Late breaking information



Recreating Jimmie Blanton: A case study of HIPP in jazz

Colloquium Musicology
Matthias Heyman, University of Antwerp
Thursday 7 December 2017, 16:30 - 18:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01
Jimmie Blanton (1918–1942), best known as Duke Ellington’s bassist between 1939 and 1941, is widely regarded as one of the key figures in the development of jazz bass playing. One of the musical characteristics he has been most praised for is his tone, in particular its loudness, which has been characterised as ‘outsized’, ‘resonant’, ‘roaring’, and ‘huge’. While Brian Priestley (2009: 85) observed that tone is often ‘thought of as god-given’, I wanted to understand why and how Blanton’s tone was (perceived as being) different from that of his peers. I examined a number of possible impact factors, such as his performance technique and his instrument, but found that none of these differed significantly from those of his fellow-bassists. Eventually, I (partially) found the answer by recreating Blanton’s music.
In this presentation, I discuss a recording session by the Brussels Jazz Orchestra and myself on bass in which we recreated the circumstances of an Ellington performance in the 1930s and 1940s, both live and in the studio, in a historically informed way, for example by using a historically appropriate instrumentation, repertoire, location, recording set-up, and performance practice. The outcome revealed that certain changes in the orchestra’s seating plan were key to Blanton’s perceived superior tone. I will review the preparation, recording process, and results, drawing on a combination of visual analysis of historical photographs, complete participant observation, comparative aural analysis, and formal and informal (semi-structured) interviews with a number of the participants. In broad terms, I will demonstrate that the concept of historically informed performance practice (or HIPP) is a useful, yet underused research tool in the field of jazz studies.

Matthias Heyman is currently finalising his PhD research at the University of Antwerp (Belgium). For his research, he contextualises the bass playing of Ellingtonian Jimmie Blanton. He is a lecturer of jazz history at the Jazz Studio (Antwerp) and the LUCA School of Arts (Leuven), and in 2016–2017 he lectured jazz courses at the University of Amsterdam.


Marsilio Ficino’s Timaeus Commentary: Musical Speculations of a Renaissance Interpreter

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. Jacomien Prins, University of Warwick

Thursday 19 October 2017, 16:30 - 18:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499) was one of the Renaissance’s defining scholars. Among his most important works was his Timaeus commentary. Despite the influence of Plato’s Timaeus in previous times, it was only with Ficino that the Latin West got its first complete translation. As one of the few Renaissance scholars to confront the challenges of Plato’s influential but also complex text, his commentary made Ficino the leading theoretician of the harmonics it propounds, but also an important interpreter of the ideas about music theory and practice it involves. In this paper, I address two questions central to Ficino’s interpretation of the Timaeus: why did he choose the theory of cosmic harmony from the dialogue as a matrix for his account of a physical world already undergoing radical change? And why did he want to revive Plato’s theory of the ethical power of listening? By investigating both Ficino’s interpretations of harmonics and of the physical and psychological mechanisms of perception and hearing, this paper argues that he used them above all to substantiate the biblical ideas that the world is a harmonic creation, that man is created with an immortal soul, and that the purpose of life is divine enlightenment. Furthermore, it demonstrates how Ficino revived Plato’s view of the delight taken in auditory perception to formulate a new music therapy in terms of a curious mixture of Neoplatonic and fifteenth-century scientific technical terms. Consequently, musical delight results from the correct perception of a sensory object as an imitation of divine harmonic order.
Dr. Jacomien Prins is a Global Research Fellow (GRF) at the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) and the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance (CSR) of Warwick University and an affiliated scholar at the University of Utrecht. She has worked extensively on the interaction between music theory and philosophy in the Renaissance. Her work includes 'Echoes of an Invisible World: Marsilio Ficino and Francesco Patrizi on Cosmic Order and Music Theory' (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 'Sing Aloud Harmonious Spheres: Renaissance Conceptions of Cosmic Harmony' (London: Routledge, 2017), and an edition and translation of Marsilio Ficino’s commentary on Plato’s 'Timaeus' (Harvard University Press, the 'I Tatti Renaissance Library' series (ITRL), forthcoming). She is currently working on a book project titled ‘'A Well-tempered Life’: Music, Health and Happiness in Renaissance Learning'.


