Innovation & research

“Make it new” - Jean Cocteau
The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama – Photo credit: Patrick Baldwin

Cocteau’s ringing call is one every creative person aspires to.

Old things must be made to sound new, if they are to win new audiences. That is a large part of what conservatoires do – helping students to re-imagine the work that they perform, so that they make it their own.

A vital tool in that effort is research. It will surprise many people to learn that CUK conservatoires are very active research centres. The people doing the research may be full-time scholars, but more often they will be artists who want to use research to help his/her performance or creative activity. For example, a violinist may wish to investigate the work of a forgotten composer. A choir director may want to know about choral performance practice in 18th Century St Petersburg. A composer may want to find out about software that helps in real-time synthesis of complex sounds. A performance scientist may want to investigate and develop screening techniques for performers, vital to injury prevention and also to developing specific fitness programmes for the enhancement of both pedagogic and performance practice. A choreographer may seek to generate new understandings of choreographic practice through the creation of innovative dance work that brings dance into conjunction with cognitive science, biological and technological research, social science and philosophy.

For this and a thousand other reasons, research forms a vital part of a conservatoire’s activities. But as well as reinterpreting the old to become relevant for the ‘here and now’, conservatoires also create things which are literally new. They encourage and foster creativity, not just in terms of creating new works of theatre, music, or dance (plus all the new multi-media hybrids now coming into being) but also in formulating new performance skills and perspectives needed to bring these creations to life.