Summary of the artistic research paper



Vilnius 2022

Supervisor of the research part of the artistic doctorate project:

prof. dr. Lina Navickaitė-Martinelli

Supervisor of the creative part of the artistic doctorate project:

prof. dr. Indrė Baikštytė


The background of the research problem. For the past six years, I have been intensely involved with the contemporary music ensemble Synaesthesis. I started out as its pianist in 2015 and afterwards, recognising the ensemble's potential, I eventually took on the role of its artistic content creator and also undertook a parallel task of creating an organisation that would enable the ensemble to act in the Lithuanian cultural field. This required comprehensive studies of the national cultural policy and international practices of contemporary music ensembles as well as a search for an effective model of activity that would match our artistic visions and the local context.

The discourse of compositional music, which directly shaped my identity as a performer, and my perception of the competences required for it, obtained through educational programmes and observation of the phenomena of the professional field, turned out to be problematic. I noticed a still prevalent focus on the study of the musical text, operating through canonised formats of transferring one’s knowledge and presenting musical works, which limited my perception of the boundaries of professional expression and the integration of my activities into an active artistic field. In the practice and analysis of music, I missed a broader approach to musical phenomena that would encompass perspectives on cultural policies and organisational models. All these problematic insights eventually led to artistic research and empirical experiments in artistic activity which could help me finding answers to questions about new and timely forms of pursuits of contemporary music performers and ensembles, the hierarchy of internal organisational activity, openness to interdisciplinary forms, and the establishment of a relationship with the audience.

The discourse of curatorship, which has been gaining particular weight in the visual arts for some time now, proved to be the most suitable for this research. Over the last few decades, the image of contemporary visual arts has become very attractive to the general public, engaging them in a performative game of permanent cultural transformation. I believe that it is precisely the discourse of curatorship and the curators who have been established in the art field for decades and who are able to create alternative structures of presenting art that have been the reason for the increasing visibility of visual arts. New research and evolving artistic practices are significantly changing not only the presentation of art, but also its interpretation, creation, and the encounter with the art experiencer. The depth and influence of the field of art studies on artistic practices has emerged as a very positive example of a related discipline, the application of which opens up an oportunity of renewing the field of music.

In the present artistic research, parallels between the development, social meanings, traditions, and contemporary practices of the main art events – exhibitions in visual arts and concerts in music – have been drawn through the work of curators, art historians, and researchers in the field of music. It became clear that the practices of concerts and exhibitions that have been developing parallely for a long period of time have changed their trajectories considerably in the twentieth century, and this is presently reflected in the expression of each of them.

The novelty and relevance of the topic. In music, the professional model of a curator emerges fragmentarily and is usually associated exclusively with contemporary music activities. Most often, individuals introduce themselves as curators in the absence of clearly comprehensible integral curatorial discourse. However, in recent years there has been a marked change in the field: discussions, symposia, and research programmes on the integration of curatorship into music have become increasingly active. All this signals a growing need to borrow successful practices from the visual arts and, in parallel, to develop original, music-specific strategies.

Although several music professionals in Lithuania, working along different trajectories, call themselves curators, there are not many academic papers or articles dealing with curatorial activities: solutions, their content, or impact on culture. Without sufficient attention to reviewing the selection criteria and the preparation and presentation of concerts, the shaping of musical events is inert. The hypothesis of this research paper is that music practices in the contemporary world can benefit substantially from curatorial approaches and strategies.

The aim of the present artistic research is to analyse the existing discourses of curatorship and to reveal the curatorial strategies that can help to actualise the continuation of the Western musical tradition in contemporaneity; to shape them in practice and to apply them to the activities of Vilnius Contemporary Music Ensemble Synaesthesis.

The objectives of the research:

1. To investigate the characteristics of contemporaneity that influence the narratives of contemporary art as well as creative and mediation formats.

