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"Orpheus, or philosophy": early opera and early modern science

Online Colloquium Musicology
Nicholas Till 

Monday 8 June 16:00 via Zoom 
Want to join? E-mail for the Zoom-link.

In the third act of Striggio's and Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607), Orfeo seizes the boat of Charon, the ferryman of the dead, and propels himself across the river Styx. As he does so a chorus of Infernal Spirits extols Orfeo's courage in penetrating the underworld, comparing it to the navigational feats of Jason and the Argonauts, Daedalus’s mechanical conquest of flight, and Phaeton's seizing of the chariot of the sun. Although such exploits were commonly deployed in classical and medieval times as warnings against curiosity, hubris or political overreaching, by the early modern period Jason and Daedalus/Icarus were more commonly being adduced to represent the navigational and scientific achievements of the era. Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci were regularly represented as Jason by poets, painters and theatre-makers, and in turn all of these explorers navigational and intellectual, mythological or historical, came to stand for Galileo (e.g. Kepler’s reference to Galileo as “the Florentine Argonaut”). Furthermore, although historians have often noted the co-incidence of early modern science and early modern opera, the sheer extent of the relationship has not been adequately documented. Galileo himself was not present at the performance of the first surviving opera, Euridice, in Florence in 1600, but Nicholas Till demonstrates that the event brought together a remarkable constellation of Galileans amongst both its creators and the audience.  
In this colloquium, Till wants to explicate these relations in detail and wants to attempt a hypothesis as to what lays behind these relations in terms of social, cultural and intellectual synergies, examining the function of science and experiment in early absolutist courts, the epistemological presuppositions of early science and early opera, and Claudio Monteverdi’s own scientific interests.
The title of the talk is taken from an essay by Francis Bacon in his De Sapienta veterum of 1609, his reading of the Greek myths as allegories of science, an Italian translation of which was published in 1618 and dedicated to Galileo’s employer Cosimo III de’ Medici. In this essay Bacon proposes that Orpheus’s descent into the realm of the dead should be read as an allegory of the scientist’s “noblest work of all, nothing less than the restitution and renovation of things corruptible”. In place of the esoteric/occult Orpheus of the Renaissance, Till will propose an understanding of Orphic opera as an artform well aware of the new scientific paradigm that constituted the modern age, and of its own modernity.
Nicholas Till is Professor of Opera and Music Theatre at the University of Sussex, and Pierre Audi Chair at the University of Amsterdam. His publications include Mozart and the Enlightenment (1992) and The Cambridge Companion to Opera Studies (2012), in addition to numerous articles and book chapters involving historical, theoretical and critical studies of opera and music theatre. His current research includes projects on early opera and modernity, cultural representations of nomadism and nation, and a history of one of London’s oldest working-class music halls.


Musical and pedagogical changes in dutar ensembles in Uzbekistan and beyond

Online Colloquium Musicology
Tanya Merchant (UCSC)

20 May 2020 17:00 via Zoom 
Want to join? E-mail for the Zoom-link.

Dutar ensembles, groups of musicians (usually women) playing the two stringed lute with the purpose of preparing and performing concerts, have been a hallmark of Uzbek music since the mid-20th Century. Considering these ensemble’s trajectory through the Soviet period and independence era and their transmission abroad to the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere, the ensemble’s repertoire and technique have remained somewhat stable. However, the rhetoric surrounding the ensembles has changed significantly, from uplifting folk music to propagandizing the nation, to engaging in broader discourses of world music and its role in university systems. The dutar ensemble is common throughout musical institutions in Uzbekistan from elementary schools through higher education. This talk will consider the ensembles’ pedagogical goals and techniques, as well as the stakes of concertizing non-concert-oriented music, the contrasts between ensembles that employ reconstructed dutars and those that use dutars labeled as traditional in Uzbekistan, and the dutar ensemble’s place in the pantheon of world music ensembles in the United States. It explores how tropes of national pride and tradition translate through changing settings and contexts.

