Date and location
from June 7, 2022 until June 8, 2022
Performing by the Book?Eventfrom June 7, 2022 until June 8, 2022
Artist-Researchers’ Negotiations Between Text and Act
The performance of composed music implies the transmutation of silent, symbolically coded prescriptions—‘scores’—into sounding matter. Although recent times have seen completions of unfinished compositions and even (re)constructions of lost (or non-existent) works, the practice of performing historical compositions is conditioned predominantly by the very availability of ‘texts.’ Today’s standards of musical interpretation furthermore demand that musicians internalize growing amounts of con-text-ual information, such as historical treatises and methods, in an ambition to inscribe individual artistry into a verifiable text-ure of scholarly allure and authoritativeness. The phenomena of Werktreue and HIP automatically spring to mind, but deliberate rejections and (re)assemblages of musical documents also testify to musicians’ desire to negotiate with textual artifacts.
Inaugurating the Ton Koopman collection of books and scores at the Orpheus Instituut, this colloquium invites artist-researchers to critically re-evaluate the relationship between their performance practice with texts of various kinds. In which ways are their performative acts and attitudes shaped and reshaped by textual sources? And where do they situate the limits of textual interpretation, both in terms of the limits of interpretation itself and the desirability to have it encroach upon autonomous artistic choices? Since this topic transcends the boundaries of the early modern period, the scope of this meeting is deliberately broad, seeking to offer case studies from the Middle Ages until the 20th century.
DAY 1 Tuesday 7 June 2022
09:30 – 10:00 Registration
10:00 – 10:30 Welcome addresses
- Peter Dejans (Orpheus Instituut, director)
- Bruno Forment (Orpheus Instituut) – Introduction to the Conference: Musical Texts and Contexts: A Stairway to Heaven or a Potential Minefield?
10:30 – 12:30 Session 1
- Niels Berentsen (Hauté école de musique de Genève) – Mind the Gap: Reimagining Incomplete Medieval Music
- Andrew Albin (Fordham University at Lincoln Center) – The Manuscript is an Instrument and We Must Play
- Björn Schmelzer (graindelavoix) – “Reading What Was Never Written”: Music Performance and Aby Warburg’s Gute Nachbarschaft of Non-Musical Exegetical Inspiration
13:30 – 15:00 Session 2
- Alice Sheu (Amsterdam) – Reading from the Italian Keyboard Partitura: Its Relation to Memoria and Performance Practice of Keyboard Music of the Time
- Jonathan Ayerst (University of Sheffield) – Pluralising the Musical Text: Improvising on Canonic Repertoire
16:00 – 18:00 Session 3
- Aleksandra Pister (Vilnius University) – Too Many Texts and Contexts? A Case Study of Biblical Sonatas by Johann Kuhnau
- Sanae Zanane (Orpheus Instituut/KULeuven) – Playing Time: An Embodied Reading of Beethoven
- Ton Koopman (Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir) – closing address
DAY 2 Wednesday 8 June 2022
10:30 – 12:30 Session 4
- Camilla Köhnken (Orpheus Instituut) – Teaching the Piano to Liszt – Building a Pedestal to Beethoven: Carl Czerny as Franz Lisztz’s Teacher
- László Stachó (Liszt Academy of Music) – Towards Source-Informed Performances of the (Late) Romantics
- Antonio Simón (Conservatorio Superior de Música de Málaga) – Building a Character: An Actorial Approach to the Performance of Liszt’s Music
13:30 – 15:15 Session 5
- Kate Wadsworth (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) – The Flexible Text: Official and Unofficial Versions of the Schumann Cello Concerto in the 19th Century
- Matthias Heyman (Vrije Universiteit Brussel/Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel) – Performing by the Record? Negotiating Text and Act with Duke Ellington
- Clare Lesser (NYU Abu Dhabi) – The Virgin Act: Mediating Supplement and Repetition in Performance
16:00 – 18:00 Session 6
- Nir Cohen-Shalit (New York University) – The Romantic Conductor Scholar: What I Learned from the Archives
- Xiangning Lin (Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore) – Relocating Ravel’s “Sad Birds” in Alternative Forests of Place and Time
- George Kennaway (University of Huddersfield) – My Texts, Urtexts, Everyone’s Texts
18:00 – 18:30 Closing remarks
The colloquium is limited to 45 participants. Registration is required via this link: https://airtable.com/shr94RuBAKrqBviYT
You will be notified upon acceptance.
Registration fee: € 50 (incl. lunches and coffee breaks) / € 25 (students, incl. PhD students) / € 0 (docARTES students and Orpheus related researchers)
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The conference will be streamed live on our YouTube channel.
Presenters’ biographies and abstracts
(in alphabetic order)
ANDREW ALBIN is associate professor of English and medieval studies at Fordham University. His scholarship in the field of historical sound studies examines embodied listening practices, sound’s meaningful contexts, and the lived aural experiences of historical hearers—in a word, the sonorous past—as an object of critical inquiry. He is author of Richard Rolle’s Melody of Love: A Study and Translation with Manuscript and Musical Contexts (PIMS, 2018). He is presently at work on a monograph developing theoretical frameworks and methodological tools for encountering the medieval manuscript as an interactive sonorous instrument. His work has been recognized with grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Medieval Academy of America, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music.
