Steve Tromans - Songs of Love and Hate

by Steve Tromans

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Songs: of Love, of Hate: Abjection in Practice-as-Research in Music Experience (An explanatory note)

This album project is an artistic experiment; it is an experiment in artistic research. Songs: of Love, of Hate is a collection of solo piano pieces together with a series of messages printed in these sleeve notes (note: neither are sung, vocally, in the recording). The ‘songs’ explore a notion of abjection with regard to our experiences of what we read (in written text) in relation to what we hear (in musical sound). As theorised by Kristeva, the abject is that which “does not respect borders, positions, rules”, disturbing our sense of stability, and of discrete categories (1982: 4). I argue that my album, as a practice-as-research enquiry, operates in theoretical terms, undertaking both a performative experiment in abjective encounter, and a ‘multimodal’ approach to the concept of abjection involving the interrelation of musical and written registers of research presentation.

The ‘of love’ pieces are a series of instrumental pieces for piano, each composed at moments in my life when I was experiencing emotions of love. Each was composed independently of the ‘of hate’ messages they are brought into relation with on the album. The ‘of hate’ texts, for their part, were written from the position of the struggling artist, reflecting emotions of, for example: selfishness, self-destructiveness, bitterness, open hostility, and blasphemy.

Considered separately, each would appear to occupy opposite poles, with regard to sentiment, in comparison with its ‘other’. However, in terms of the album’s practice-as-research trajectory, it is of paramount importance that the instrumentals are to be listened to in conjunction with a reading of the messages. The purpose of this sound-text interrelation is to enable an abjective process in the listener-reader, wherein the indicated emotions of ‘love’ and ‘hate’, in the two different modes of presentation, are experienced in the closest of proximities. The experiment, I argue, operates in performative terms – i.e., it performs something: it encourages the experiencing of emotions of (for instance) ‘tenderness’ and ‘disgust’ in repeated rapid alternation, where that experience would perform differently for each listener-reader. In this respect, I argue, my multimodal theorisation of the process of abjection is able to add something new to the concept: something beyond the level of the purely discursive; something enacted differently each time the album is related with by different listener-readers, or the same listener-reader at different times; a thing indefinitely suspended between the seemingly-distinct emotive poles of ‘love’ and ‘hate’; something personal and particular to each who experiences its performative experiment in practice-as- research.

Kristeva, Julia (1982) Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon Roudiez, New York: Columbia University Press.


released May 3, 2013

Steve Tromans: Piano/Composition



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Pinkhaus Records. Birmingham, UK

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