Vittoria Ecclesia defends her doctoral thesis on 4 June at 16:00 room D-511 for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Music):

“Practice Beyond Boundaries: Enhancing Musicianship through Historical Clarinet Affordances” 

Supervisors: professor Toomas Siitan, PhD (EAMT), professor Peeter Sarapuu, PhD (EAMT)
Opponent: professor Mieko Kanno, Sibelius Academy / University of the Arts Helsinki

The doctoral thesis is available HERE and in print in the EAMT library.


The thesis “Practice Beyond Boundaries: Enhancing Musicianship through Historical Clarinet

Affordances” (“Piire ületav harjutamine: muusikalise meisterlikkuse arendamine ajaloolise klarneti pakutavate võimaluste kaudu”) is part of a creative research doctoral project and it explores how practice and performance on modern clarinet are affected by the exploration of musical affordances on historical clarinet. The concept of affordances identifies the possibilities of action offered by an object to a subject interacting with it. The historical clarinet considered is a 13-keyed instrument, developed by the clarinettist and composer Iwan Müller at the beginning of the 19th Century. The instrument represented a major breakthrough in the history of the clarinet, influencing its contemporaries and the players to come. While the initial interest towards this topic sparked from its history, in this research project Müller’s clarinet is not used as a historical instrument. It is taken into a modern context, and explored in practice sessions alongside its modern relative following a hybrid methodology.

The practice process is organised following the principles of autobiographic design. This method, born in the field of human-computer interaction design, is used here as a support to organize a structured yet flexible series of practice sessions to explore the historical clarinet. The process is documented through a practical journal, which is then analysed following the principles of thematic analysis, identifying recurring relevant themes emerging in the practice. Finally, the whole process falls under an autoethnographic framework, to take into account the self of the researcher in the identification and later application of musical affordances.

The process led to the identification of five main thematic areas encompassing different musical

affordances of historical clarinet: technique, air and sound production, articulation, intonation, and interpretation and phrasing. In each area, the historical clarinet afforded different actions than the modern one, showing its potential as an individual instrument. The results showed how musical affordances could be applied in everyday practice, and how they influenced modern clarinet practice not only in its technical aspects but also more abstractly, in the mindset and approach to music. A similar process of exploration and experimentation could be followed on other instruments, breaking the boundaries of traditional practice on a broader level.