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Performance (Practice): inverted virtuosity in Cassandra Miller’s “For Mira”

Organizer: Jennifer Gersten

Sat 12 August 2023, 11.00 – 11.40

OS 2

The lone violinist on stage has historically generated expectations of virtuosity—of transcendent technical and creative feats, often with the ego to match. A study of Cassandra Miller’s For Mira (2013), for violin solo, argues that the work, in spite of its virtuosic technical trappings, inverts performance expectations by emphasizing not the polished product but rather the process by which musical understanding is transmitted. For Mira asserts at least three degrees of separation from its source: it is a reworking for violin of a computer-made transcription of an unplugged performance of Kurt Cobain singing “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (also called “In the Pines,” an American folk song often attributed to Lead Belly). Miller asks the performer to play the piece three times, each time with a different set of repeats, resulting in the performer enacting a journey, however garbled, of musical acquisition in real time. The work thus collapses the acts of performance and “practice,” rendering explicit a process generally precluded from the stage.