As a conductor, I engage with music in and through my hands as a bodily experience.

Not only does music have a tactile presence across the surface of my palms, the movements of my hands are the very means by which I shape, sculpt, and carve out its expressive possibilities to give it a dynamic presence as evolving sound. It is a sense of my hands as both moving and transformative that, while typically understood as a matter of interpretation, is driven first and foremost by a desire to reach beyond the given and grasp or literally take hold of that which I do not yet know. And, it is this sense of my hands that I carry into my writing as scholar.

Selected Artistic Works

The Pines of Emily Carr by Jean Coulthard

This CBC-TV performance-documentary explores how painter Emily Carr and composer Jean Coulthard transformed their embodied experience of place into artistic inspiration. As author of the film’s creative idea and its musical director, I was inspired by the interaction of sound and text (based on Carr’s words) in the composition of Coulthard’s which I conduct. The making of the film pushed me to explore my own experience of music as a sounding world through the play between sound and eye. Cinematic effects used in production introduced me to the rich potential of film as a research tool for “writing performance.”

CBC-TV, Opening Night, February 4, 2005; showcased by CBC at the Governor General Performing Arts Awards, 2006. (Footage courtesy of Les Films de l’Isle).

“Beautifully performed” —Starweek, Feb. 2005

“Stark and stirring” —Toronto, Globe and Mail, Feb. 2005

“The poster child for the pure art side of the Festival” —Montreal, Globe and Mail, Mar. 2005

Living Gestures by Eleanor Stubley

This multimedia concert production continued my exploration of music as a sounding world by probing the interconnections between different artistic representations of place in nordic choral music, in paintings, my own conducting gestures, and the movements of a dancer as she responded to the evolution of the music in the performance space. This performance was the first of three that unfolded over a five-year history stretching from Montreal to Finland, and was the outgrowth of an internationally funded artist-research project.

  • Eleanor Stubley, Artistic Director/Author/Producer
  • Chora Carmina
  • Jane Mappin, Dancer/Choreographer

Tanna Schulich Hall, McGill University, Oct. 28, 2007.
(Musical Excerpt from Nancy Telfer’s Sanctus, Missa Brevis. Courtesy of Nancy Telfer and Leslie Music)

“Eleanor Stubley felt the music with every cell of her body. Her conducting was both sensitive and powerful, driving forward.”
—Kaija Huida, translation Marjii-Liisa Lehoten

“The choir’s experience of place, in image, sound, and movement made the connections felt and touched the audience with unbelievable power.”
–Katja Valmumunen, translation Marjii-Liisa Lehoten

A’int No Grave by Caldwell and Ivory

The melody of this composition was inspired by the hand gestures of sign language. The collaboration forged between conductor and interpreter in this performance has subsequently inspired me in my new research project, “Moving Hands,” to use the interpreter’s experience of words unfolding in time and space as an important lens through which to understand the embodied and transforming thought of my own conducting hands as they shape and sculpt sound; our interactions have led me to renew traditional concepts through which we approach words in music to embrace a concept of language as being in motion.

  • Eleanor Stubley, Music Director
  • Yellow Door Choir
  • Julie Tee, Interpreter for the Deaf

(Video Excerpt Courtesy of Julie Tee and the Yellow Door Choir)