Tanya Merchant, Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is an ethnomusicologist whose research interests include music’s intersection with issues of nationalism, gender, identity, and the post-colonial situation. With a geographical focus on Central Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Balkans, she has conducted fieldwork in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia, the United States, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She is an avid performer on the Central Asian dutar and has given concerts in the U.S. and Uzbekistan. Her book, Women Musicians of Uzbekistan: From Courtyard to Conservatory, was published in 2015 by the University of Illinois Press.


Preservation as performance: liveness, loss and viability in electroacoustic music

Colloquium Musicology
Hannah Bosma, University of Amsterdam

Thursday 12 March 15:30-17:00

Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

It is very difficult to preserve experimental electronic music and to re-perform it later. The unique software and equipment become obsolete quickly. Knowledge and information are dispersed through interdisciplinary collaboration. Sound and performance are volatile. How to keep this music for future generations? Or is loss essential for this music? What remains?

This lecture presents Hannah Bosma’s research project Preservation as performance: liveness, loss and viability in electroacoustic music (2019-2023). After giving an outline of this project, she will zoom in on her current research at STEIM, studio for electro-instrumental music in Amsterdam since 1969, where Michel Waisvisz developed the Crackle Box and The Hands and numerous international musicians-artists worked on their projects.

Hannah Bosma is a postdoc researcher at the University of Amsterdam for this NWO funded Veni research project. Other projects include MA-courses on Archiving Art (UvA) and on gender, voice and music technology (Kunstuniversität Graz 2017-2019), the conference The Art of Voice Synthesis (UvA 2016) and The Electronic Cry: Voice, gender and electroacoustic music (PhD UvA 2013).


Performing The Raven: David Bispham’s melodramatic Poe, revisited

Colloquium Musicology
Jed Wentz, Leiden University

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

David Bispham (1857-1921) was a celebrated American operatic singer famed for his acting skills. In 1910, with the composer Arthur Bergh accompanying at the piano, he performed a melodramatic version of Poe’s The Raven in which he spoke Poe’s text in time to the music. He would go on to perform the highly successful piece all over the United States. By all accounts, Bispham’s energetic and pathetic acting style had an overwhelming impact on the audience, guaranteeing the work’s artistic and commercial success. Indeed, the published score was supplemented with 10 photographs of Bispham in affective attitudes, associated with specific lines of text, encouraging purchasers to act out The Raven for themselves. This combination of images, text and musical score had the potential to create a shared physical bond, associated with a beloved poem, between audience and performer.

This lecture demonstration places Wentz’s own performance of Bergh’s musical setting of The Raven in the context of the original Bispham interpretation: research carried out in the New York Public Library has revealed the singer’s own score (with performative annotations), newspaper reviews and numerous photographs of the actor in the heat of the moment. A performance without music will close the presentation.

Jed Wentz has, in the course of a long career in Early Music, turned his hand to various tasks and has engaged with diverse disciplines. He has performed on historical flutes and conducted staged opera productions. He has done archival research and published in scholarly journals. He has had a light-hearted relationship with journalism: for years, he had a cooking column in a Dutch early music journal dedicated to recreating 18th-century recipes. He has worked intensively with Baroque dancers, and was declamation and acting coach to a HIP production of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s melodrama Pygmalion at the Baroque theatre in Cesky Krumlov. He is artistic advisor to the Utrecht Early Music Festival, teaches at the Amsterdam Conservatory, is assistant professor at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, Leiden University and has performed with the Newcastle Kingsmen.


Historicizing hype: 1995-present

Colloquium Musicology
Christopher Haworth, University of Birmingham

Thursday 23 January 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Popular music is often understood to have a special purchase on hype as a promotional and communicative strategy. As a Sunday Times article from 1968 put it, hype is ‘an American word for the gentle art of getting a tune into the pop charts without actually selling any records’ (quoted in Powers, 2011). The increasingly centrality of the internet over the last twenty years has if anything intensified the relationship between popular music and hype. Recommender services like ‘hype machine’ hard-code the ‘positive feedback loop’ (Ibid) of hype into their systems, as the music people discuss on music blogs and Twitter is crawled through and served back to consumers, fuelling further discourse on social media which in turn fuels algorithms. On the side of production, recent ‘net native’ microgenres like vaporwave, seapunk and witch house use the affordances of the internet to exaggerate hype-like qualities of simulacra and speculation. By invoking vapourware, the term used for software that is promoted without going into production, vaporwave drew implicit links between the anti-innovative excesses of predatory capitalism and the pre-emptive hype characteristic of the music press. Vaporwave was a term before it was a genre, and the genre was ‘dead’ as soon as it was formed.