2. To examine the evolution of the term of curatorship in the context of visual arts, institutional changes in curatorial practices, and current trends in curatorship.

3. To discuss the evolution of the concert as a major musical event and its implications for compositional music practices.

4. To highlight the fragmentation between the canonisation of knowledge and new paradigms-based practices in the field of compositional music and to discuss the potential for integration of curatorial practices in the field of instrumental music.

5. To detect and highlight the traces of curatorial practices in the field of Lithuanian contemporary music since 1990; to analyse the most striking examples of the formation of musical phenomena.

6. To present the shaped curatorial strategy when developing a model of musical event formation.

7. In the presentation of the curated projects of the Synaesthesis Ensemble, to reveal the motivation, conceptions, and practical tasks required for the development of each project.

Review of literature and sources. The literature and sources employed in the research can be divided into several main groups. The first group consists of works in cultural studies and those by art historians, musicologists, and music critics which deal with the conditions and significance of art presentations. The second group of sources includes websites of ensembles, composers, and festivals, concert descriptions, and programme archives. The last group of sources is the material that forms the empirical part of the research: personal correspondence with festival organisers, curators, artists and performers, project descriptions, scores and liner notes of compositions as well as important video and audio material representing the content of the curated projects.

The structure of the paper. The present artistic research paper consists of an introduction, four chapters, conclusions, a list of references and sources, and appendices. The first part of the thesis examines the discourse of curatorship in visual arts and its changes in the institutional perspective. The second part investigates the evolution of the main format of music presentation – the concert – and its links with the visual arts as well as the potential of integrating a curatorial approach to the sphere of compositional music. The third part is devoted to the analysis of curatorial activities in Lithuania and a broader overview of the Lithuanian musical context. The last part of the research paper consists of an analysis of the activities of the Synaesthesis Ensemble from a curatorial perspective.


Over the last three decades, curatorial practices have proliferated not only in the visual but also in the performing arts, influencing trends in the presentation of artworks, cultural policies, and institutional structures. Curatorial discourse has become a tool to view art processes comprehensively and to re-contextualise them in a global performative and politically engaged contemporaneity. The very term “curating became synonymous with innovative forms, interdisciplinary collaboration, criticism of institutional structures, and particularly with conscious work; moreover, it is also used in various academic discourses such as critical theory, gender studies, post-structuralism, and post-colonialism,” thus denoting the need felt in the field of art to move away from the exclusively intrinsic qualities of artworks and to concentrate on artistic events. In this chapter, I discuss the conditions of the contemporary art field and their relation to curatorial practices and present the motivations for their application in the field of compositional music.

  1. Contemporaneity as a definition of the present of art

In the art researcher community, the year 1989 is often highlighted as the starting point for geopolitically significant events: the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, the Tiananmen Square protests, and the beginning of the processes that ended apartheid in South Africa. All of these events led to a redistribution of the world's power centres. The changes were further accentuated by the rapid integration of technological innovations into people's lives in the two last decades of the twentieth century, which considerably redefined the parameters of time and space, metaphorically expanding them and physically bringing them closer together. The free market, which increasingly influences all socio-cultural spheres, has economically connected the world: together with people gaining more and more time and purchasing power, it has created an art industry never seen before. Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the term "contemporaneity" has been used in the field of art studies to describe and bring together the artistic processes of the last 30 years under one category. In the context of this artistic research, the relationship between the contemporaneity and the curatorial discourse becomes fundamental, as the aim is to grasp the specificity of contemporary artistic processes, to reflect on it in the field of compositional music, and to choose appropriate strategies of action.

  1. The development of curatorship in visual arts

Drawing on Fomina, the research paper presents three distinct professional shifts in curatorship that have reflected the changing needs of the art field and the influences of critical thought: curator in an institution, independent curator, and curatorship in the expanded field.