“The Manuscript is an Instrument and We Must Play”
In this presentation, I reframe our modern scholarly relationship to the medieval manuscript in performative and affective terms by reimagining that manuscript as a sounding instrument designed for interactive play. Drawing on carnal musicology, game theory, sound studies, and material philology, I describe a musicking process that folds us into playful fellowship with the historical makers, performers, and audiences proliferating around the sonorous manuscript. I then demonstrate that musicking process through multimedia investigations into two early 15th-century English manuscripts: Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 61, a presentation copy of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde containing a famous author-portrait frontispiece, and Lincoln College MS Latin 89, a workaday composite manuscript containing mystical theology and music notation. Each manuscript reveals itself to be a carefully crafted instrument requiring our active, embodied handling to activate its embedded sounding technology.
The medieval manuscript historically prompted and stood at the heart of numerous resoundings, public and private, murmured and clarion, accumulating in a series over time. In this light, my talk seeks to play with the idea of playing manuscripts: of handling them as instruments that demand specialized performance techniques to play them into sound; of treating them as sound technologies on which we may yet ‘press play’; and of approaching them more playfully, acknowledging them as actors that can elbow their vociferous way onto the scholarly stage, as objects that can invite us to learn the rules of an interactive, sonorous game drowned out by modern technologies of the book. Reconceiving our relationship to medieval manuscripts in this way revives historical medieval sounds such that they might bear their own, properly signifying and significant power, encountered in the materially present moment of a performance in which we ourselves participate.
JONATHAN AYERST is a professional musician and cognitive researcher. He is normally resident in Portugal where he works as principal pianist and organist with Remix Ensemble, Casa da Música, who are leading specialists in the performance of contemporary music. In addition to this he performs recitals as a classical improviser, especially demonstrating Baroque techniques of improvisation on the organ. Since completing his PhD thesis Learning to Improvise as Western Classical Musician: A Psychological Self-Study, he regularly gives workshops helping classical musicians (trained in interpretive performance) to mobilise their skills in improvisation.
Pluralising the Musical Text: Improvising on Canonic Repertoire
How can one improvise new versions of existing repertoire? What notes can be changed without losing the original meaning and musical effects? Werktreue attitudes towards the text suggest that every note of a composition contributes equally to the goal of musical structure in which expressive meanings are believed to be encoded, leading to the perception of repertoire as a series of unalterable single works. Yet, improvisation, taking a more fluid, conceptual perspective of musical structure can yield many versions of a single model. For interpretive performers and musicologists, this implies a qualitative transformation in knowledge, as I discovered through my long-term psychological self-study of learning to improvise on Baroque models. While current literature implicitly recognises the conceptual, embodied nature of the improviser’s knowledge base, the acquisition of such knowledge and its mobilisation in performance, i.e., the cognitive focus of the expert improviser, remains a mysterious source of speculation. Taking J. S. Bach’s Chorale partita Sei gegrüßet, Jesu Gütig (BWV 768) as a model, I propose to improvise similar variations on a different Chorale theme (suggested by the audience) in which characteristic features of the text are reinterpreted as a repertoire of expressive functions and compositional devices which can be reconstructed conceptually to permit many realizations of a single text.
NIELS BERENTSEN is a vocalist, researcher, and music educator, specialising in late medieval and Renaissance music. He is lecturer at the Haute école de musique de Genève, HES-SO (Switzerland), teaching counterpoint and research at the Department of Early Music. Niels investigates techniques of polyphonic improvisation and composition in the 1300-1500 period. He received his doctorate from the University of Leiden in 2017 and is currently leading the research project Lacunæ Ciconiæ. He is director of the ensemble Diskantores, dedicated to the performance of late medieval polyphony, whose first recording Hollandse Fragmenten (muso, 2021) has received strong critical acclaim.
Mind the Gap: Reimagining Incomplete Medieval Music
A significant amount of medieval music comes down to us in incomplete form, on ‘recycled’ flyleaves and book bindings. These lacunary works present scholars and performers with several challenges: they are often difficult to transcribe, they are difficult to analyze and to compare to other pieces, and—last but not least—they are difficult to perform effectively.
Reconstruction is an effective way of making such pieces visible and audible. Yet it is also problematic: as ‘sounding hypotheses’ reconstructions result from a balancing act between text-critical scholarship and musical creation. Is reconstruction only defensible if its results are likely to come close to the lost original? Or is it also a valid way to reimagine the inherent musical potential of incomplete compositions in and by itself?
This paper draws on my various experiences reconstructing, singing, and directing incomplete polyphonic music from the early 15th century. I will argue for an approach of lacunary compositions as—of necessity—‘open’ texts in Umberto Eco’s definition. From this perspective the lacuna becomes a place for deeper understanding of, and engagement with past musical practices and artifacts. As re-composition, reconstruction has a role to play in the revival of early music as a living practice, not only by providing performers with ‘new’ repertoire, but by furthering creative use of the musical idioms of the past, by learning to improvise, and ultimately to compose in them.