The challenges of analysing hype are multiple. How does one historicise phenomena whose constituent parts are excess, whether all or in part? What approaches are appropriate to the analysis of phenomena whose dimensions—material, textual, discursive—may be in contradiction? How do internet technologies amplify and multiply the capacities for hype-generation in relation to music? This talk will analyse a group of musicians, critics, theorists, and philosophers whose collective influence on contemporary internet culture is great, even if the work they produced is little understood: the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU), active from 1995-03. Cultivating, spreading, and theorising hype were central features of CCRU activity. The group spread misinformation about their formation and existence, as though deliberately obscuring their tracks for later historians. They participated in the propagation and ‘spreading of hype’ related to contemporary technoculture — most notably with Y2K, the computer bug that threatened to bring down the world economy. Hype was also central to the theoretical and practical work of the CCRU. They theorised hype, first, through the cybernetic concept of positive feedback (‘cyberpositivity’), which was the material driver of what would later (retroactively) be termed ‘accelerationism’; and second, through the concept of ‘hyperstition’—fictions which make themselves real—which informed the group’s writing in theory-fiction. Central to much of this play with authenticity, at least in the later years, was the internet. Using as an informal base for they operations following their departure from Warwick University, they experimented with its capacities for inauthenticity, ahistoricism, and mythos in ways that directly anticipate the strategies of simulacral-genres like vaporwave.

Yet despite the clear centrality of hype to the CCRU’s work at the time, its pertinence is most striking in the present day, as a new generation of musicians and web-users rediscover the group and in the process amplify and expand the fictive universe they created. Was the hype self-fulfilling, or do media experiences of the present create new conditions for the CCRU's reception?

Christopher Haworth is Lecturer in Music at University of Birmingham. He is currently the PI on the AHRC funded Leadership Fellowship (2019-21) Music and the Internet: Towards a Digital Sociology of Music. In 2018 his article 'From Microsound to Vaporwave: Internet-mediated musics, online methods and genre' was awarded the Westrup Prize for the best article published annually in the journal, Music and Letters. 


Making Sundanese music local again: Galengan Sora Awi

Colloquium Musicology
Henry Spiller, UC Davis

Thursday 12 December 2019 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Since the fall in 1998 of Indonesia’s authoritarian regime headed by President Soeharto, and the beginning of the era of reformasi, residents of Bandung—the capital city of the province of West Java and the cultural center of Sundanese traditions—have experimented with ways to affirm their regional Sundanese identity. Musicians in particular have looked to musical instruments made of bamboo to bring a sense of place and Sundanese-ness to their musical expressions.

This presentation introduces one such bamboo musical group—Galengan Sora Awi (hereafter GSA)—and examines how the group expresses a bottom-up approach to reconnecting to a Sundanese identity that is rooted firmly in a unique place—Bandung’s Dago neighborhood on the Cikapundung river. They achieve this connection by performing an eclectic repertory of Sundanese styles and genres, deploying idiosyncratic, homemade bamboo musical instruments, for audiences and events that are associated closely with Bandung’s physical environment and nascent grassroots environmental movement. I mobilize Bernard Stiegler’s notions of primary, secondary, and tertiary retention (Technics and Time, 1998) to examine how GSA’s bamboo musical instruments help them achieve their goals.

GSA’s musical activities fit well with the post-modern “do-it-yourself” (DIY) principles that drive alternative music scenes all over the world and are also associated with environmental and social reform movements. For GSA, however, it is the revival of a very old technology— bamboo—that enables them to perform a variety of musical genres once limited to specialists. For GSA, the path to renewing and reviving their connections to human groups and to the landscapes that nurtured them, even in contemporary Bandung, is paved with bamboo.