In the context of contemporaneity, disciplines that are less and less restricted are in constant collision in both theory and practice, and are therefore caught up in an ever-expanding curatorial horizons. A vibrant, expanded, and relevant curatorial discourse is thus becoming increasingly pertinent for artists and researchers from different disciplines. The integration of curatorial discourse into compositional music practices has become the main focus of this artistic research.


The contemporaneity and the stages of the development of curatorship in visual arts, discussed in the first subsections of the thesis, become the basis for a fresh look at the field of compositional music. The research avoids the obvious divide between eras (between contemporary and classical music) and tries to view the concert and other formats of music presentation in an integrated way as well as to choose examples in accordance with the logic of the research, without separating them through artificial categories. I would like to emphasise the term of 'compositional music', which has been used in the development of this artistic research, because it helps to delineate the nature of composed and notated music with common origins, but at the same time is independent of any particular period, genre, or aesthetic definition.

2.1. The evolution and contexts of the concert format

While in the visual arts the main format for presenting art is the exposition, in music it is the concert. The themes in this subsection shed light on the development and contexts of the concert: the phenomenon of listening in silence (Schulze), the birth of 'autonomous music as an art form' (Ungeheur), the sociality of music and its links to the listener's sense of identity (Tröndle), and the development of behavioural etiquette (Vogels). The traditions as well as social and representational aspects that have been established over the centuries are discussed, allowing for the evaluation of its impact on the field of compositional music as a whole.

2.2. Fragmentation of the music field

In the context of contemporaneity, the fragmentation of compositional music has become apparent, with one part of participants in the field of music concentrating on practices and formats based on the canon and canonised knowledge. The other part of them form their ideology of action through the perspective of the changed paradigms of music in the twentieth century: they concentrate on the constant search for innovation, experimentation with media, conceptual art, radical forms of perception of sound, and performance practices. A certain ideological opposition emerges, which prevents a constructive relationship between tradition and innovation, the development of creatively flexible narratives and presentation formats, and thus the maintenance of the relevance of compositional music.

2.2.1. Canonised knowledge

Despite the changes of expression in compositional music over the last century, the most important educational institutions and concert halls are still shaping the main narrative through the dissemination and consolidation of canonical music. The ideological divide in compositional music between the creative/presentational trends of the new paradigms and the canonised knowledge/activity strategies is becoming increasingly distinct. The need to create a coherent, viable, and constructive discourse is emphasised.

2.2.2. Paradigmatic shifts in musical expression

In terms of paradigmatic changes in the expression of compositional music, I would highlight the influence of technology. The main event that led to major turning points was the ability to record the sound of music. This was a radical change in the previously very clear structure of music writing, performance, and listening. It also changed the relationship with the audience: recorded music became part of a way of life, and its accessibility changed its place in socio-cultural life, which profoundly altered the whole system of music production and listening.

2.3. Curatorial practices as a new strategy for action

The flexibility of visual art and the ability to shape relevant content through curatorial practices has proved attractive to artists and researchers engaged in the field of music over the last decade. Theoretical and practical experience of other disciplines is analysed and used as a basis for the development of new strategies that can help to optimise compositional practices and to actualise the long tradition of Western music today.

2.3.1. Forms of the professional model

Curators working in music have a wide range of activities: they often fill in the missing links in creating presentations, in programming, in original projects, or in alternative education. This means rethinking the boundaries of the competences of music professionals, developing internal models of organisational activities, and adapting to interdisciplinary dialogue. It is about a kind of commitment, with a curatorial perspective taking responsibility for the content formation and the tools chosen for it. There are no clear and refined methods to address these issues. Experiments, discussions, and research are needed to enable a qualitative contextualisation of compositional music in contemporaneity.