Automatic pattern search in music: connecting computational methods and musicological insights

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. Anja Volk, Universiteit Utrecht

Thursday 21 September 2017, 16:30 - 18:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

In this talk I address the role of computational pattern search for helping us to scrutinize what it is that we “really know” about a specific type of music, if we consider ourselves to be musical experts. I elaborate my hypothesis that musical knowledge is often implicit, while computation enables us to make part of this knowledge explicit and evaluate it on a musical data set. I will discuss three examples of pattern search for corpus investigation, linked to the following questions: When are two folk songs considered to be similar to each other? What is a typical Ragtime and how has Ragtime evolved over time? What are typical chord patterns in popular music and how much do we agree on them? I discuss how musical experts and non-experts working together on developing computational methods can gain important insights into the specifics of a musical style, and into the implicit knowledge of musical experts.

Dr. Anja Volk holds master degrees in both Mathematics (1998) and Musicology (1996) and a PhD in the field of computational musicology (2002) from Humboldt University Berlin, Germany. Her area of specialisation is the development and application of computational and mathematical models for music research. The results of her research have substantially contributed to areas such as music information retrieval, computational musicology, digital cultural heritage, music cognition, and mathematical music theory. After two post-doc periods at the University of Southern California and Utrecht University, she has been awarded a prestigious VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research in 2010, which allowed her to start her own research group MUSIVA on the topic of music similarity. She is a board member of the International Society for Mathematics and Computation in Music (SMCM) and of the Computational advisory board of the Lorentz Center, International center for workshops in the sciences. She co-organized the launch of the Transactions of the International Society for Music Information Retrieval, the open access journal of the ISMIR society, and is serving as Editor-in-Chief for the journal's first term.


Holland Festival - George Crumb Symposium

Symposium by Holland Festival in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam
Kyle Gann - Steven Bruns - Margaret Leng Tan

Saturday 10th June 2017, 14:00 
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16

The Holland Festival and the University of Amsterdam are organising a symposium on the composer in focus, George Crumb. The keynote speaker is the musicologist, journalist and composer Kyle Gann. He wrote reviews for The Village Voice and books about John Cage and other modern American composers. He calls himself a ‘real Crumb fanatic’, and will discuss Crumb’s work and its place in the American experimental tradition of radical innovators. Another speaker is professor Steven Bruns, a distinguished George Crumb scholar from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Margaret Leng Tan, Crumb’s muse on the piano, provides an intimate portrait of the composer supplemented with musical illustrations.

Photo: Yvonne Tan
Abstract Kyle Gann:
"George Crumb's Personal Crystallization of American Postmodern Trends"

The sudden appearance of George Crumb's Black Angels and Echoes of Time and the River shook the American music world in the early 1970s with the exotically idiosyncratic soundworld they created, and even more with the stunning originality of his music-engraving skills. So personal and delicate an idiom was destined to have a short-lived influence, yet Crumb survives as an emblem of the era partly because his music drew together so many new ideas, soon adopted by others, that were poised to grant some needed relief to the previous twelve-tone saturation: the ironic quotation of pre-modern musics, the illusion of timelessness, the extended instrumental techniques, the forthright acceptance of harmonic stasis. His reputation, which seemed at one point to plummet as precipitously as it had risen, is now stabilizing as his lifelong vision comes into better focus, allowing us to hear the deep and gentle musicality behind the exoticisms.