NIR COHEN-SHALIT is an Israeli born conductor and musicologist. He studied conducting at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance with Prof. Eitan Globerson, Prof. Avner Biron and Prof. Stanley Sperber, for whom he served as assistant with the Jerusalem Academy Chamber Choir. He studied musicology at the Hebrew University and wrote his master’s thesis on the Czech-Jewish composer Gideon Klein. He is currently a PhD candidate for historical musicology at New York University, where he works on a dissertation on 19th-century orchestral pre-performance practices. As a conductor he performs regularly in Israel and works as an assistant conductor at the Israeli Opera. Nir is a multidisciplinary musician and scholar. His interests, repertoire and research projects range from Baroque and classical music, through romanticism and performance practice, Jewish music in the holocaust, through operas, the musicals of Stephen Sondheim, and Israeli music. He presented projects on these varied topics in conferences in Europe, Israel, and the United States.
The Romantic Conductor Scholar: What I Learned from the Archives
In The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works (1992), Lydia Goehr describes an inherent ambivalence in modern conducting, with conductors serving simultaneously as both servants and masters, balancing the “fidelity to the work specified by the composer” against their desire for a personal interpretation. The situation is further complicated for the HIP scholar-conductor, who, additionally, must negotiate historical practices that may contradict modern understanding of the score, obfuscate hidden meanings and the composer’s possible performance expectations, or altogether limit the interpretative freedom. Similarly, the artistic imagination of the conductor may be inspired by clues and hunches that do not meet the scholarly standard of certainty.
Being a conductor and a scholar, this inner conflict will inform my paper, in which I will present my ongoing doctoral research of orchestral performance practices of 19th-century German orchestras. The main part of my research is a pioneering approach that examines various archival, unique texts, chiefly annotations conductors and orchestra players left in their own music, as well as other documents such as working schedules and orchestra’s statutes. Deviating from more traditional HIP approaches, my research suggests a shift of focus from the score as a fixed text representing the composer’s intentions, to the role of performers collaboratively manifesting the expressive possibilities of the music act. This allows me to question the role of the conductor as an authoritative figure and most central in interpreting the music, as well as other fundamental paradigms regarding orchestral practices.
My paper will emphasize findings in these texts which challenged my approach to performance, and which question modern practices regarding adherence to the score, conformity, meticulous preparation and deep familiarity with the work. Lastly, I will share a video of myself conducting the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a demonstration of an experimental approach, including use of tempo modification and an original oboe cadenza, which was inspired by my encounter with historical texts.
BRUNO FORMENT has degrees in music theory and art studies (PhD, Ghent University, 2007). In 2004, he teamed up with Paul Dombrecht for one of the earliest Trobadors projects in artistic research at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel, the opera seria pasticci Ifigenìa and Ipermestra. Shortly thereafter, in 2007-8, he visited the Flora L. Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California as BAEF Francqui Fellow and Fulbright-Hays grantee. The support of the Flemish Research Fund allowed him to carry out postdoctoral research at Ghent University (2008-2015). Bruno Forment has taught music and theatre history at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, KU Leuven, and the Royal Conservatoires of Brussels and Ghent. He has programmed and directed the Baroque orchestra Il Fondamento, coordinated the Classical Music department at the Royal Conservatoire of Ghent, and carried out research projects at the Conservatoire of Antwerp and CEMPER-Centrum voor Muziek- en Podiumerfgoed. He is the author and editor of (Dis)embodying Myths in Ancient Régime Opera (Leuven UP, 2012), Theatrical Heritage: Challenges and Opportunities (Leuven UP, 2015, with Christel Stalpaert), Zwanenzang van een illusie: de historische toneeldecors van de Schouwburg Kortrijk (KGOKK, 2016), Muziek en literatuur / Literature and Music (Cahier voor Literatuurwetenschap, 2018, with Inge Arteel), and Droomlanders: tovenaars van het geschilderde toneeldecor (Davidsfonds/CEMPER, 2021). He also published dozens of articles and reviews in, among others, Cambridge Opera Journal, Eighteenth-Century Music, Early Music, and Fontes Artis Musicæ, next to book chapters in Staging Verdi and Wagner (Brepols, 2015), and Carmen Abroad (Cambridge UP, 2020). His work, which includes several professional music (theatre) productions and the discovery of Europe’s largest collection of historical stagesets (the ‘Dubosq’ collection, recognized Flemish top heritage in 2018), has been awarded by the Schweizerische Musikforschende Gesellschaft and the Province of Western Flanders. He is on the editorial board of Eighteenth-Century Music.
MATTHIAS HEYMAN is lecturer at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and postdoctoral fellow at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel. He obtained his PhD at the University of Antwerp in 2018. His current research focuses on creative agency in historical recreations in jazz and popular music. In past projects, Matthias examined jazz bassist Jimmie Blanton, Belgian jazz history, and international jazz competitions, resulting in publications in journals such as Jazz Perspectives and Popular Music. Currently, Matthias is preparing a monograph on Jimmie Blanton (Oxford UP) and a co-edited volume on the Beatles and humour (Bloomsbury).
Performing by the Record? Negotiating Text and Act with Duke Ellington
Towards the end of the 19th century, a new type of text became available: the music record. Soon, it was embraced by artists from various musical backgrounds—indeed, the popular appeal of certain genres such as jazz hinged partly on the success of the record. In jazz, an interesting phenomenon arose: composers such as Duke Ellington (1899–1974) wrote ‘traditional’ prescriptive texts such as big band scores that resulted in ‘alternate’ texts by recording these scores in a rearranged version that does not fully match the original score. Using a score as a text-in-progress rather than a definite work is arguably a centuries-old approach, but the record allows us to understand better the reciprocal relation between the compositional and the performative act.