2.3.2. Motives for the integration of curatorial practices

A creative approach to curatorship in compositional music is developing slowly but intensively. Contemporary music festivals and ensembles in Western Europe and the USA are leading the way in this area. In a sense, they are an alternative to major institutions, their hierarchies, and the formats of music presentation. Their presentations and programmes constantly emphasise alternativeness and a different internal hierarchy in voicing the opposition of innovation and canonisation. The curatorial discourse provides an opportunity to bring compositional music into a complex field in compliance with contemporaneity. Organisations and individuals actively engaged in the field continuously emphasise the problems of hegemonised narratives and practices and, as a way of opposing this, they develop new theoretical approaches and practical expressions.


A specific situation of Lithuania at the beginning of Independence reflected a phase of change in the field of art, which was directly related to the changed social order of the country and the developing socio-political relations with other countries and regions. The development of compositional music in the past thirty years is discussed in more detail, overviewing the changes in the cultural policy and the contexts of music presentations at festivals and in the general national cultural panorama. I chose to focus on the examples of activity of two personalities who were able to act creatively under the above-mentioned conditions ‒ Šarūnas Nakas and Ana Ablamonova ‒ in which I see original elements of a curatorial approach.

3.1. Curatorial components of Šarūnas Nakas' activities

Although Nakas is a composer by training, he extended his activities by connecting his knowledge of composition to other artistic contexts. Although all his activities are related to the field of music, his creative output in terms of form is hybrid and functions as an example of alternative narratives and formats. Nakas' activities can be compared to curatorial ones: by stepping back from the inertia of the music field formats, he rethinks them in the context of contemporaneity.

3.1.1. Curatorial characteristics of the programme presented at the 1996 Gaida Festival

The programme put together by Nakas was an original example of curatorial trends and demonstrated how they can be integrated into a musical context.

3.1.2. Exhibition Juzeliūnas' Office: Modernising Lithuanianness

The exposition curated by Nakas and co-curated by Dainius Liškevičius, Rimas Sakalauskas, and Liudas Parulskis was presented in November 2016; its format, described as "an exhibition of artistic and scientific research", opened up an interesting alternative to the creation of the portrait of an artist specifically through the format of the exposition. I consider the exposition to be one of the most interesting examples of curatorship in the field of music in Lithuania.

3.2. Operomania and Anna Ablamonova's production style

Producer Ana Ablamonova, Director of Operomania, has managed to create a distinct organisational phenomenon in Lithuania, enabling the diversity of formats and alternatives of creative expression. The production company, sensitive to the inner dynamics of each creator or creative team, provides the most appropriate conditions for interdisciplinary imaginative expression and thus enables the narratives of contemporaneity.

3.2.1. Challenges to critique in the analysis of Operomania projects

The interdisciplinarity and unconventional expression of the works produced by Operomania and the challenges they pose to their evaluation have been analysed. The subchapter also overviews Ablamonova's efforts to trigger music criticism through tailored formats and her attention to the choice of sub-genre definition for each work.

3.2.2. The change in the NOA Festival from 2008 to 2018

The change in the NOA Festival over the decade has been discussed: its development from a community initiative to a focused event based on Ablamonova's producorial vision.

3.3. Lithuanian contemporary music ensembles

The situation of contemporary music ensembles in Lithuania has not changed much since the restoration of Independence: they are the efforts of the non-governmental sector, mostly sustained by the enthusiasm of individuals or by the energy of music ensembles or individuals that emerge organically at certain times. An analysis of the trajectories of ensembles in Lithuania reveals a mismatch between vision and resources, and, going back a step further, the persistent structural problems of cultural policy. Given the harsh cultural conditions, a dual task becomes clear: to look creatively at the cultural milieu and ways of operating and to reflect on strategies of enabling institutional cooperation and a smooth relationship between traditions and innovation of compositional music.


Chapter 4 of the artistic research paper is a case study. It is based on the question that motivates my work: "How can compositional music practices be actualised in contemporaneity?" The answer is revealed in my creative initiatives and chosen experimental formats when acting as artistic director and pianist of the Synaesthesis Ensemble.

