Beyond Transposition? Exploring metaphysicality in birdsong and Olivier Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux through painting practice

Carter, Harriet (2022) Beyond Transposition? Exploring metaphysicality in birdsong and Olivier Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux through painting practice. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Harriet Carter PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Mar 2022_Final Award Aug 2022.pdf - Accepted Version

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This thesis interrogates the concept and practice of ‘transposition’ through exploring experiences of birdsong as an embodied encounter between polysensory experiences in the landscape and the visual in painting practice. From a visual art perspective, I explore the auditory musical methodologies of French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908 –1992). Through using drawing to explore the metaphysicality of a birdsong encounter, I propose that Messiaen’s birdsong transcriptions (cahiers) and resulting piano cycle Catalogue d’oiseaux (1956 – 1958), demonstrate a transpositional methodology. Through analysis of Messiaen’s cahiers and Catalogue d’oiseaux, I create a methodological framework to explore in painting practice. I question the extent to which transposition operates between the intangible ephemera of an embodied birdsong encounter and tangible material processes in mark-making (drawing and painting). By thinking through mark-making as a site of embodied encounter, I explore the metaphysicality of transposition as embedded in process.

I present the complexity of transposing encounters between birdsong and painted surfaces through material thinking. Painting practice leads my enquiry and is supported largely in part by writing-thinking to explore the nuances of transposing in painted surfaces. I identify moments where transposition occurs when transcribing birdsong in the landscape and creating paintings in response. I explore how using painting practice as a tool, is considered a transpositional vehicle. Departing from visual artist and writer Yve Lomax’s theory of transposition as a moving device, I present the case that Messiaen’s cahiers and Catalogue d’oiseaux, and my field notebooks and paintings are transpositional objects. Through painting practice, I provide a way to explore metaphysicality through material inquiry. Aligning with artist researcher Jacqueline Taylor’s concept of the ‘quasacle’, I argue that transposition apprehends metaphysicality through materiality on the peripheries of language. In doing so, this thesis brings the concept of transposition and metaphysicality together as experienced through painting practice. This resulted in new ways of conceiving encounter in the experience and materiality of painting practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
4 March 2022Submitted
12 August 2022Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Transposition, metaphysicality, painting, practice research, birdsong, Olivier Messiaen, translation, becoming knowledge, language peripheries, polyvocal methodology, polysensory unimodal transposition, polysensory multimodal transposition, sacramental perception, thinking on the metaphysical, material perception
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-02 - art
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > College of Art and Design
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2023 17:03
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2023 17:03

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