playful experiment, me and some colleague students built an interactive jellyfish.

And in the meantime I had random ideas, such as an idea to make a songwriting program.

But then things got a little bit more serious and I started to collaborate with NAIP students from the conservatory. I wanted to make an interactive music installation: I wanted to translate movement of people to music, and involve the audience in a music performance. And to compose music for this, I had to compose music in space, instead of on a timeline. (just like Strijbos & van Rijswijk, as mentioned before) We did research and experiments, wrote a lot of notes, and ended up proudly with the installation Our Harmony. The idea of the installation was to connect people and question the issues of authenticity v.s. community.

As a side hobby, because I would love to play the cello, I built my own  intuitive musical instrument: a phone cello, with which I performed in Assen.

  • Reflective conclusion: Making these interactive music installations and applications has been all about connecting people, movement, immersive experiences, intuitive access to music, and being amazed by how technology can broaden the possibilities of putting music forward.

4. A reflection on theoretical (or otherwise) investigations into the content of your work.

I’ve been reading books and articles, and I did technical, contextual and environmental research when doing a project. I have written articles in which I write my thoughts down about the books I read. I also write about my research next to the video blog posts of my works. On Theories, Histories, Cultures you can find all of my theoretical and technical research.

The main themes that I get out of there are:

5. A formulation of research questions, problems, or starting points that your working period and field of interest generated for you and that will be the starting point of your continuing practice.

As I learned from my visit to artist Annie Dorsen and from the latest developments in my artistic practice, I don’t want to define my research and my artistic plans too specifically. “Once you have a form, you try to fulfil that form, you lean on it, and it can limit you in the creative process.” So instead I would like to keep it more open, yet still describe a direction based on what I’ve learned this year and based on my recurring themes.

I thought of a quote today about having doubts, and keeping my research goals a bit open: “I choose not to doubt, instead I choose to have peace with not knowing yet.”

At first I thought I wasn’t going into a specific direction with my artistic practice, as if I was doing things at random. But while writing my blog articles and connecting them in my research proposal, I realised that there is a lot of overlap in my works and interests. I have made a list of the recurring themes (marked in bold in the previous sections 1 to 4):

  • connection
  • intense experiences
  • composition of music in space
  • spirituality
  • afraid to play
  • music as an important medium for me
  • emotional invention
  • humanity
  • collaboration
  • music psychology
  • inspiration
  • what feels right
  • spotlight
  • out of my studio
  • strengthening the music
  • mature
  • calming performance
  • visuals
  • intuitive music
  • challenge
  • perfectionism
  • performance as a whole
  • experimentation
  • daring
  • worry
  • doing what I stand for
  • flow
  • tradition of meat consumption
  • movement to music
  • authenticity vs. community

It feels like these themes are part of me, so I am sure they will recur in the next year. Moreover, I think that the research topics that I discussed before in section 4 will also recur. I will discuss per topic which questions came up during this year:

  • Authenticity, Community, Connection
    • Where do I stand in the topic of our modern obsession with authenticity? Critic? Neutral? Exploring? Pro authenticity as most important ideal?
    • How to open up the eyes of my audience to look beyond the self through an art work?
    • Is it my role as an artist to connect people? Do I want this?
    • Is it my role as an artist to make people question the modern obsession with authenticity? Do I want this?
  • Movement to music
    • What are the technical possibilities to translate body movement to music in a logical way?
    • How to compose music for the body, instead of on a timeline?
    • What do specific body movements have to say?
    • Why is movement apparently such an important aspect for me?
    • In what way can the link between movement to music be therapeutic?
  • Intuitive accessibility of music
    • How to make music making accessible to non-musicians?
    • What are the technical possibilities in building intuitive music interfaces?
    • Does an intuitive music interface benefit over a traditional music instrument? And why?
    • Why is the intuitive accessibility of music so important for me?
    • How could intuitive music interfaces play a role in my artistic practice and performances?
  • New ways of presenting music
    • What are the technical possibilities of presenting music, other than songs on a timeline?
    • Why do I find it so fascinating to present music in a different way?
    • How to immerse the audience into an interactive music experience?
    • How to add extra dimensions to the music that I compose?
  • My artistic stage presence
    • Where do I stand in the world of music artists?
    • Why is my usage of voice so important to me?
    • How to include my audience into my performances?
    • Why do I want this collaboration-like connection with the audience?
    • How to convey my message (or rather: feeling) through my music? How to check whether the intended message was conveyed? Until which point does this matter?

This may all seem like a lot of different topics, but I don’t see it that way. All of these topics and questions are very much intertwined. Just like it all came together in my recent project Our Harmony, as you can see in section 4. In my view I have been doing only three different (but linked) things: composing music, performing music, and building interactive music installations and applications. And that’s what I would happily like to focus on next year.

6. An outline of how to investigate/approach the topics and field of interest (what methods will you apply?)

For now I have been reading & reflecting on books and articles, watched performances, visited festivals, making work, reflecting on my work on this blog, and documenting reactions of people on my works. The research on this work-in-progress and the process reflection on this work are a good examples of how I investigated my fields of interest this year.

I will continue doing this, because it works well for me.

7. An overview of relevant sources (discursive/theoretical/visual/technical etc.) to be consulted.

During the first year, I have gathered a lot of to-reads. These were looked up by me or given to me as tips by fellow students, teachers, and other people, based on what I was working on. I will probably not read all of it, but pick the ones that are most relevant at the moment.

8.  A (rough) timeframe for this investigation.

September 2017 – July 2018

🙂

9. A plan for the documentation of the research.

The whole year I have been writing notes and blog articles about my process. It really helps me to get a grip on what I do. Sometimes it feels like I’m just doing something, and that it’s all over the place. But when I start writing about it, it suddenly makes more sense. This blog also saved me a lot of time in writing this research proposal. I will happily continue with writing notes and blog articles like this, because it can really help in doing my research.

Published by Kayleigh Beard

I sing, perform, and make my own digital instruments. Through my voice, and making music with intuitive body gestures, I seek to create a serene and tranquil atmosphere to retreat from today’s overwhelming world.

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