This paper aims to discuss how text and act, here understood as the triangular relationship between score, record, and performance, are negotiated in the context of Ellington’s music. For this, I focus on Jack the Bear, an Ellington composition (1940) I recreated in a historically informed recording session. I discuss how the ‘texts’ (i.e., the manuscript, the 1940 record, and the transcriptions) informed the ‘act’ (i.e., the recording process and the recorded recreation) but also, somewhat surprisingly, vice-versa. This led to several novel insights into not only historical recording practices but also Ellington’s compositional process. Overall, this paper demonstrates some of the particular ways in which a record can function as a textual source that can simultaneously inform and be informed by historical performance.
GEORGE KENNAWAY is a cellist, conductor, teacher, and musicologist. He holds visiting research fellowships at the Universities of Leeds and Huddersfield. He was co-principal cello in the Orchestra of Opera North 1979-2008, and now regularly appears as a soloist and chamber music player, on modern, 19th-century, and Baroque cello. He was a member of the CHASE research project in 19th-century music editions at the University of Leeds. His publications include Playing the Cello 1780- 1930 (Ashgate, 2014), John Gunn: Musician Scholar in Enlightenment Britain (Boydell, 2021), and articles and book chapters on textual and theoretical aspects of 19th-century performance research. Forthcoming publications include an article on ekphrastic representations of the work of Dante Rossetti, and book chapters on 19th-century concepts of musicality, applications of topic theory to performance, aspects of early 20th-century tonality, musical biographies, and early recordings of cellists.
My Texts, Urtexts, Everyone’s Texts
How do we read a text? Indeed, why do we read them? This paper explores differing rationales for the reading of musical texts, particularly in the context of 19th-century historical performance. I suggest that there are broadly two approaches: the ‘Protestant’ (PR), and the ‘Roman Catholic’ (RC). I should stress that these terms are only meant as convenient shorthand and imply no wider religious affiliation or interpretation. The PR approach gives every player a guaranteed correct text, which each individual can read for him/herself and interpret accordingly, while the RC approach places the text in an exegetical tradition which explicates it, adds glosses, and controls its interpretation. The PR musician has to discern the composer’s intention by direct communication. The RC musician needs a potentially large, but not infinite, number of texts that give a more or less limited number of ways of ‘interpreting’ the central text. These are provided by great performers like Joseph Joachim, who act as priests or prophets. Their words are further mediated via modern scholars. The PR musician needs only one text, the Urtext. The RC musician depends on the presentation of curated sources. But with modern HIP the number of ‘texts’ expands exponentially: not only treatises and newspaper articles, but old audio recordings, old film, novels with relevant content, photographs, contempora-neous and later annotated editions... and musicians can use any early musical source rather than an Urtext. Some issues that this view raises are discussed in the context of related issues in literary criticism and legal interpretation.
CAMILLA KÖHNKEN is from Bonn, Germany, and studied piano with Pierre–Laurent Aimard (Cologne), Jerome Rose (New York), and Claudio Martínez Mehner (Basel). She played solo concerts in auditoria like Carnegie Hall, New York, the Palacio de Festivales, Santander, or the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, while also pursuing a lively chamber music career, e.g. with her ensemble Philon Trio (with David da Silva, clarinet, and Adam Newman, viola). In 2018, she completed a doctorate on interpretation strategies of Franz Liszt and his circle at the University of Bern, Switzerland and has been working since November 2019 as a postdoc with Tom Beghin’s research cluster Declassifying the Classics at the Orpheus Instituut.
Teaching the Piano to Liszt—Building a Pedestal to Beethoven: Carl Czerny as Franz Liszt’s Teacher
Carl Czerny taught Franz Liszt for fourteen months in Vienna from 1822–23 on a daily basis. After establishing pianistic order in the boy’s mostly autodidactic pianism, he moved on to the music of Beethoven. It is not known which pieces they covered and, more importantly, how the thirty-two-year-old Czerny taught Beethoven performance.
In 1825, he wrote in his edition of A. E. Müller’s piano school that a “beautiful execution” allows “the player much freedom on the work he executes, which even causes him to apply a number of bigger or smaller changes”. Only four years later however, he states in his Klavierschule op. 500 just the opposite, specifically in regards to Beethoven: “The highest perfection in art is that the written text is rendered so well that one does not have a reason to add or take anything away”.
Such additions had long been the hallmark of good taste and the brilliant style any piano virtuoso of standing was expected to incorporate. Czerny himself had been reprimanded by Beethoven in 1815 when he added such elements to the piano quartet op. 16; yet in 1803, the composer had highly praised George Bridgetower’s added cadenzas in the sonata op. 47 of which reflections found entrance into Czerny’s four-hand arrangement of the piece.
How might have principles of “brilliant style” and “beautiful execution” influenced Beethoven performance in 1823? Which elements in Liszt’s later standing as leading Beethoven performer of his time can be traced back to his lessons with Czerny? Did they join forces in establishing Beethoven as an unchangeable authority or did Liszt depart from Czerny’s teachings?
