Sara Carvalho

INET-MD: Aveiro University

Spinning Yarns: Gesture and indeterminacy in collaborative composition

From the current literature review it is clear that there isn’t one shared definition of gesture, and gesture encompasses a number of different concepts and definitions. Generally, in traditional music analysis, when referring to music gestures, the notion is often connected to the analysis of the musical score. However, studies of instrumental gesture are often related to body awareness, which is rarely present in musical analysis. The word gesture makes (in)direct allusion to a person and to body actions. It is important to reflect on the idea of what gesture can both produce and suggest. Gestures evoke meaning.
In this presentation I will discuss, reflect, and give examples, of how aspects of gesture and indeterminacy were incorporated into my piece for two pianos Spinning Yarns (II). By analysing my work the objective is to share procedures, stimulate gender discourse and discussion on collaborative composition issues.
The piece was commissioned for two female pianists and my starting point was the instruments themselves. I imagined their insides as being looms, and that the two women were spinning them, while mixing stories into their tapestries. My piece would be one of those stories; I would spin one more yarn.
Spinning Yarns (II) is formally divided in three sections, which should be played without any interruption. (A: mirroring gestures, B: improvisation, C: out of phase mirroring gestures).
While writing the piece the objective was to reflect on different forms of physical and musical gesture, inspired by the action of weaving, and how I associated the female pianists’ gestures with the movement of the artisans.
I will argue that while it might not be possible for a listener to detect my gender imaginings, my musical structures intended to transmit them. This presentation will reflect on my compositional thinking, gender-marked gestures, improvisational issues, and the construction of a shared narrative, as basis for effective performer-composer collaborative procedure.

Keywords: gesture; indeterminacy; collaborative composition


Sara Carvalho is a lecturer at Aveiro University, Portugal, and a fellow researcher of INET- MD. She is a composer interested in the interaction of different performing arts as na extension and transformation of musical thinking, and all aspects associated with gesture, musical narrative and performer-composer collaboration. Her folio has over 50 pieces that are played regularly both in Portugal and around the world. Several of her pieces are available on CD, and in 2012 Numérica edited her first monographic CD “7 pomegranate seeds”. Several scores are published by the Portuguese Music Information & Investigation Centre (MIC.PT). Her research work is presented at national and international conferences, and is published in different journals and book chapters, such as ASHGATE/SEMPRE Studies in The Psychology of Music Series and London: Imperial College Press. Since 2005 she is na Independent Expert for the “Culture” and “Creative” Programmes (EU).