Biography and Publications

Biography

Cristine MacKie, AGSM, M.Mus is a musicologist and pianist.  She has taught piano performance, and coached chamber groups at Royal Holloway, University of London for thirty years; designed courses at Morley College, London to prepare latecomers- in all aspects of music – for the world of performance; given recitals  and broadcast on both radio and television in the UK, Austria and beyond, as well  as giving  concerts and master classes throughout the West Indies sponsored by the British Council. In 2011 Cristine founded and continues to direct the London International Piano Symposium, which is hosted every two years at the Royal College of Music in association with Steinway Hall. Its aim being to expand the frontiers of knowledge in the field of piano performance, by exploring the interface between scientific research and skilled artistry.   Her interdisciplinary approach was demonstrated in 2012 in a collaboration with the Royal Ballet to produce a study on Clair de lune by Debussy, which was later premiered at Covent Garden. She has given illustrated lectures on this subject at the Royal College of Music and at the ‘Year of the Piano’ lecture series hosted by Royal Holloway, University of London in association with Steinway & Sons, UK Ltd. She is also founder and president of the Association L’Art du Piano in South West France.

However, Cristine’s over-arching objective  is to be found in her  life-long work which advocates an ‘embodied’ approach to piano teaching and performing.  This is acknowledged by the magazine the Music Teacher (April 2014) who describes Cristine as the UK’s ‘leading advocate of the mind/ body  approach to piano teaching and performing’.  Her invaluable contribution on this neglected issue of ‘embodiment’ is unprecedented, and is reflected in burgeoning research, establishing of organizations, and publishing of books and academic papers all of which lay the foundation for a clearer understanding of what piano performance really entails. For example, since the establishment the London International Piano Symposium   (2011) – to which distinguished performers and academics from China to Australia, Brazil to the USA and Canada, Scandanvia to the Baltic States and the UK, have all contributed their research – two books have been published, compiled and edited by Cristine: New Thoughts on Piano Performance (2018), and Rethinking Piano Performance: The Embodied Mind (2020). Further to these achievements Cristine has contributed numerous theoretical papers on this topic, which are published in the Proceedings of the International Symposium on Performance Science between 2007-2017 (see below).

The First Global Piano Forum

Also, as part of the symposium the first global piano forum was held at the Royal Academy of Music in 2018 – www.londoninternationalpianosymposium.co.uk.  The discussion revealed that the thinking by piano teachers in higher education institutions globally, remains firmly entrenched in that part of nineteenth century Western philosophy, which separates the performer’s mind – and its ability to reason – from perception and bodily movement. This, despite recent research provided by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio (2012) amongst others who, using brain-mapping technological tools such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) have overturned the concept of duality This supports Cristine’s own view that, in piano performance, musical concepts are not just a process of the mind, but are shaped also by the pianist’s body – crucially, by the somatosensory system.

The findings of the forum are being collected in a paper entitled ‘Factors Contributing to a Healthier Teacher/Student Relationship Within One-to-One Piano Tuition in Higher Music Education’,  and is to be published  shortly. It is a collaboration between the Prof. Helen Pote, Psychology Dep’t at Royal Holloway, University of London and Cristine MacKie, Director of the London International Piano Symposium.

The paper discusses research which shows that supervised mentorship in therapeutic relationships is beneficial (Owen & Hilsenroth, 2014) , and that within the discipline of psychotherapy, a platform is provided for the therapist to talk about their problems, which helps the therapist to feel less isolated (Rogers, Pilgrim & Lacey, 1993).  On this basis we propose that a system of structured supervision which addresses the health of the one-to-one teacher/student relationship would be invaluable if applied to future practice procedures within higher music education. This would not only support the wellbeing of the piano teacher, but also help to develop their confidence and commitment to teaching (Russell & Haston, 2015). It would also positively affect student outcomes.

Also, based on the findings of the forum, Cristine  suggests that evidence-based interventions concerning the issue of ‘embodiment’ are introduced into the curricula at institutes of higher education, since, it cannot be stressed enough that ‘embodiment’ is not only a crucial part of how our musical minds and our bodies function in the physical environment of the piano, but may also be key in contributing to the health and wellbeing of the teacher during their professional life

More Publications

In 2007, with a staff development grant from Royal Holloway (RHUL), University of London, Cristine presented a paper: ‘Science Meets Art: The Role of the Body in Shaping the Music’, at the first International Symposium on Performance Science (ISPS) in Oporto, Portugal; subsequently published in the Proceedings on the International Symposium on Performance Science, European Association of Conservatoires (AEC), eds, Aaron Williamon & Daniela Coimbra. In 2009, Cristine presented: ‘Enhancing the Memory in Piano Performance: A Mind/Body Approach’, at The Musical Body: Gesture, Representation and Ergonomics in Musical Performance, Senate House, University of London and Royal College of Music, 22-24 April. Also, in 2009, with an award from Music & Letters and Staff Development at RHUL, Cristine presented a paper on human movement systems at the ISPS in Auckland. This was also published in the Proceedings on the International Symposium on Performance Science, as were a further two papers, which were presented at the ISPS in Toronto 2011, which addressed the role of the torso in memorizing music, and the function of the ‘reach to grasp’; and also, a paper on the effect of mirror neurons on piano performance in Vienna 2015.  In 2017, she presented a paper at the ISPS in Rekyavik on ‘Time as Process – or the Pacing of Motion – and its Demarcation Rubato: A means to “Shaping” Ondine by Debussy’.  See: Abstracts of the Proceedings on the International Symposium eds, Arron Williamon & Pétur Jónasson 2017.  ‘Factors Contributing to a Healthier Teacher/Student Relationship Within One-to-One Piano Tuition in Higher Music Education’ will be published in 2021.

Beyond the world of pianism, Cristine is acclaimed also by the academic food writer Alan Davidson in his Oxford Companion to Food (1995: Oxford University Press) as the definitive writer on the history of food in the English-speaking Caribbean. Her publications include Trade Winds (1986:UK, Absolute Press), and Life and Food in the Caribbean (1989: London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson).

 

For further details of the work of the London International Piano Symposium go to: www.londoninternationalpianosyposium.co.uk