TON KOOPMAN studied organ, harpsichord and musicology in Amsterdam. He received the Prix d‘Excellence for both instruments. Naturally attracted by historical instruments and fascinated by the philological performance style, Koopman concentrated his studies on Baroque music, with particular attention to J. S. Bach and Buxtehude, and soon became a leading figure in the HIP movement. As organist and harpsichordist Ton Koopman has played the most beautiful historical instruments of Europe. At the age of twenty-five, he created his first Baroque orchestra; in 1979 he founded the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, followed in 1992 by the Amsterdam Baroque Choir. Combined as the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, the ensemble soon gained worldwide fame as one of the best ensembles on period instruments. With a repertoire ranging from the early Baroque to the late Classics, they have performed in the most prestigious concert halls of the world.
Among Ton Koopman's most ambitious projects has been the recording of the complete Bach cantatas, a massive undertaking for which he has been awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis “Echo Klassik”, the BBC Award, and the Hector Berlioz Prize, next to nominations for a Grammy and the Gramophone Award. In addition to the works of Bach, Koopman has long been an advocate of the music of Dieterich Buxtehude and following the completion of the Bach project, he embarked in 2005 on the recording of the Buxtehude-Opera Omnia. The edition consists of 30 CDs, the last having been released in 2014.
Ton Koopman is President of the International Dieterich Buxtehude Society. In 2006 he was awarded the Bach-Prize of the City of Leipzig, in 2012 the Buxtehude Prize of the city of Lübeck, and in 2014 he received the Bach Prize of the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2016 he received an honorary professorship with the Musikhochschule in Lübeck and in Linz, and in November 2017 he was awarded the prestigious Edison Classical Award. Since 2019 he is President of the Leipzig Bach Archive.
In recent years, Ton Koopman has been very active as guest conductor working with such prestigious orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Munich Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Vienna Symphony, the Philadelphia, San Francisco and Cleveland Orchestras, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National de Lyon and NHK in Tokyo.
Ton Koopman has recorded a very large number of records for Erato, Teldec, Sony, Deutsche Grammophon and Philips. In 2003 he founded Antoine Marchand, a sub label of Challenge Classics. Ton Koopman publishes regularly. He has edited the complete Händel Organ Concertos for Breitkopf & Härtel and recently published new editions of Händel’s Messiah and Buxtehude’s Das Jüngste Gericht for Carus Verlag. He is emeritus professor at the University of Leiden, honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music, and artistic director of the Festival Itinéraire Baroque.
CLARE LESSER is a performer, musicologist and composer. She completed a PhD in 2020 at the University of York on deconstructive approaches to indeterminacy. She has given over seventy-five world premieres, including works by Michael Finnissy and Hans Joachim Hespos, and is recorded on the Métier label. Recent publications focus on the work of John Cage, Michael Finnissy, Hans Joachim Hespos, and pragmatic approaches to the rehearsal process. Her research interests include deconstruction, indeterminate and improvised music and performance, graphic notation and sound art. She is program head of music at NYUAD.
The Virgin Act: Mediating Supplement and Repetition in Performance
According to René Char “Each act is virgin, even the repeated ones” (Char,  2010), a sentiment well suited to the process of interpreting and realising musical (in the widest sense) texts, where the negotiated space between text/performance; author/reader and centre/supplement is in permanent motion. Performers prepare pre-existing works by first reading the text—whether score, image or set of directions; a period of thought and rehearsal follows, concluding with a unique performative act that is part of a potentially infinite chain.
In this paper, I will explore the role of Jacques Derrida’s concept of ‘supplement’ (from Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences, 1967) in relation to the tension between text and act in works by Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. In the Derridean sense, every feat of negotiation and resulting performative act is representative of ‘supplement’ in action. If every time we perform, we add to something that is ostensibly, already ‘complete’ (the text), then we must assume that actually, the text is incomplete. Each performative act retains a connection to the parent text (itself part of a heritage of ‘play’—ideas, sketches and so on) while adding something else. In a sense it carries forth its DNA, and yet, paradoxically, each performative act itself must also be incomplete, ultimately opposing itself in anticipation of the next performance, in a potentially endless line of repetition. “The king is dead, long live the king!”
XIANGNING LIN’s childhood passions included dancing to Bollywood musical films, playing pretend school teacher with her grandparents, and exploring the piano. At the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (Singapore), where she has received Bachelor and Masters degrees in piano performance, she is currently a Teaching Assistant in Music Cognition, Singapore Studies, and Artistic Research. She has also acted as Research Assistant to Professor Bernard Lanskey, exploring issues of identity and cultural ownership. Her recent presentations include Opening Locks (with Lanskey, Shin, Ye– PGVIM Thailand, 2020) and Deconstructing Sadness (Singapore, 2021).
Relocating Ravel’s “Sad Birds” in Alternative Forests of Place and Time
The acute and subtle perception guiding the artist... may become keener and keener year after year, leaving no place for standardised and permanent classification. —Ravel, Contemporary Music, Houston, 1928
Do texts find new contexts, global and personal, through time and across space? Do texts bind or liberate, encouraging bolder ways of perceiving through creative dialogue and transferred ownership?
It is not often that we have access so specifically to the composer’s direct preference in creative approach as we find in relation to Maurice Ravel and Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s Philosophy of Composition was regarded by Ravel as the “finest treatise on composition”. The correspondence between four primary sources of text—Poe’s treatise, The Raven (subject of the treatise), Ravel’s Oiseaux tristes, and Ravel’s 1928 Houston Lecture transcription—is enticing when one recognises the possibilities of interpretation in light of self-aware performance practices. Poe’s treatise becomes an even more intriguing atlas when viewed through the lens of Ravel’s above quotation.