Abstract Steven Bruns:
"The Persistence of Memory in the Music of George Crumb"

Throughout his career, George Crumb’s music explores the mysteries of musical memory in compelling, often innovative ways. This lecture suggests a way of understanding Crumb by considering central aspects of his art: timbre and extended performance techniques; allusion and quotation; symbolic notation; and gestural, choreographic elements of musical performance. Examples are drawn from Crumb’s entire oeuvre, from his first fully characteristic work, Night Music I (1963), to his recent Metamorphoses, Book I (2017). The discussion incorporates excerpts from the published scores, recorded performances, and also the compositional sketches and drafts.


Structure and interaction in Cretan leaping dances: Connecting ethnography and computational analysis

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. Andre Holzapfel, Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm

Thursday 18 May 2017, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Room 3.01

Cretan Music is a vibrant and diverse living tradition, which – despite its identity-forming significance for the local population – is little-known to tourists and international academia. Throughout the recent decades, local musicians in Crete have spent a lot of effort to re-discover local dance tunes, and nowadays a number of almost 20 local dances are taught in various dance schools on the island. These dances differ in terms of the dancers' movements, but musically the differences are far less obvious. Corpus-based methods to analyze recordings or transcriptions in terms of tempo, rhythmic accent, and melodic phrases can provide an understanding of some characteristic traits of the dance tunes. However, the questions which are the functions of these dances in performance contexts, and how these functions interact with the observed musical structures, can only be addressed by incorporating ethnographic approaches. In my personal fieldwork I address these questions by documenting the role of specific dances in a festivity, and by conducting interviews with dancers and musicians. At the core of this research process that combines quantitative corpus analysis with ethnography is the interest in the interaction between musician and dancer. An understanding of this interaction is the key to understanding the significance of Cretan music in today's Cretan society.

Dr. Andre Holzapfel is Assistant Professor at the Media Technology and Interaction Design Department, School of Computer Science and Communication, at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm since October 1, 2016. In parallel to this background in Computer Science, he is conducting a second PhD in ethnomusicology, with a focus on dance in the island of Crete. His research at KTH is within the area of Sound and Music Computing (SMC), with his main interests being interdisciplinary approaches between SMC and (ethno)musicology, and interactive systems for music performances and rehabilitation. During his post-doctoral research, he had a strong focus on Music Information Retrieval, such as the development of beat and meter tracking in musical audio signals. The resulting expertise in rhythmic aspects of music inform his current research in SMC and ethnomusicology. Further information can be obtained from his website 


Muziek voor een begijnhof zonder kerk: zangboeken uit het Amsterdamse begijnhof rond 1600

Colloquium Muziekwetenschap
Dr. Ulrike Hascher-Burger, Universiteit Utrecht

Donderdag 20 april 2017, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, zaal 3.01

Na de ‘Alteratie van Amsterdam’ in 1578 bleef het ‘Ronde Begijnhof’ als enige katholieke instelling in de stad over omdat de huizen eigendom waren van de begijnen. De begijnhofkerk echter werd in 1578 gesloten en in 1607 overgedragen aan de Engelse presbyterianen. Bijna 100 jaar lang vierden de vrouwen in de huisjes op het hof. Pas in 1671 kregen de begijnen weer een kapel.

De liturgische boeken werden in 1578 eveneens verwijderd. Twee privézangboeken uit die tijd bleven echter bewaard, naast een omvangrijk muziekboek uit het begin van de 17e eeuw voor de liturgische behoeften van een begijnhof zonder kerk. Met zijn een- tot driestemmige liturgische gezangen en geestelijke liederen was het bedoeld als aanvulling op de privézangboeken. Drie muziekboeken die veel vragen opwerpen over de muziekcultuur op het Amsterdamse begijnhof rond 1600.

