Finding a Niche

Finding a niche involves a lot of research and understanding your interests, reasons and methods for making work. There is no one way of developing a niche and practice, which depends largely on what you want to do and what you can do to survive as an artist.

Case Study: Chris Watson

What is your practice and how did it develop?

Neil Luck

"I’m primarily a composer, although I often perform my own and my colleagues' pieces, and I also produce live events. I think my practice is a research-based one, so pieces often develop over time, while I'm working closely with performers or other artists. In this sense, having pieces repeated in a fixed way doesn’t excite me much (although I’m not against it), I’d rather rework something, write something new, keep that dialogue with a performer moving.

At the moment, my pieces often start from a simple, conceptually clear starting point. I find it interesting then to overload that by adding more layers of references, allusions and shoe-horned afterthoughts, letting a more intuitive approach take over.

ARCO is a collection of like-minded composers and musicians interested in experimental approaches to live performance practice. We make bespoke performance events, each composer contributing material according to some kind of very loose brief. We rehearse these pieces, but then attempt to find ways of presenting them as a whole with some sort of (however convoluted) coherence. This often means rewriting, re-staging, overlapping with other material, introducing found materials, imposing overall narrative structures etc."

Neil Luck

Neil Luck lives and works in London. His practice stems from a background in classical composition, but embraces elements of visual art, performance and installation. His compositional practice focuses on various approaches to non-standard notations, in particular those that implicate either the composer’s own body/movement in construction, or directly engage with the physiology of performance techniques themselves. He studied composition at the University of Surrey and the Royal College of Music.

www.neilluck.com
www.squib-box.com

Helena Hunter

“My practice is movement and body based and addresses complex cultural issues relating to the politics of the body, the construction of gender, and the formation of desire. The work is research based and process led, employing independent studio-based research and dynamic collaboration. I utilise the body as text, site and sculptural tool in the production of live performance, performance for camera, film and photographic works.

As part of my practice I deliver lectures, artist talks, workshops, mentoring and professional development schemes for individuals, groups and institutions. In addition, I have worked as an educator and facilitator at Queen Mary, University London, the Laban Centre, London, the University of Leeds, and the University of Girona, Spain. I am an independent and predominantly self-produced artist and the majority of my work is self-funded, although I have received project support from organisations including Artsadmin, Arts Council England, Chelsea Theatre London, Live Art Development Agency and Queen Mary, University of London.  

It is helpful to think about artistic practice in a holistic sense. For me, making art is not just about making art; there are a wide range of elements that make up and inform my practice. The ideas and research are core to my work and my main concern is developing these ideas and keeping them fresh. But there are other forms of research that contribute to the development of my practice. For example, I need to know what venues, programmers, companies and organisations are out there, what they do and why. I also need to keep in touch and up to date with what is going on in the arts, and to see as much work as possible, to know what artists are currently making work, and how this may relate to my practice. I need to research funding options, to know about opportunities and organisations, to seek out commissions, residencies, and cheap studio space. This kind of research is hard work and it takes time and requires a lot of reading and searching; it is an ongoing process and feeds directly into the development and sustainability of my practice.”

Helena Hunter

Helena Hunter is a UK artist based in London. Her work has toured throughout the UK and Europe and she has delivered lectures, artist talks, workshops and professional development schemes nationally and internationally.

www.helenahunter.com

Raymond Yiu

“My interests were (and still are) very broad – everything ranging from plainchant to Cantopop; Eastern European folksong to heavy metal; Chinese operas to Broadway musicals. It is mainly to do with the way I listened to music when I was growing up in Hong Kong where no music strand dominates; there is no clearly defined musical heritage.

I learned composing by listening to loads of music, and reading the score at the same time when possible. I remembered what I liked and what I did not like, in terms of melody, harmony, ways of putting a piece together (or what not to do). Every time I started a new piece, I set myself a certain task to accomplish and I try to recall existing pieces dealing with similar issues. For example, when I set to write a wind quintet, I looked at wind quintets that did not sound French – Ligeti's Six Bagatelles and Ten Pieces, Birtwistle's Refrains And Choruses and Five Distances.

My work as a usability consultant came into play here – I was constantly looking at people's reaction to screen designs, usage of short-term and long-term memory when a user was interacting with a user interface. For me, these are more interesting approaches to music then learning to write a perfect fugue. I think I am more interested in the listeners' psychological reaction to what they hear and they way they process this information, than the information itself. I think from the onset, I do not approach music from the inside (ie. the actual notes), I think more like an architect – shape, size, volume, cultural connotation, the relationship between the music and its surrounding and its receivers.”

Raymond Yiu

Raymond Yiu (姚恩豪, b. 1973) is a composer, jazz pianist and conductor. Born in Hong Kong, he started piano lessons at the age of four and came to England in 1990. He began writing music as a teenager, and took up composing again while he was studying at Imperial College. He is the recipient of spnm 2003 George Butterworth Award, and is currently represented by the bmic's New Voices scheme.

www.raymondyiu.com

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