How did the sensibilities of a 19th-century ‘American (not) in Paris’ shape that of a French composer? How, two centuries later and one continent further, might it inspire a Singaporean artist-researcher? Is my sensing of Ravel and Poe’s manuscripts made fuller, or duller, with the subsequent forest of texts-written-on-texts that have emerged—Urtext editions, publications, dissertations?
This multimedia lecture-recital will offer an immersive exploration of Oiseaux tristes, coalescing times, nationalities, languages, art forms, interpreters, texts, and contexts.
ALEKSANDRA PISTER completed her Master’s degree in early music theory and composition at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. She received a doctorate in Humanities (Art studies / Musicology) from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vilnius, Faculty of History. Her professional affiliations include membership in the Lithuanian Composer’ Union and in REMA–European Early Music Network (on behalf of the University of Vilnius). Her fields of research are the music of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, early music manuscripts, musical rhetoric, and the doctrine of the affections.
Too Many Texts and Contexts? A Case Study of Biblical Sonatas by Johann Kuhnau
Celebrating the 300th anniversary of the death of German composer and polymath Johann Kuhnau (1660–1722), the proposed lecture looks into the relationship between the music of his six keyboard sonatas, known popularly as Biblical Sonatas, and various texts relevant to the understanding of the set. Published in Leipzig in 1700, a set of Kuhnau’s sonatas, entitled Musicalische Vorstellung einiger biblischer Historien, presents a remarkably thorough and detailed musical depiction of selected scenes from the Old Testament outlined in the titles of each sonata.
The published collection of six sonatas was accompanied with rather generous assortment of verbal texts. Apart from the then-standard dedication to a patron and the composer’s address to his kind reader, this collection also provides texts that reveal composer’s artistic intent and appear relevant for the performance of music published therein. These include six one-page verbal synopses of selected biblical stories, which preface each sonata, and commentaries in Italian written into notation, which underline portrayed situations, events and affections. The well-known excerpts from the Bible not only served to kindle Kuhnau’s imagination but also provided an impetus to attempt at musical depiction through coherent narration.
In his address to the reader, the composer mentions how important it was for him that would render these Biblical stories the way they were interpreted by the composer. Thus, if one is to embark on a historically informed performance of the set, it is essential to read through and follow the verbal texts and commentaries appended to the score. Even more so as the composer considered it necessary to add captions and explanatory remarks to some sections in his sonatas. But still, even in such profusion of verbal texts and remarks, not all of Kuhnau’s compositional choices are fully explained and utterly clear. The composer adumbrates that verbal descriptions were not necessary, since the intent is clear “from the nature of the art”; we may infer that the composer had musical art in mind. The latter is, however, not always that obvious to the performers nowadays because of the historical distance. To fully grasp the narrative behind these sonatas one has to draw on contextual information, such as certain treatises and widespread composition methods of the time, which help a modern performer understand the ‘unexplained’ sections and, consequently, the Natur der Kunst. Fortunately, one can figure out, which treatises and compositional methods are relevant to the matter at hand, by simply reading the composer’s preface. Besides one particular treatise, Gioseffo Zarlino’s Le institutioni harmoniche (1558), Kuhnau also refers to certain principles, which help retrace compositional methods that enjoyed popularity at the time. First of all, he makes multiple references to musical rhetoric, or musica poetica, as it was described by Listenius, Burmeister, Herbst, and others. For example, Kuhnau mentions composing based on analogy between the art of music and the rhetoric. Another widely mentioned notion is the expression of affections, in addition to frequent references to some particular affections. Thus, knowledge of Baroque doctrine of the affections, otherwise known as musica pathetica (after Athanasius Kircher’s Musurgia universalis, 1650), facilitates the understanding of why certain means of musical expression were employed and what the composer sought to convey by employing them. To identify Baroque music’s illustrative vehicles one can even consult non-musical treatises of the time, such as Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia (1645). Emblematic representations of certain affections, such as melancholy or fury, presented herein, seem perfectly suitable for visualization of affections represented in Kuhnau’s Biblical Sonatas. Thus, if the Biblical Sonatas are performed and interpreted according to the tenets of HIP and in strict accordance with above mentioned textual and contextual sources, is there still any room left for the expression of performer’s individual artistry? Still, by being able to unlock the meanings of music the performer can experience the true joy of discovery. Can his efforts to convey the narrative line of the sonatas reach the listener’s imagination?
BJÖRN SCHMELZER studied anthropology and musicology, but as a multidisciplinary artist he is primarily self-taught. He is the founder and artistic director of graindelavoix, an artistic company that starts from folds and faults in ancient repertoires to rehabilitate the fundamental anachronism of practices in time. From this point of view, graindelavoix brings together artists of all disciplines: musical, visual and performative… Over the course of long research stays, Schmelzer studied primarily in the Mediterranean world, in Italy (Sardinia, Sicily), Spain, Portugal and Morocco, specializing in vocal repertoire and performance practice. He studied several medieval vocal traditions in depth, their continuation and survival in later times, ornamentation styles, and the logic of operative knowledge. He combines this work with insights from anthropology, history, human geography and ethnomusicology, resulting in various publications and concert programs. He is regularly requested as a guest conductor and lecturer. Björn Schmelzer has published several essays and articles for literary magazines, specialized magazines, academic publications and elaborate CD booklets. He has recently published the book Time Regained: A Warburg Atlas for Early Music with MER Paper Kunsthalle. Besides his activities as artistic director of graindelavoix, he makes films, both fictional and documentary, often associated with graindelavoix projects.