4.1. The components of curating a music event: form, place, and context

Given the interdisciplinary, performative, and sensitive to any critical contexts state of contemporaneity, a need arises to broaden our approach to the spaces of music presentation, contexts of programmes, and possible formats. This is the purpose of the expanded scheme of music event formation, which I am presenting in order to reveal my curatorial approach to the main elements of event formation: the format, space, and context of the event, which are directly related to the constantly pondered issue of the potential of compositional music expression in contemporaneity.

4.2. Curated projects of the Synaesthesis Ensemble

The aim of this subsection is to reveal how I use the categories of form, place, and context, presented in Subsection 4.1, to curate projects for different instrumental ensembles. In relation to the projects I have carried out, I: define the content of the programme and the logic behind the choice of its constituent elements; present the processes of development of the project; discuss performance perspectives; and identify strategies for presenting it to an audience.

The chapter presents the analyses of the following artistic projects: Piano Hero (2018), Nymphology (2020), In the Forest. Sound Ecology (2020), ZELLVERHALL (2020), Flaneur (2021), Sonic Fiction (2021), Zone of Hades (2021), Dark Times. Starting Point (2022), The Urban Tale of a Hippo (2022).

The projects are divided into two sub-groups:

- Programme dramaturgy. The curatorial tasks are based on the development of the programme conceptions and the dramaturgically impactful arrangement of compositions. The focus is on the integrity of the programme and its representational aspects. The musical text and its performance remain essential, which consolidates and continues the tradition of listening in silence.

- Interdisciplinary projects. Created in collaboration with artists from other fields, music and its performance become an equal element of the stage action. At the same time, alternative ways of acting in the field of compositional music open up.

The programmes curated in those different sub-groups are presented chronologically. This reflects my (still ongoing) professional transformation, which leads to a greater attention to the representational, spatial, and contextual elements of presentations.

4.2.1. Formation of the dramaturgy of the programme

The sub-section deals with the projects where the main curatorial task was the selection/commissioning of musical compositions and the formation of the dramaturgy of their presentation. From a curatorial perspective, the decisions for programme development go beyond the evaluation and arrangement of the internal qualities of the compositions (genre, time period, dynamics, tempo, and internal dramaturgy). In individual cases, aesthetic lines, conceptual ideas, logistical nuances, and representational contexts have been addressed.

The titles of further subsections reflect the curatorial motivation of each project presented: Piano Hero. Reflection on the recital genre in a concert form. Nymphology. The representational aspect of female creators in curatorial practice. In the Forest. Sound Ecology. Contextualising collaboration with festivals. Flaneur. Providing a sonic meaning to the archetypal urban nomad. Dark Times. Point One [6/14, 9/11, 2/24]. Connecting dark historical perspectives through musical narratives.

4.2.2. Interdisciplinary projects

In this subsection, I discuss interdisciplinary projects, the main characteristic of which is co-creation with artists, curators, and producers from other areas. This implies a different dynamics of the project development and the range of tasks. The function of music curator is based on the contextualisation of compositional music practices and the development of working formats or practical application, however, it is part of teamwork. When observing trends in the visual and performing arts, the relevance of hybrid forms of presentation becomes apparent, revealing the potential for a multisensory experience. In the project development, attention is paid to: the pertinence of the musical material, the means of expression, the creative team, and the collaborating organisations.

The titles of further subsections reflect the curatorial motivation of each project presented: ZELLVERHALL. Connecting spatial and sonic experience in a site-specific composition. Sonic Fiction. Performative expression of performers on stage. Zone of Hades. Dimensions of light and darkness revealed in a musical experience. The Urban Tale of a Hippo. Instrumental expression in an experiential field of action.


