I wanted to post a little introduction here as a way to introduce my music colleagues to a dissertation that was conducted in and written for a School of Design.
A short introduction to the dissertation:
My main gig for the last 30 years has been as a student and teacher of the Dalcroze Eurhythmics course work. Spending well more than 10,000 hours in the Eurhythmics studio I started to notice patterns and applications of the work to environments outside of music, that is, I started to notice how I was using my Eurhythmics knowing in the extra-musical moments of my life. As a result, I began to critique mundane moments of life relative to their musicality.
Take conversations for instance. Some conversations possess the phrasing–pacing–tension/relaxation–build-up/decay–consonances and dissonances of a rewarding piece of music, while others are so awkward that they fall flat, not even accomplishing basic cohesion, let alone providing the payoff of a serendipitous piece of art.
Or road trips...Some road trips zoom along with an easy and rewarding flow while others feel like drudgery. We can experience the flow or the drudgery in both long trips and short errands around the block (not unlike some performances of music)...
Or even in discreet gestures like taking a single step forward, inhaling a breath, or riding a single swoop on a playground swing...these all possess the potential for beauty and we (often subconsciously) strive for the most beautiful performance of each of them, immediately recognizing when any of them fall short.
All "happenings" (or Design would say, all "interactions") can be analyzed for their flow. The Eurhythmics class does just this: it aids the musician in recognizing and then fostering "good flow" (eu-rhythmics) in music: music making, music performing, musical participation.
Here in my PhD course of study, I doubled-down on the extra-musical happenings and interactions of mundane life and used the same kind of Eurhythmic knowing to assess, critique, and then offer a path to improve everyday, mundane, extra-musical experience.
Performing musicians spend a lifetime trying to eliminate the awkward and enhance the good flow in their music making. Designers spend careers trying to eliminate the awkward and enhance the good flow in everyday interactions. Eurhythmicians spend a lifetime aiding the student is recognizing that the proving ground for beauty and good flow is in their feeling, pulsing, dynamic body. Soma Literacy is merely the codifying, categorizing, and skilling in this attention to the visceral/felt/aesthetic of the living body.
In the following dissertation I do my best to share Eurhythmic knowing with a community who knows nothing of Jaques-Dalcroze and who has no need to care about music or music making. The Interaction Designers, Experience Designers, Service Designers, and those working in Design for Social Change, Transition Design, and Architecture are looking at awkwardnesses in everyday life (well off of the performance stage) and trying to offer value to these "happenings" or "interactions" by designing and redesigning the experiences. By taking a few pages out of the Jaques-Dalcroze playbooks, combining this with philosophy of Dewey, Shusterman, Merleau-Ponty among others, and pushing it through the forge of Design discourse, I present Soma Literacy and Corporeal Design as new fields and topics for debate within the design (and hopefully within the music) communities.
While working to add value to the design fields, the study has transformed and clarified so much of what I believe as a practicing musician and Dalcrozian that my teaching will forever be changed. In truth, it is not only my teaching that has changed, but also the ways I go about assessing my everyday life.
A Bartok selection for the young pianist is not merely a succession of notes for the pianist to hit in the correct order and tempo. It is an aspiration for a complete and fulfilling experience, an interaction that we in the music community would deem "musical" or "artful". Having completed 30 years of Dalcroze studies + these five years of study in Design theory, I now look to all of my interactions (with my peers, my spouse, my environment, with the things and artifacts around me, and even the ways that I interact within myself) and see these as aspiring to a musicality. The PhD began using music as an example of beauty and finished with music being a model for artfulness in living.
This is what I attempt to describe and demonstrate for the Design fields in the dissertation and what I continue to describe and demonstrate for my Eurhythmics students every day, the potential for an artful life, both on and off of the concert stage.