The Exchange Talks are our weekly series of public events in which members of our staff, academia and the professions share their research insights on art, society and the issues that matter to everyone.

Exchange Talks are free and open to anyone who has an interest in the performing arts and wants to hear new ideas. In light of the current situation surrounding COVID-19, Exchange Talks are now being livestreamed directly into your home.

All Exchange Talks are BSL interpreted.

You can also watch Exchange Talks on RCSatHome. RCS Staff and Students can access a complete archive of Exchange Talks on the Portal Page.

2021-2022 Schedule of Exchange Talks 

Monday 18 October 2021
6:00 – 7:00pm 
Click here to register. 

Locust: The Opera— The making of a dark and enlightening tale of extinction
Speakers: Thomas A. Blomster, (Colorado Chamber Orchestra); Cristin Colvin; Anne M. Guzzo (University of Wyoming); and Jeffrey A. Lockwood (University of Wyoming)

A diverse, creative team collaborated to create and produce “Locust: The Opera,” a one-hour chamber opera that has been performed in the United States, Morocco, and Scotland. This operatic ‘murder mystery’ tells the story of the Rocky Mountain locust, an iconic species whose swarms blackened the skies of North America in the 1800s but suddenly disappeared forever at the turn of the twentieth century. Not to give away the plot, but the ghost of the Rocky Mountain locust (think of Franco Faccio’s “Amleto” based on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”) compels a scientist to figure out how her kind was driven to extinction.

Monday 25 October 2021
6:00 – 7:00pm
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William Henry “Master Juba” Lane and Antebellum Blacksound
Speaker: Dr Matthew Morrison (New York University)

This talk will consider the impact and legacy of William Henry “Master Juba” Lane on popular music and performance in the United States and United Kingdom. After being immortalized by Charles Dickens in his American Notes (1842), Lane was one of the most celebrated performers in the UK during his tour with the U.S. blackface troupe, G. W. Pell’s Serenaders. I explore how his presence and performance shaped various aspects of identity (relations), culture, and popular entertainment in the nineteenth century. In doing so, I introduce the concept of Blacksound and how it took shape in the U.S. and UK during and after slavery, as well as its impact upon how (music) copyright law and notions of intellectual property emerged during this era.

Monday 8 November 2021
6:00 – 7:00pm
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Pilgrim of Curiosity
Speaker: Dr Oliver Searle (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)

Central to Oliver Searle’s artistic ambition is the exploration in music of life experiences, an objective that can be detected in some of his best-known and most frequently performed works.
The leitmotif of personal reflection has also pervaded much of Searle’s chamber music, and more specifically, the four chamber works on this disc explore the composer’s attachment to place, and demonstrate both his genre eclecticism and his facility with various instrumental combinations. The hallmarks of Searle’s mature style are all here: a skilful dialogue between musical ideas, and a layering of discrete harmonic spaces.

Pilgrim of Curiosity, the title work of this latest release, was completed in 2014, and is written for wind quintet. At the head of the score, the composer has inscribed a quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson (above). This sense of reminiscence, and of locations retained in the imagination, is significant, for the eight movements are portraits of places visited by Searle over the course of some ten years, prior to the rigours and demands of parenthood. Each movement combines a mode of water transport with a site of spiritual and cultural importance. These pairings may at first seem deliberately antithetical, and indeed they produce a series of innovative and unexpected syntheses (Adapted from liner notes by Dr Sam Ellis).

Oliver will discuss the inspirations and working methods from the tracks on his recently-released portrait album.

Monday 15 November 2021
6:00 – 7:00pm
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“Making a cookbook that has almost nothing to do with food”: Myth, politics, and community work in experimental improvisation practices
Speaker: Maria Sappho (Huddersfield University)

The field looked at in this paper, free improvisation, like many fields, is an art form which comes with associated presumptions about what kinds of aesthetic outputs might be encountered in its creation. While still a largely underground and niche scene, these biases are nevertheless reflections of its growing canon. In attempt to unflatten and diversify representation, this paper utilizes the ‘improvisers cookbook’ to think away from the dominant aesthetics, through alternate recipes to engage with free practice from. Using a threefold approach which combines the personal, micro-social, and socio-political, this paper shares findings from three years of research, conducted under the ERC IRiMaS project, documenting the plurality of global experimental improvised arts practices. These have been shown to present skillsets in alternate virtuosities, and cover creative revolutions in identity formation, micro-cultural ensemble work for care, and extra-musical myth-making.

Monday 22 November 2021
6:00 – 7:00pm
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Transdisciplinary Futures: ‘generative joy, terror, and collective thinking’
Speakers: The Contemporary Performance Practice Programme Teaching Team (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)

In this performance lecture, researching artists teaching on the Contemporary Performance Practice programme investigate how performance exists as an active space for transdiscipline creativity and prepares students for a future beyond borders.

Is a transdisciplinary future on our ‘wounded earth’ (Haraway 2016) less about bringing disciplines together, and more about moving along the messy, precarious, tentacular pathways of what thinking, knowledge and art-making have always been, and moving in ways that are response-able and accountable to our ‘entanglements’ (Barad 2007) with other humans and nonhumans?

Having explored Training Artists in Times of Crisis, members of the Contemporary Performance practice teaching team look towards the future as we consider how our shared research practice and pedagogies can explore collaboration, collective thinking and teaching art-making in an inter/multi/transdisciplinary future.

Monday 29 November
6:00 – 7:00pm
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Echoes of Joni and online collaboration
Speaker: Jan Foote (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland)

Like many in the creative world, the Covid-19 pandemic forced composer Jan Foote to come up with new ways to compose music. In order to advance with his PhD (despite the changes in music making and live performance), he found himself attempting different methods of online collaboration. These collaborations have drastically changed how he approaches composition, and he has found inspiration in the limitation of not being able to work directly with players in person. These circumstances have not only changed the aesthetic of his music, but they have also made him realise how the compositions he has been producing since the pandemic were in fact more pertinent to his PhD than the work that he had composed before.

In this exchange talk he will address the changes and developments of his research as a consequence of the different lockdown periods, and the methods that he has been using to approach online collaboration. He will discuss tuning, intonation, improvisation vs notated musical material, and the liberation he has found in composing using material recorded by collaborators before the beginning of the compositional process. The main focus of this talk will be the development and compositional process of his upcoming album ‘Echoes of Joni’, a work for amplified ensemble and electronics. This piece is a combination of all the collaborative techniques that he has been developing during this time.

Monday 6 December 2021
6:00 – 7:00pm
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New Musical Theatre: Embracing & Challenging the Form
Speaker: Finn Anderson 

This talk will celebrate the potential of musical theatre as a medium for telling contemporary and urgent stories, whilst also exploring some of the limitations and challenges involved in developing new work within the musical theatre form. Diving into the writing and creative processes of three very different musicals, Finn will explore how contrasting starting points, musical styles, collaborative structures, and development processes can lead to the creation of innovative and surprising new musical theatre. Whilst sharing personal experience about the various ways in which musicals can and have been developed in Scotland, this talk will also explore how artists and makers interested in the musical theatre form can find ways to explore beyond the preconceived ideas of what a musical is and can be.

If you are interested in sharing your work in an Exchange Talk Livestream please email Stephanie Edwards,  Research & Knowledge Exchange Officer.