Alexandra Huang-Kokina

Thesis title: Musical Performativity in Early Twentieth-Century Piano Novels

Background

Alexandra is a Ph.D. candidate in comparative and English literature with a specialism in word and music studies. Her Ph.D. is funded by the scholarship of Taiwan's Ministry of Education. Her doctoral thesis concerns the depiction of musical performance by women pianists in the novels at the dawn of the 20th century, focusing primarily on English-language fiction with supplementary European narrative. To better understand this chosen topic, this thesis puts together the theoretical approaches of performativity and word and music studies to examine the manifestation of female pianism in a new performative tradition. This thesis argues that the “piano novels” enact the lively construction of music as and in textual performance, enabling musicality to be remediated in the verbal medium and re-experienced as the visceral or cerebral engagement with words. Her interdisciplinary enquiry brings together three scholarly fields: comparative literary studies; historical and new musicology; and performance studies. It aims to shed new light on the mutually forging power between music performance and literary narrative, uncovering the tacit interplay between performerly artistry and writerly craft in the novels by Virginia Woolf, Thomas Mann, and E. M. Forster.

Besides research activities, Alexandra is dedicated to solo piano performances and a range of creative collaborations with practicing musicians and artists. 

Qualifications

  • University of Edinburgh - Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) – English & Comparative Literatures (in progress)
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - Master of Arts - Piano Performance
  • University of Edinburgh - Master of Science - English Literature in Modernity 
  • National Taiwan University - Bachelor of Arts, Foreign Languages and Literatures 

Responsibilities & affiliations

Alexandra currently works for the Strategy Change Team of the university's 'Curriculum Transformation Programme' and the Department of English Literature . 

Undergraduate teaching

I teach the undergraduate course 'Literary Studies 1B' in the Department of English Literature in semester 2, 2021/22. 

Research summary

  • Word and music studies
  • Performance theories, primarily the intellectual theories of performativity
  • World literature in Modernism and post-modernism, primarily prose writing (narrative fiction & non-fiction)
  • Historical and interdisciplinary musicology 
  • Romantic opera; female operatic singing; the aesthetics of Lieder
  • Narrative discourse on virtuosity, absolute music and the transcendental 
  • The cultural history of instrumental music performance

Project activity

'Enhancing International PG Student Experience at History, Classics & Archaeology'.

School of History, Classics & Archaeology. University of Edinburgh, Sep 2021 - Jan 2022. (as Research Assistant) 

Alexandra Huang works with Dr Wendy Ugolini (Principal Investigator) to run the five-month PTAS (Principal Teaching Award Scheme) Project. Her primary tasks include:

  1. Designing and coordinating fieldwork, interviews, and workshops targeted at postgraduate international students from culturally diverse backgrounds
  2. Assessing the Graduate School’s strategy and identifying relevant approaches to provide academic and pastoral support for overseas PG students
  3. Authoring the project report to share best practices with the Graduate School, College and University 
  4.  Presenting project overview and research findings at the internal staff meetings (e.g., School Forum; Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee) & communicating research with the Centre for Research in Education Inclusion and Diversity (CREID)

She has also launched the blog site, where you can see more information about this project: https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/enhancing-international-student-experience/

 

'Beyond-tune Traditional Music in Scotland'.

School of Scottish & Celtic Studies. University of Edinburgh, July - Sep 2021. (as Research Assistant) 

Alexandra Huang contributes to Phase I of a pilot study project in the development and contextualisation of a database centred on experimental music compositions by traditional musicians in Scotland, with Dr Lori Watson (Principal Investigator). Building on methodologies frequently used in ethnomusicology and artistic practice as research, Alexandra primarily worked on these specific tasks: literature search and analysis, the identification of key themes and the state of the art in recent scholarship development, the refinement plan for the qualitative survey, and the analysis of survey findings. The project website can be seen here:  https://tradmus.com/

 

'Ode to Autumn – Revisiting Frédéric Chopin in Scotland in Autumn 1848'.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 2020. 

The project is a fully edited film. Seen through the mind's eye of Jane Stirling, the film presents a story about the brilliant composer Frédéric Chopin visiting Scotland in autumn 1848. It incorporates recorded piano performances of Chopin's music and a cinematic representation of Chopin's journey through Scotland. All creative content is performed, written, recorded, directed, filmed by Alexandra. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxKPblEpylY&t=1s)

Papers delivered

  • 'Pianistic Singing as Hopeful Female Voice in Early Twentieth-Century Novels'. Hopeful Modernisms: British Association for Modernist Studies 2022 Conference, University of Bristol, June 2022. 