Dr. Ulrike Hascher-Burger is musicologe en mediëviste. Haar specialisme zijn laatmiddeleeuwse muziekhandschriften uit de Lage Landen en Noord-Duitsland, voornamelijk uit kringen van de Moderne Devotie. Zij is als geaffilieerd onderzoeker verbonden aan de Universiteit Utrecht en voorzitter van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis (KVNM). Haar onderzoek naar muziekbronnen uit het begijnhof in Amsterdam rond 1600 maakt deel uit van het HERA -Project 'Sound Memories: The Musical Past in Late-Medieval and Early-Modern Europe' (SoundMe). Persoonlijke website:


A New Source for 15th-Century Song

Colloquium Musicology
Prof. dr. David Burn, KU Leuven

Thursday 16 March 2017, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, Room 3.01

In December 2015 a musical source that had been purchased at auction by a private Belgian art-dealer was brought to the Alamire Foundation in Leuven for examination. The source, it turns out, is a previously unknown late fifteenth-century chansonnier, complete and in its original cloth binding. The discovery of such a new source counts as sensational: only a very small number of similar such sources survive, and the last time that anything equivalent appeared was in 1939. In my presentation, I will present this new songbook, discussing the methods involved in coming to terms with a new musical source, and the consequent remapping of known terrain that that entails.

Prof. dr. David Burn teaches in the musicology department of the University of Leuven, and is head of the Early Music research group. His research is focussed on the later 15th and 16th centuries, with particular interest for Heinrich Isaac and his contemporaries, interactions between chant and polyphony, source-studies, and early-music analysis. He is a member of the editorial board member of the book-series Analysis in Context: Leuven Studies in Musicology, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Alamire Foundation. Together with Sarah Long, he is General Editor of the Journal of the Alamire Foundation, a journal devoted to all aspects of research and performance of music in or connected with the Low Countries during the ancient régime.


Rumba and Semba; Musical Highlights in Times of Independence in Kongo and Angola

Dr. Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger, Independent Researcher and Research Associate RWTH Aachen

Dinsdag 7 maart, 11:30 - 12:30 uur.
Universiteitsbibliotheek, Singel 425, Belle van Zuylenzaal

In countries, in which most people could not read and write and also spoke different languages in de 1960s and 1970s, musicians succeeded to achieve some sense of cohesion. They had a quite important role to bring people together creating the perception of a shared political destiny. This was the case in Kongo and Angola, in which countries Papa Wendo and the Ngola Rhythms represented the expectations of a future postcolonial society. What kind of music did they play and sing? What was their impact after independence? And how is this period seen today?

Dr. Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger focuses her research on cultural and scientific history in the post-colonial context. Her main focus is Latin American and Caribbean literary criticism.
Dr. Ineke Phaf-Rheinberger teaches at the Humboldt University (Institute for Romance Languages) and was a lecturer at the University of Maryland (Spanish and Portuguese Department). 


Historisch geïnformeerde nieuwlichterij: het Orgelpark bouwt een 'hyper organ'

Colloquium Musicology
Prof. dr. Hans Fidom, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam en Orgelpark

Donderdag 16 februari, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, zaal 3.01

Het Orgelpark werkt aan een zowel historisch als kunstfilosofische saltus duriusculus: het bouwt een nieuw orgel waarvan het concept enerzijds zo serieus mogelijk gebaseerd is op historische informatie en anderzijds toch zodanig is gemodificeerd dat het ook met moderne middelen bespeelbaar is. De historische referenties verwijzen alle naar het musiceren op orgels in de tijd en de regio van Johann Sebastian Bach; het Orgelpark-orgel wordt gebouwd als had Zacharias Hildebrandt, een door Bach zeer gewaardeerde orgelmaker, het hebben kunnen bouwen - had hij vandaag geleefd. Daarbij gaat het niet om kopiëren van zijn werk, maar om het begrijpen ervan: het Orgelpark en de vier betrokken orgelbouwers passen ‘process reconstruction’ toe. Zoals de Duitsers het zo mooi zeggen: het gaat om ‘Kapieren statt Kopieren’. Het betekent onder meer dat het orgel er zal uitzien als een barokorgel dat Hildebrandt gebouwd zou kunnen hebben, en dat ook ’speelt’ als zijn orgels.