Henry Spiller (BA, UC Santa Cruz; MM, Holy Names University; MA and PhD, UC Berkeley) is an ethnomusicologist whose research focuses on Sundanese music and dance from West Java, Indonesia, on gender and sexuality. His award-winning books include Gamelan: The Traditional Sounds of Indonesia (ABC-CLIO, 2004), Erotic Triangles: Sundanese Dance and Masculinity in West Java (Chicago, 2010), and Javaphilia: American Love Affairs with Javanese Music and Dance (Hawaii, 2015). At UC Davis, he teaches world music classes and graduate seminars, and directs the Department of Music's gamelan ensemble. Currently he is a fellow at NIAS (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences) in Amsterdam.


How to open a musical composition?

Colloquium Musicology
Em. prof. dr. Rokus de Groot, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Thursday 21 November 2019 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Performers-cum-improvisers and composers have to deal with the task to conduct the listeners – as well as themselves – from non-musical time to time ordered by music.

Among the ways to open a piece of music two approaches stand out, which are each other’s opposite: ex nihilo and in mediis rebus

With the approach of in mediis rebus one is thrown into musical time ‘unawares’. In fact, since one finds oneself in mediis rebus, one may feel inclined to assume that the music has been going on already for some time, and only now is sounded and becomes audible.

A quite different approach to open a composition is the one ex nihilo. We should add that this ‘nihil’ is relative, it is a playful one, listeners have been accustomed to pretend to themselves that they are open to what comes, while actually quite some previous knowledge is required to enter into this process of opening. While the in mediis rebus entry is abrupt, the alleged ex nihilo one is gradual and gentle.

In this presentation examples of both approaches from European and Indian sources will be discussed.


The Evolution of Dance: How and when do new genres emerge in electronic dance music?

Colloquium Musicology
Alex van Venrooij, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Thursday 17 October 2019 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

In the thirty years since house music first emerged from the club scene of Chicago, this cultural form has transformed from a local subculture into a global field and in the process spawned a large number of new subgenres. How do these new subgenres develop? What is the process by which they emerge and are formed? And does the emergence of new genres perhaps show some underlying pattern? In this presentation, I will present some key findings from my research on the evolution of the electronic dance music field and provide a sociological analysis of the process of genre emergence.

Alex van Venrooij is assistant professor in cultural sociology at the department of sociology at the University of Amsterdam. His work has focused on the emergence, dynamics and effects of classification systems, such as genre categories, in cultural fields.


Steelband music and decolonial love

Colloquium Musicology
Charissa Granger, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Thursday 3 October 2019 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Discarded 55-gallon oil barrels were used for music-making in 1930s colonial Trinidad and Tobago – a period deeply shaped by discrimination of these performers. Often standing at the beginning of personal and political consciousness, music empowered participants, giving a sense of self-regard and -respect by mixing and transforming materials and musical structures, forming symphonic steelorchestras.

Many music-making practices throughout the Caribbean are tightly connected to discourses of resistance. Such attempts to understand music always depart from a conception of music in response to hegemony, marginalization, and colonial oppression. In this colloquium, Charissa Granger wants to delink from exclusively understanding music as resistance and to create alternatives that reflect a border practice (Mignolo & Tlostanova 2006) that embraces a love-ethic (hooks 2000; 2001) that is not solely in response to the colonial matrix of power, but moves beyond it through performance and music. She seeks to analyze musical performance as the epistemology of the exteriority. Such an exploration engages with self-knowledge, self-determination, self-critique and self-possession and how this takes place in the communion generated by performing together. Granger examines steelpan music and performance as a decolonial epistemology, asking:

What would an understanding of coloniality, decoloniality and border thinking contribute to understanding steelband music and performance? How can we take into account non-textual forms of knowledge, generated by marginalized people, in the distribution of intellectual and political labor?

Considering steelband as a decolonial practice and thereby examining the epistemology of the exterior necessarily entails understanding the creation of strategies in music not to simply respond to the colonial matrix of power, but to disengage from it, particularly through recomposing/arranging music.