  • 'The Ethics of Wagnerian Death in Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out and Jacob's Room'. The 2022 International Conference on Virginia Woolf, June 2022. 

  • 'Musical Performativity of the Piano Novels by Thomas Mann, E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf'. Northeast Modern Language Association's 53rd Annual Convention, Johns Hopkins University & The University of Buffalo, March 2022. 

  • 'The Pianistic Performance Ecosystem in the Novels by Virginia Woolf and Thomas Mann'. Words, Music and Environment Virtual Conference by the Forum at the International Association of Word and Music Studies, February 2022.

  • 'Musical Performativity of Piano Performance in Thomas Mann’s Tristan, E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View, and Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out'. Acoustic Text Symposium, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, October 2021. 
  • 'Inter-subjective Musical Connectivity: Virtuosic Piano-playing in Tristan, A Room with a View, and The Voyage Out'. 13th GradNet Annual Conference, University of Southampton, June 2021.
  • 'Reconfiguring the Positivity of Death Narratives in Virginia Woolf's Novelistic Writing'. English Literature Work-in-Progress Seminar, University of Edinburgh, January 2020. 
  • 'Happiness in Sweet Death: A Positive Reading of Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room and The Waves'. Happiness: Enlightenment to Present Conference, University of Cambridge, October 2019. 
  • 'Word and Music Studies: Surveying beyond Cultural and Aesthetic Fields'. Taiwanese Scholars in Scotland Symposium, Taiwanese Scholars Association in Scotland, May, 2019.
  • Huang-Kokina, Alexandra. “Touching through Music, Touching through Words: The Performance and Performativity of Pianistic Touch in Musical and Literary Settings”. Performance Research 27.2, Routledge Journals by Taylor & Francis Group, 2022. (Accepted) 

  • Huang-Kokina, Alexandra. "John Cage's Avant-garde Piano Theatre of the Early 1950s". The Modernist Review 40: Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance, June 2022. 

  • Huang-Kokina, Alexandra. “Intersubjective Musical Connectivity: From the Operatic Voice to Female Pianistic Singing in A Room With A View and The Voyage Out”. Emergence Vol. XII, Spring 2022, 19-39. 

  • “Sun Ra Arkestra: A Mythical Rebirth.” Inciting Sparks. 18 Sep. 2019. 

  • “Recomposing Caesuras: The Silent Creativity of Sounds in 'A Quiet Place' (2018 Film).” Inciting Sparks. 8 Aug. 2018. 

  • Piano Recital. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow/Online, May 2020. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRkiKNOv-2w&t=1s)
    • J.S. Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903 
    • F. Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 3 in B minor, Op. 58 
    • A. Ginastera: Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2
  • Three on a Thursday: St. Cecelia's Day Piano Recital. St. Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh, November 2018. 
    • G. Fauré: Nocturne in B Major, Op. 33 No.2
    • L. V. Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 23 in f minor, Op. 57, 'Appassionata'
  • Fundraising Piano Recital. St. Marks Unitarian Church, Edinburgh, November 2018. 
  • World Music Day Piano Recital. St. Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh, June 2018. 
  • 'The Musical Waves' Piano Recital. Wenshui Arts and Cultural Centre, Taipei, September 2017.
    • Gluck/Sgambati: Melodie from “Orfeo ed Euridice,” Wq. 30
    • F. Chopin: Piano Sonata No.3 in b-minor, Op. 58
  • 'Music Played Outdoors' Chamber Concert. Taipei Art Fringe Festival, Taipei, August, 2016. 
    • P. Tchaikovsky: Piano Trio in a-minor, Op. 50
  • 'Spiritual Time' Piano Recital. National Taiwan University, Taipei, December 2015. 
    • L. V. Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.30 in E Major, Op.109
    • L. V. Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.31 in A-flat Major, Op.110
    • J. S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, Prelude and Fugue No.4 in e-flat minor, BWV 853
    • F. Chopin: Polonaise No.5 in f-sharp minor, Op.44, “Tragic”
    • F. Chopin: Polonaise No.6 in A-flat Major, Op. 53, “Heroic”
    • F. Chopin: Polonaise-Fantasie in A-Flat Major, Op. 61
  • 'Winterreise' Piano Recital. YinQi Culture & Music Foundation, Taipei, December 2014. 
    • J. S. Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, Prelude and Fugue No.4 in c-sharp minor, BWV 849
    • L. V. Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.8 in c minor, Op.13, “Pathetique”
    • F. Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No.1 in d minor, Op. 49, Mvt. 1, 2
    • F. Chopin: Ballade No.3 in A-flat Major, Op. 47
    • F. Chopin: Ballade No.4 in f minor, Op.52