  1. The specificity of contemporary art has been examined; researchers agree that the year 1989 marked the beginning of a qualitatively new phase in the arts, which is often denoted by the term of contemporaneity. The fall of the Berlin Wall is symbolically perceived as the point at which geographical and ideological boundaries were blurred, and technology invaded all spheres of people's lives, fundamentally altering the processes of the artistic field, its visibility and expression. For those who shape artistic phenomena, an opportunity opened up to develop additional competences that would reflect the new reality of art, enable the formation of meaningful content that matches the new reality, and create timely models of action and presentation. In the perspective of such an opportunity, curators emerge, capable of changing the image of visual arts, creating a critical institutional space for self-reflection, and rethinking the internal logic of artistic structures.

  2. The evolution of the professional model of curator has been discussed, which coincides with the establishment of museums and reflects the need of the time period to educate the emerging bourgeoisie. Afterwards, the position of the curator in visual art institutions changes, adapting to the needs and trends of the art field. Critical of the inertia of the art field and the relevance of canonical narratives, curators leave institutions, become independent, and significantly change the status of curator as a shaper of an artistic phenomenon, bringing it closer to the (co)creator. The fragmentation of the art field and the opening up of the global art market encouraged curators to apply expanded curatorial practices that reflected the needs of the new phase of art: a new notional space was created, where process was important for the outcome, while at the same time an inclination toward realisation of artistic research and experimental forms emerged.

3. Motivation and expression of the integration of curatorial practices into the field of compositional music has been presented. The curatorial discourse in the field of music is rapidly taking shape and increasingly influencing institutional activities and programme choices as well as making sense of alternative models of practice and encouraging a rethinking of the directions of compositional music. Perhaps most important is the exploration of the concert as a format for presenting music. Efforts are made to understand its origins, socio-cultural significance, and possible directions for further development. At the same time, the trajectories of the performers' activities and the additional competences required by them are unfolding. Alongside the implementation of the text and the replication of canonical narratives, curatorship in music calls for attention to the social, political, and organisational aspects of the presentation of music as well as for the 'demystification' of institutions, revealing the criteria for choice and the motives behind internal processes.

4. A generalised change implied by the curatorial discourse is an expanded approach to music interpretation. Both musical text and its performance are understood as integral parts of the formation of interpretation, which are contextualised and help to encompass all elements of a musical event. The spatial and contextual segments in the formation of interpretation are seen as the starting points, and the choice of these segments in an individual case presupposes the corresponding design elements of the artistic event.

5. The contexts of Lithuanian compositional music have been reviewed, the activities of individual personalities close to curating have been highlighted, and original trajectories of individual and organisational activities have been presented. Strategies that create a viable and contemporary content have been identified. The perspectives of ensemble action have been overviewed, highlighting the aspect of local contextuality. Although artists are active in a global artistic field, their expression, resources, and dissemination possibilities are directly linked to the cultural policies and traditions of the country of residence.

6. An expanded scheme of musical event formation has been developed, which goes beyond the basic combination of compositional music: concert hall | dramaturgy of musical content | concert; instead, supporting categories have been proposed, which allow the content of compositional music to be imagined in a wider context. The contextuality of the space as well as the most important thematic trends in the art field and the choice of an appropriate format have been made sense of. This scheme is not finite categorisation, but rather an initial suggestion of broadening the approach to the elements of a musical event and the limits of the expression of compositional music.

7. Through the curated projects of the Synaesthesis Ensemble, examples of the integration of curatorship into music are presented. Divided into two sub-groups, programme dramaturgy and interdisciplinary projects, they reflect the most prominent trends that have emerged in the curatorial practice. They reveal the motivations behind the development of the projects and the logic behind the choice of creators, contexts, spaces, or communication as well as the challenges encountered and the aspects of curating projects that deserve self-criticism. The chronological presentation of the programmes opens up a picture of the formation of a curatorial identity that can take different forms.

To summarise, I see the relevance and importance of integrating the curatorial discourse into the field of composed music in order to create a quality link between tradition and innovation. In this dissertation, important curatorial themes contextualised in the field of music have been grasped.