“Reading What Was Never Written”: Music Performance and Aby Warburg’s Gute Nachbarschaft of Non-Musical Exegetical Inspiration
This paper explores the tension between the score and the actual performance, asking what it actually means to read, especially to read music. A second aspect of the paper takes Warburg’s concept of formal serendipity as a tool to propose new concepts of plastic interpretation, an interpretation articulating the art work’s profound historical non-belonging.
ALICE SHU-YAO SHEU is a Taiwanese-American harpsichordist, historical organist, and scientist. She earned a Masters in harpsichord performance at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag and holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Chicago. She has performed on historical instruments such as the 1747 Dulcken at Museum Vleeshuis, Belgium, the 1699 Arp Schnitger organ in Ganderkesee, Germany, and the 1521 organ in Oosthuizen, Netherlands and has collaborated with the Nederlands Bach Consort. She has given recitals of Goldberg Variations and is invited to teach historical organ workshops in her native Taiwan.
Reading from the Italian Keyboard Partitura: Its Relation to Memoria and Performance Practice of Keyboard Music of the Time
Italian keyboard partitura, a system that was used to notate polyphonic keyboard music between ca. 1575 and ca. 1685, uses movable types to present the music in a four-part open score. The most signifcant challenge reading from such score, beyond reading from open score in as many as seven different clefs, is the lack of vertical alignment between the voices, as the movable types would only line up at bar lines. Reading from it was considered an integral part of musicianship but already a dying tradition before the middle of the 17th century. Nonetheless, considering the majority of keyboard music of the time were published in partitura in Italy (score, as opposed to intavolatura, two-staff notation), and its direct relation to the choir-book format (polyphony published in separate parts) used not only in Italy but across europe, ignoring the impact of reading such text to the keyboardist’s mind and practice seems to be a deliberate rejection out of convenience by today’s performers and researchers. What is the impact of the lack of instructed vertical alignment of the smallest note values on the execution of polyphonic music? What does it ask from the performer and how does it affect the performer’s sense of timing? In this presentation I will demonstrate the synthetic process of reading from score, discuss its relationship with memoria, the fourth canon of rhetoric, and examine the possible indication to the performance practice of polyphonic keyboard music of the time.
ANTONIO SIMÓN studied modern piano and fortepiano in Madrid, Zagreb, and Amsterdam. Very active as a music scholar, his doctoral dissertation has recently been awarded the Mariano Soriano prize. He also performs and records regularly as a keyboardist with a keen interest in romantic historical performance. He is a tenured professor at Málaga’s Conservatorio Superior where he teaches fortepiano and modern piano.
Building a Character: An Actorial Approach to the Performance of Liszt’s Music
During his tenure as Kapellmeister of the Weimar Court Theater, Liszt showed a keen interest in the relationship between drama and music, and the possibilities that the fusion of these arts could yield. This interest crystallised both in a number of articles on the matter—later published as Dramaturgische Blätter—and a bunch of works in which this relationship is explored. These include incidental music for dramatic texts like Prometheus Unbound, symphonic poems based upon plays such as Hamlet, and five ballads for orator and piano. This was also a time in which Liszt came into contact with some actors of the new generation. One of them left a particularly strong impression on him: Bogumil Dawison. Dawison’s performing style was quite novel at the time: he was known for his expressiveness, energy, and rather naturalistic approach that contrasted with the prevailing style of acting which emphasised harmony, beauty, and the idealised poses of classical art. Not only was Liszt highly impressed with Dawison’s performances but he explicitly stated in his correspondence that he found a strong similarity in the nature of both their work.
This lecture-recital argues that this self-drawn parallelism and Liszt’s general interest in pathos over textuality suggests that a ‘dramatic reading’ of his music could better enable us to interpret some of its more puzzling aspects. In this vein, we will aim at showing that borrowed methodologies from the actorial milieu could be more appropriate than werktreue approaches in interpreting his musical texts.
LÁSZLÓ STACHÓ is a musicologist, psychologist, and pianist working as lecturer and research fellow at the Liszt Academy of Music (Budapest). He is a regular guest professor at the Santa Cecilia Conservatoire (Rome) and the Katarina Gurska Conservatoire (Madrid). His academic activity involves the teaching of chamber music, music theory, and 20th-century performance practice history, as well as recently introduced subjects in Hungary, such as the psychology of musical performance and ‘practice methodology’. As a pianist and chamber musician, he has performed in several European countries and the US, and conducts ‘practice methodology’ workshops and chamber music coaching sessions at international masterclasses in several countries including Hungary, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Slovenia, Romania, Turkey, Israel, and the US.