Charissa Granger is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoc LEaDing Fellow at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands. Charissa’s research foci are on how Caribbean and Afro-diaspora music-making practices generate knowledge, concentrating on music’s relationship to postcolonial and decolonial experiences.


Ethnomusicology and arts-based research: a case study by Horacio Curti

Colloquium Musicology
Horacio Curti, Catalonia College of Music in Barcelona

Thursday 12 September 2019 15:30-17:00 uur 
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

This presentation is centered on a currently ongoing research that combines ethnomusicology and arts-based research. It originates from the author’s own experience as professional shakuhachi player educated in Japan. The methodology is based on literature review of sources related to diverse Japanese Arts, fieldwork processes centered on interviews and a trans-disciplinary arts-based research process.

The findings of the ethnomusicological research that are going to be presented provide theoretical depth to the re-contextualized, practice-based research. These will include issues related to the characteristics of sound that are cultivated and valued inside the Japanese hōgaku,邦楽, identifying a series of significant concepts that include: maneirosawarior yūgen among many others. 

Beyond these significant elements the concept of ‘obstacle’ is proposed as a construct that could help to develop an understanding of sound production processes favored and at the same time the label of ‘un-pure’ is proposed to describe the general characteristics of it.

Finally, from the framework of arts-based research, the artistic creation processes in progress and their problematics will be discussed.


Classical Music as a Site of Political Emotions

Colloquium Musicology
Olga Panteleeva, Universiteit Utrecht

Thursday 13 June 2019, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

In this talk, Olga Panteleeva analyses the highly emotional discussions about the genre of Regieoper – a revisionist approach to operatic staging associated in Russia with Western European music culture. As a part of her research project about online classical music fandom in contemporary Russia, she positions these discussions in the long tradition of morality politics that presents Russia as culturally and morally superior to the West. Classical music has been a trump card for Russia in the power struggle with the “bourgeois West” since the 1930s. Appropriation of Western European masterpieces for the Soviet artistic canon during that time further contributed to the idea that Russia is heir and guardian to the great Western European culture. Locating contemporary discourses within the long tradition of equating aesthetic with ethics, this project demonstrates how the “cultural heritage” became paramount in constructing the discourses of national superiority in Putin’s Russia.
Arguing, after Sara Ahmed, against the psychologizing understanding of emotions as something that belongs exclusively to the private sphere, Olga Panteleeva interrogates the ways in which the politics of emotion in Russia creates the Other and solidifies a sense of national identity perceived to be under threat from the West. While this theoretical perspective aligns with a recent trend in political science to analyze the current anti-Western attitudes in Russia through the lens of Nietzschean ressentiment and feelings of resentment, this is the first research project that brings theory of emotions to bear on the contemporary politics of music in Russia.

Olga Panteleeva is a Lecturer in Musicology at Utrecht University in The Netherlands. She received her Ph.D. in musicology from the University of California, Berkeley. Engaging with different periods of Russian and Soviet music culture, her research focuses on the relationship between music and power, the intersections between musical and scientific discourses, and contemporary politics of classical music. In 2017-2018 she was a Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University as a part of a cohort working on the topic titled "The Culture and Politics of Resentment." She is currently working on a monograph, "The Making of Soviet Musicology," to be published by Indiana University Press. As a music critic Olga Panteleeva wrote for the Russian business daily Vedomosti and the independent online magazine