Tegelijk krijgt het instrument een laag die het tot ‘hyper organ’ maakt: het klankconcept wordt ook benaderbaar met een digitale klaviatuur, met computers, tablets, MIDI-interfaces etc. Dit verlangt niet alleen technologisch-historisch scherp beargumenteerde keuzes en dito werkwijzen bij de orgelmakers, maar ook herbezinning op de basisvraag van de muziekwetenschap: wat is musiceren eigenlijk? Wie zijn er daarbij aan zet? Welke rol speelt de luisteraar? En: gaat het nog wel alleen om muziek, of ook ‘gewoon’ om Sound? Dus: in welke mate speelt de jonge discipline Sound Studies een rol? Op 21 maart 2018 wordt het orgel in gebruik genomen - input van muziekwetenschapstudenten en -docenten wordt bij de slotfase van het ontwerp- en bouwproces bijzonder op prijs gesteld.

Prof. dr. Hans Fidom is bijzonder hoogleraar Orgelkunde aan de Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, leider van het Orgelpark Research Program, orgeladviseur en (wanneer er tijd overblijft) organist. Hij was hoofdredacteur van tijdschrift Het Orgel, eindredacteur van enkele delen van de encyclopedie Het Historische Orgel in Nederland, en is bestuurslid van de Koninklijke Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis. Zwaartepunten in zijn activiteiten als onderzoeker zijn orgelhistorie, de actuele ontwikkeling van ‘hyper organs’, muziekfilosofie, sound studies en ‘artistic research’.


From Craft to Profession: The Case of the Conservatory

Colloquium Musicology
Michiel Schuijer, Conservatorium van Amsterdam

Thursday 15 December, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

The word ‘conservatory’ – or ‘conservatoire’ in BE – denotes an institution that offers (mostly) professional education in various musical disciplines. This type of institution – which originally operated under sacred authority, and served charitable causes – was newly defined within the culture of the Bourgeoisie, where it had to supply the demands of a rapidly growing secular musical life. With musical excellence being needed in ever-larger quantities, it aimed to establish general qualifications for musicians and imposed certified standards on teaching practices and examining procedures. Its model was the Conservatoire national de musique et de déclamation founded 1795 in Paris.

In this paper, I propose to view the conservatory from the perspective of the rise of professionalism in civil society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a process that has led to fundamental changes in the structure and status of occupations. This process has been studied extensively, not only in general but also with reference to specific occupations and/or specific countries. Music, too, has been the subject of such research, which naturally involved the role of conservatories.

However, the factors that have shaped conservatory curricula over time need more systematic and extensive exploration. From the very beginning, conservatory policies have been fraught with multiple tensions. These seem to have resulted from incongruities between the traditional foundations and practices of music education, the evolving general standards of professional education, and the volatile expectations in the market place. The paper will pinpoint these tensions and show how different conservatories have dealt with them.

Michiel Schuijer is head of research and study leader of the Department of Composition, Conducting and Music Theory at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. He studied music theory at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and musicology at Utrecht University. In 1999 he co-founded the Society for Music Theory, and from 2007 through 2011 he was editor-in-chief of the Dutch Journal of Music Theory.

Schuijer focuses his own research at the juncture of music theory and historical musicology. His book Analyzing Atonal Music: Pitch-Class Set Theory and Its Contexts was published in 2008 by University of Rochester Press. Now he is working on a project that addresses the European conservatoire as a social and cultural phenomenon.


Listening to Architecture: The Concert Hall as a Medium of Musical Culture

Colloquium Musicology
Darryl Cressman, Maastricht University

Thursday 24 November, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Concert halls are designed for attentively listening to music. To guarantee that the listening experience mediated by these buildings is acoustically correct, architects rely upon mathematical formulas to measure and predict how a building will sound. Armed with these formulas, they are able to experiment with unconventional concert hall designs without compromising sound.