Towards Source-Informed Performances of the (Late) Romantics
Moving forward in its more than half a century of history, HIP has gradually conquered repertoires from the not-too-distant past, such as (late) Romanticism and early Modernism. Parallelly with this, with the advent of YouTube and Spotify over the past decade, historical sound recordings have become—and are currently becoming more and more, widely known—at least in a well-constrained circle of musicologists, musicians, and enthusiasts. Furthermore, a very wide range of textual sources from the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, related to performance practice, such as performer-directed pedagogical treatises and analyses, have become available online during the past two decades. This situation appears ideal not only for the researcher but for the historically interested performer as well, who is not afraid of stepping into the role of the performer-researcher to come up with originally sounding and historically informed renditions of compositions and recreations of concert settings from late Romanticism. In my paper, I would like to sketch a framework for the performer-researcher for their historically informed preparation process in the production of both creative and ‘authentic’ performances of the late Romantics (and early Modernists), grounded in recordings, their close-listening analyses, and various kinds of textual sources, including not only verbal texts but instructive score editions as well. An essential element in such a comparative endeavour is the study of performance style on a deep level, going well beyond the obvious sounding elements in order to understand the recorded early 20th-century musicians’ performance style ‘from the inside’ (i.e., to understanding the performer’s way of thinking, feeling, and how they direct their attention in the act of performance). I should like to illustrate this, centred on my performing and conservatoire-based pedagogical practice, through a short introduction to related artistic–pedagogical projects; and finally, to reflect on the chances of how such projects could filter through into the mainstream of both pedagogical and performing practice.
KATE BENNETT WADSWORTH is a cellist and gambist devoted to historical performance of all periods, with a special research interest in 19th-century performing practice. In collaboration with Clive Brown and Neal Peres da Costa, she has prepared annotated editions of the Brahms Cello Sonatas and co-authored Performance Practices in Johannes Brahms’ Chamber Music (Bärenreiter, 2015). Her recording of the Brahms Cello Sonatas with historical pianist Yi-heng Yang, released on the Deux-Elles label in 2018, has been praised for its “narrative quality” (Gramophone) and its “ardor and depth” (Early Music America). Kate studied modern cello with Laurence Lesser at the New England Conservatory, Baroque cello with Jaap ter Linden at the Royal Dutch Conservatory in The Hague, and 19th-century performance practice with Clive Brown at the University of Leeds, after completing a bachelor’s degree in Scandinavian studies at Harvard University. She is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
The Flexible Text: Official and Unofficial Versions of the Schumann Cello Concerto in the 19th Century
It is now well-established in the historical performance community that music written before 1800 was meant to be treated flexibly in performance, with plenty of scope for improvisation, as well as more structured but unnotated traditions. 19th-century musicians, meanwhile, are in the odd position of being credited with (or blamed for) the concept of work fidelity that privileges the written notation over both individual creativity and oral tradition, and simultaneously condemned for producing “bad editions” that violate this very concept.
The Schumann Cello Concerto, op. 129, written at the exact midpoint of the century, provides a case study of this gradual shift in both thinking and practice, revealing a reverent yet surprisingly flexible treatment of musical text. A handwritten copy of Schumann’s score belonging to Ludwig Ebert (1834-1908), who gave the concerto’s premiere in 1860, shows dramatic changes to the cello part, the orchestration, and arguably even the structure of the piece. These changes are even more remarkable in light of a review of Ebert’s performance in 1869, praising the cellist’s connection to “the spirit of the work”. This presentation examines some of the patterns that knit together Ebert’s version with other substantially altered versions from the private collections of later cellists, as well as the more modestly altered versions that were published as performing editions when the initial copyright expired in the 1880s. A better understanding of these patterns might then win some additional creative space for those who wish to engage with this beloved centrepiece of the cello repertoire.
SANAE ZANANE is a fortepianist and doctoral researcher at the Orpheus Instituut, working with Tom Beghin. She completed a Master’s in Piano with Péter Nagy and in Fortepiano with Stefania Neonato at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart, as well as a Master’s in Musicology at the Sorbonne University. In her research she investigates timing in Beethoven’s piano works from the perspective of fortepiano technologies.
Playing Time: An Embodied Reading of Beethoven
With pioneering efforts of performer-scholars like the cellist Elisabeth Le Guin (2006, on Luigi Boccherini) and keyboardist Tom Beghin (2007, on Joseph Haydn), and mirroring a growing discipline of embodiment studies, the musician’s body has entered the musicological sphere. A bodily examination of musical works not only brought about an unprecedented relationship to the text, but it also induced a wider awareness that any negotiation between text and act necessarily involves material and human bodies.
When it comes to classical repertoire, historically informed performers are often faced with questions of timing. The pre-metronome era abounded with physical references, whether to hand movements, heart pulsation or dances. Although known by present-day musicians, the physicality by which the 18th century understood timing remains largely unexplored in actual performance.
My artistic research as a fortepianist aims to restore an embodied dimension to timing in Beethoven’s piano works. This means first and foremost to reclaim the agency of musical instruments in an aspect of performance that has traditionally been treated in abstract ways. During my presentation I will share my reading of two movements from Beethoven’s sonatas. In the first movement of Sonata op. 27 no. 2 (“Moonlight”) the consistently undamped sound evokes the late 18th-century glass harmonica, which was attributed the power to “magnetize” the audience, thus making the performer oblivious of any objectively steady tempo. In the third movement of Sonata op. 31 no. 2 (“Tempest”), hand movements follow the choreography of a contredanse, a widespread dance in bourgeois and aristocratic milieus; the performer is therefore grounded in a preconceived dance pattern. Together, these examples yield two contrasting embodied readings of musical time.