'Live Dreaming': Exploring the reorientation of neurodivergent bodies and selves via musical performance.

Lead Research Organisation: Birmingham City University
Department Name: ADM Royal Birmingham Conservatoire


This proposal focuses on a performance and practice-based research methodology of 'Live Dreaming', building on the work of Schulze (2018), Wu (2021) and Bude (2022) to question the potential and process of dreaming as a kind of performance in consciousness, and performance as a type of physical 'dream'(Serres, 2008).
In 2019, Arts Council England funded me to research listening as whole-body phenomenon, hypothesising that dreaming and consciousness are an inextricable part of embodied listening and music-making. My research findings culminated in developing MELTA, an interactive performance fusing experimental audio-visual composition with sculptures and wearable sensors. This performance methodology explored the 'performance dream' through my perceptions of sound, synaesthesia, hyperfocus and sensory overload. My proposed practice-based research will build upon previous work and communicate my lived experience as a neurodivergent woman, developing a body of creative work that engages with embodied listening, practical experiments, theoretical literature and qualitative research.
My principal research question is 'How can 'Live Dreaming' provide a practical tool for neurodivergent and marginalised bodies to explore identities and orientation through musical performance?'
I will examine the potential for Live Dreaming as a generative source of power for neurodivergent selves and bodies to navigate alienating environments. I will use a practice-based approach to create a practical toolkit for neurodivergent and marginalised bodies to reorientate and communicate themselves through musical performance. Research activity will include individual and group action Deep Listening sessions (Oliveros, Ione 2005) with neurodivergent performers. I will also create a series of thematic exploratory public performances in collaboration with RBC musicians and performers using movement, voice and listening as the basis for scored works. These will investigate haptic memory and sensory orientation as parallels between dreaming and performance.
A sub research strand will explore data, software, and materials as a means of body augmentation and mechanism for autonomy and survival for marginalised people (Haraway, 2016, Marshall, 2016 Nijs 2017 ). I will explore the 'vital materiality' of materials in performance (Cox, 2006, Bennett, 2010) insofar as they might enable neurodivergent bodies to navigate and communicate their experiences. Outcomes of this work will be manifested in a collection of scored pieces with written commentary. I will fabricate wearable instruments in collaboration with Integra Lab and STEAMhouse at BCU to make music with the body, using human and environmental data. Outcomes will be tested with the RBC community and documented in performances and workshops. This research will contribute to cross-disciplinary literature enquiry into inclusive music, technology, movement, and neuroscience. This will positively impact upon
neurodivergent and marginalised musicians and provide a critical entry point into live music-making for performers from all backgrounds. Crucially, it will create publicly accessible tools for practice and composition and will contribute to music sector dialogue and awareness around neurodivergence as a factor affecting access and experiences of music-making. The work has potential to increase the visibility of ground-breaking practice by female musicians from non-traditional musical backgrounds and encourage women in academic and artistic communities to further their own works.


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