The achievements of modern architectural acoustics are a valorization of the mathematical formulas used to predict acoustics. Indeed, the development of a predictive theory of architectural acoustics by Wallace Sabine in 1900 has been celebrated as the beginning of a new era of understanding sound and acoustic design. But, overlooked in this scientific triumphalism are the musical standards and expectations that shape the acoustic design of buildings for music. Sabine’s formula transformed our understanding of how music behaves in an enclosed space, but it did not change our understanding of how music should sound in these spaces.

Examining the history of Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw (opened in 1888) demonstrates how, in lieu of an acoustic formula, musical culture, especially ideas about listening, influenced ideas about acoustics and acoustic design. Exploring the designs for the Concertgebouw proposed by architects, patrons, and musicians reveals that prior to quantification, acoustics were more closely aligned with musical and aural discourses.

Darryl Cressman is an assistant professor in the Philosophy Department in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences at Maastricht University. He received his PhD from the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University in 2012. He is the author of Building Musical Culture in Nineteenth-Century Amsterdam: The Concertgebouw (University of Amsterdam Press) and has published research in the fields of sound studies, the philosophy of technology, science and technology studies, and media history.


Blowing Gabriel Out of the Clouds: Jazz and the Afterlife

Colloquium Musicology
Prof. dr. Walter van de Leur

Thursday 20 October, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

The afterlife is a site of many fantasies, and it figures in numerous jazz narratives. Biographies and documentaries unproblematically present the likes of Armstrong and Coltrane as saints or angels, who after fulfilling their mission on earth have rejoined their creator. Often the concept of immortality is played out in overt religious terms. Jazz in heaven—and sometimes in hell—is a trope that drives many jazz jokes, but it seriously is the hook of Howard E. Fischer’s documentary jazz film They Died Before 40: ‘The greatest jazz band in history has been playing in heaven for more than 50 years!,’ the promotional blurb trumpets. For the film, different iconic recordings of Stardust have been digitally spliced to produce a tune ‘recorded in heaven’ by a band ‘organized in heaven’; apparently real recordings from the Hereafter have not materialized so far.
     Jazz fans who are not sure they will get to see the heavenly band perform, can opt for a final resting place in the Jazz Corner at Woodlawn Cemetery (The Bronx, New York), where more than 2,000 mausoleum and burial plots went on sale in 2014, for ‘lovers of jazz who are anxious to spend eternity near to the legends they have loved in life.’ According to cemetery executive director David Ison, the plots sold out quickly: ‘It’s absolutely incredible ... we allotted several sites just behind Miles Davis and they’re almost all gone.’
     In this paper I will look at jazz and death, and the fantasies that the ‘most live music performed in the here and now’ calls up when jazz greats die. The narratives surrounding the passing of musicians reflect how fans, critics and historians have understood and understand jazz and its practitioners. Myths about either the triumphant successes of larger than life immortals or the lonely sufferings of tragic geniuses reveal various assumptions that feed into ideas about what sets jazz apart from other musics.

Jazz-musicologist Walter van de Leur received his Ph.D. from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), and teaches at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam (CvA), where he is Research Coordinator in the Jazz and Classical Master’s programs, Jazz historiography electives teacher in the Jazz Master’s program, and Music History teacher in the Jazz Bachelor’s program. On behalf of the CvA, he is Professor of Jazz and Improvised Music at the UvA. He has published in a variety of peer-reviewed academic journals and edited volumes as well as in non-academic journals. Two book manuscripts are currently in process, one on the reception of jazz in Europe, and one on jazz and death.


Reasoning through Art: The Articulation of Embodied Knowledge

Colloquium Musicology
Prof. dr. Henk Borgdorff

Thursday 22 September, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

My contribution will start with asking whether research by artists, so-called artistic research, is equivalent to academic research. Artists in their research often make use of insights, methods and techniques, which stem from social science, humanities or technological research, but it is not clear what artistic research itself has to offer to academia. In my talk I will develop a positive understanding of research in and through the arts, touching upon its epistemology and methodology, and addressing the form and relevance of its outcomes. I will point to four related issues that are pertinent to research in and through art: an advanced understanding of discursivity, of reasoning; the methodological relevance of material practices and things; innovative ways of publishing art in academia; and advanced forms of peer review. This will be illustrated by the workings of the Journal for Artistic Research and its associated Research Catalogue. Besides, it is key to the advancement of the artistic research field that we not only advertise and export our epistemological and methodological distinctiveness, but that we also join forces with others in our attempt to re-think academia.


