Nancy Harper

1. What are your personal perspectives as a researcher?

My personal perspectives as a researcher in music are always generated by a sense of curiosity and love of teaching and are propelled by the fundamental questions of “Why?” and “How?” as well as the adage “Regard Man as a Mine Rich in Gems”.  As the first university professor in Portugal with Doctor of Musical Arts in Piano Performance and probably still the only one in the career status, I arrived in Portugal in 1992 as an invited Lecturer at a time when practical music was being implemented in the university system.  Generated by the need to define a research area, Performance Studies emerged out of the nebula as one of the most exciting and versatile areas. Because of its multi-disciplinary nature, Performance Studies is enriched by cross-studies with Psychology, Philosophy, Health Sciences, Education, New Technologies, Language and Culture, History, Arts, and other areas. Performance Studies may include research regarding Optimization of Performance (originally based on models from Sports techniques), Music-Medicine (not to be confused with Music Therapy), Interpretation and Historically Informed Performance, Pedagogical Studies, to name only a few. It can also generate new Arts and new ways of expression.
With the advent of the Internet and the fast developing New Technologies, vast possibilities have opened. Recently, one of my former post-doctoral researchers in Music-Medicine who is now a faculty member in our department joined me and researchers from the Biology and Psychology departments to form MIL (Music Interdisciplinary Lab). One of the main objectives is to research and share our data in areas such as Music Performance Anxiety, perception, accelerated learning and memory, and other music performance matters. This research is ongoing and is producing several doctoral dissertations, masters’ theses, publications, and projects. Subsidies from UA have greatly contributed to the purchase of equipment, software, and test supplies. To date, we have research data from cortisol salivary studies, SoundWell™ listening perception, VitalJacket™ cardiac monitoring (developed at IEETA, UA), psychological tests, and other tools.
From the opposite side of these contemporary studies, I am involved in historical research both individually and with post-doctorate, doctorate, and masters’ students. For example, one post-doctoral research involves 18th and 19th century Portuguese patrimony of flute builders with collections now scattered across the globe, particularly in Brazil and the USA. My own historical research not only includes Historical Musicology but also Historically Informed Performance (HIP) using software to analyse historical recordings but also to analyse critical reception of these same performances. This interest comes from my experience as a harpsichordist and forte-pianist. Next month my book on Portuguese Piano Music will be released (Scarecrow Press, USA). It is the first of its kind and features works by more than 500 Portuguese composers from the 18th century to 2010. A CD will accompany the book. Too, I have recorded other CDs, several of which feature Portuguese piano music in historical performance or with some works written for me by Portuguese composers in world premieres.
Yet another strong area of my research is that of Piano Pedagogy. My publications are frequently centered on this theme in my role as Assistant Editor of an international journal based in London. The supervision of student teachers and direct contact with students form a wonderful kind of laboratory with which to experiment and observe.
Joining Piano Performance with these areas, I frequently find my research to be enriched and having gained added stimulus and insight.

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in your area of research?

The biggest challenge in the area of artistic research, for a performing artist, is getting their research in Music Interpretation as a Performer to be accepted as valid research by an academic institution and the scientific community. Performance is generally viewed as “entertainment” and not “scientific”. This means that the very essence of a performer’s art - the many daily hours, months, and years which go into constructing and presenting one’s individual interpretation of a work – is not regarded by the scientific community as valid if it is not used in a process of research, be it empirical or other. Unfortunately, artists often do not want to document or reveal their process of artistry. Having to do this on a consistent basis can seem far from the world of art, as well as an unnecessary tedium.
In North America, a performing artist who is also a professor in a university publishes little in comparison to other artistic activities. The emphasis is on performance and teaching, giving Masterclasses, serving on international competition juries and drawing foreign students to the institution, recording, playing concerts, etc.. This professional profile respects the oral tradition from which came the Master-Apprentice performance heritage. Too, professors are not required to compete with other professors in unrelated areas for the advancement of their careers as is the case in Portugal. Rather, competition is with one’s self and a predetermined standard. Portugal’s stance exists for several reasons: 1) a lack of tradition of the performing arts in universities and the reliance on models from scientific world; 2) a lack of a national standardized system of evaluation of performing arts that is at once as objectively scientific as it is artistic; 3) a lack of a European evaluation framework by which Portuguese standards could be compared.
Having said all of the above, some progress has been made simply by the fact that doctorates can now be given based on the artist’s work alone. Also, the recent retroactive evaluation system that was required of all UA professors, for which we offered our suggestions, was surprisingly favorable to performing musicians. There is still some headway to be made, but evaluation of the performing arts in Portugal is taking on a clearer identity and purpose.

3. Where are the strengths of the UA in your opinion?

The strengths of UA regarding research include its openness and innovativeness. It would be hard to imagine some of the research interaction that occurs here as being possible, desirable, or accepted in other countries. Not to mention the fact that the Portuguese people themselves are extremely creative, imaginative, and hard-working. The environment is a very stimulating one.

4. Could you give one idea to improve research in the UA?

The very same strengths of UA that I cited above – its openness and innovativeness – are hampered by lack of funds, which is both tied to research and career progression. While UA has grown immensely during my time here, it could indeed advance even more if more money were to be invested in research with special emphasis given to the Performing Arts. To give one example, Music-Medicine - a new and exciting field - needs to have access to equipment, software, and specialists who are interested in the Arts and who can assist the few of us who do research in this area. How wonderful it would be to have access to an fMRI machine with a research team interested in exploring areas of interest to performers. We know that a musician’s brain is quite different from others. Even the brain of a violinist is different from that of a pianist. We know that the study of an instrument at an early age greatly enhances brain development, not to mention the joy that it brings. With further studies we could definitely advance our knowledge and better the education field while optimizing performance.

última atualização a 14-07-2014
This web site uses cookies without storing personal information that allows the identification of its users. By navigating in this web site you are consenting to the use of these cookies.more information
Para que esta página funcione corretamente deve ativar a execução de Javascript. Se tal não for possível, algumas funcionalidades poderão estar limitadas.