Impresario in Cold Wartime: Nicolas Nabokov’s Music Festivals, 1951-1961

Colloquium Musicology
dr. Harm Langenkamp

Thursday 19 May, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Around 1950, when the members of the anti-Nazi alliance found themselves locked into a political and ideological stalemate that none of them could afford to escalate into another ‘hot’ war, the Truman administration found itself facing a challenge for which it was ill-prepared: stemming the seemingly irreversible success of Moscow’s overtures to nonaligned intelligentsias the world over. Part of Washington’s answer was the facilitation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF), a global coalition of men and women of arts, letters, and science that took it upon itself to counteract Soviet propaganda by promoting the value of freedom. Against all expectations, the post of the CCF’s secretary-general went to Nicolas Nabokov, an outspoken émigré composer of prominent Russian descent with a zest for anti-Stalinist rhetoric and politics. In this capacity, Nabokov organized a number of large-scale festivals and conferences which convened musicians, composers, music critics and (ethno)musicologists on an agenda of common interests and concerns.

This lecture assesses the strategies, ambitions, successes, and failures of Nabokov’s musical enterprises, in particular the 1961 East-West Music Encounter in Tokyo. Admirable for all the adversities Nabokov had overcome, at the height of the Vietnam War his projects were compromised by revelations about the CCF’s secret benefactor: the Central Intelligence Agency. For all the questions these revelations raise about the notions of cultural autonomy and apolitical cosmopolitanism that informed the CCF’s politics, this paper resists quick and easy condemnation, suggesting that the embrace of these notions as well as the resort to secrecy was at the time of the CCF’s foundation (June 1950) the only strategy through which a cultural counteroffensive of a serious scale could be mounted.


The Musical Imaginarium of Konishi Yasuharu, or How to make Western music Japanese

Colloquium Musicology
dr. Oliver Seibt

Thursday 21 April, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

“J-Pop” or “J-Rock”, the labels used to designate Japanese popular music, self-consciously claim the successful domestication of two Western music genres. But how were these Western musics made Japanese? How did Japanese musicians succeed to convince an international audience of the unique qualities that distinguish J-Pop and J-Rock from contemporary genres of Western popular music?

The work of Konishi Yasuharu, former head of the internationally acclaimed J-Pop duo Pizzicato 5, gives an idea of the general importance of a relevant dimension with regard to the production and consumption of music that is often neglected in the study of global popular music flows.


Resilience, precarity and counter publics in Beyoncé’s audiovisual oeuvre

Colloquium Musicology
dr. Kristin McGee (University of Groningen)

Thursday 17 March, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

In an age of self-fashioning, audiovisual music performances, as meta-texts, remain powerful vehicles for promoting neoliberalism’s resilience discourse. Currently, pop stars commandeer not only top down media, but more informal platforms to promote their celebrity status and consequently alter the terms of musical performativity. In her self-titled video-album Beyoncé (2013), super star Beyoncé challenges the conventions of both film and music genres to promote her resilient artistic voice while expanding her international celebrity status. Her recent work also elevates the status of music video as the essential facet of the new visual album genre. This presentation conceptualizes Beyoncé’s self-fashioning as both artistic engagement with the public sphere and as a continuation of the repetitive performance aesthetics of an increasingly dominate black music ideal. Ultimately Beyoncé exploits old and new media to perpetuate her mega star status; yet her multifaceted artistic oeuvre prompts non-essentialist corporeal negotiations of black culture, which productively contribute to recent debates about feminism and sexuality within the music industry.