The Laws of Performance

Colloquium Musicology
Rebekah Ahrendt, Universiteit Utrecht

Thursday 6 June 2019, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

This colloquium is a preview of a new project Rebekah Arendt is developing, “The Laws of Performance.” This project builds on prior research she carried out on performance, migration, and international relations. Concentrating on the long eighteenth century, she explore the historical labor migration of a specific group--musical performers—in order to begin to answer questions about the free movement of labor (including enforcement of foreign contracts), the construction of citizenship, and the (moral) principles of public policy.
Her primary thesis is that a shared European legal foundation—the ius commune based on Roman and canon law—enabled performer mobility and the establishment of durable performing institutions. The transposibility of legal norms provided a common understanding of entitlements and obligations across Continental Europe, shaping the foundation of opera companies, theater troupes, and orchestral ensembles. However, local ordinances and case law overlaying the ius commune could create confusion or frustration for mobile populations that, like performing troupes, depended on the good will of local authorities. Moreover, performers faced moral objections due to social mores regarding their profession and to the fact that they often maintained no permanent residence (unlike merchants, for example).
To date, performance studies writ large has primarily considered law in terms of intellectual property rights or institutional organization, or as evidence for who was employed where, how, and at what time, particularly in studies of the early modern period. Ahrendt proposes reading legal documents from a different angle: for what they can tell us about the gradual, historical integration of performers and their ensembles into the urban landscape. In this, I respond to recent calls for recognizing law and the legal as cultural constructions, as dependent upon and constructive of place as any other aspect of cultural geography. I intend not merely to show that law partakes of culture or that culture refracts law, but to demonstrate that they are mutually constitutive. For example, legal agreements helped constitute the urban opera house, its inhabitants, and even its repertoire. Only through these agreements could the opera house become a site of performance and a feature of urban geography. In other words, it was through legal documents—themselves negotiated through acts of performance—that opera became a legitimized space. And opera in turn helped shape law: it caused cities to rethink urban planning projects, to regulate performance spaces, to legislate the identities of (foreign) performers in relationship to natural citizens, to reform tax laws to accommodate mobile populations and sporadic performance.
Ahrendt’s colloquium will focus on the establishment of opera in the Dutch Republic. How an opera house ended up on the early modern map of The Hague (and not of Amsterdam!) is a tale of urban renewal and spatial reorganization in line with many such accounts of opera’s participation in civic life. But it is also a story of how opera and law interacted, of how savvy entrepreneurs worked within (and on the margins of) a legal system. Drawing on an extraordinarily long paper trail created by an opera company around 1700, she examines the unique governmental and juridical structures of The Hague and their interaction with the institution of opera. From obtaining permission and funding to hiring a theater and performers, the company’s participation in the town’s legal geographies transformed what was essentially outsider space into a signifier of prestige, a provider of social welfare, and a successfully redeveloped theatrical center.

Rebekah Ahrendt is Associate Professor of Musicology in the Department of Media and Culture Studies. Prior to joining Utrecht’s faculty, she was Assistant Professor in the Yale University Department of Music and a Mellon Postdoctoral Scholar in the Humanities at the Center for the Humanities at Tufts University. A specialist in music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Ahrendt’s work centers on the importance of mobility—whether through migration, exchange, or long-distance actor networks—in the construction of identity. Her current monograph project illuminates the musical networks maintained by the refugees, exiles, and migrants who traversed the landscape of the Dutch Republic. Much of her recent scholarship has focused on music and international relations, including the co-edited book Music and Diplomacy from the Early Modern Era to the Present (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). Ahrendt is also a co-director of the international research project Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered, which has garnered worldwide media attention since its formal launch in November 2015. A graduate of the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, Ahrendt continues to perform and record on the viola da gamba.


[ Cancelled ] The Evolution of Dance: How and when do new genres emerge in electronic dance music?

Colloquium Musicology
Alex van Venrooij, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Thursday 23 May 2019, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

In the thirty years since house music first emerged from the club scene of Chicago, this cultural form has transformed from a local subculture into a global field and in the process spawned a large number of new subgenres. How do these new subgenres develop? What is the process by which they emerge and are formed? And does the emergence of new genres perhaps show some underlying pattern? In this presentation, I will present some key findings from my research on the evolution of the electronic dance music field and provide a sociological analysis of the process of genre emergence.

Alex van Venrooij is assistant professor in cultural sociology at the department of sociology at the University of Amsterdam. His work has focused on the emergence, dynamics and effects of classification systems, such as genre categories, in cultural fields.


"When" in Musical Rhythm: Is Beat Perception Special?

Colloquium Musicology
Fleur Bouwer, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Thursday 21 March 2019, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

A packed Museum-square collectively swaying to the music of André Rieu. Going crazy on Lowlands festival. Kids singing a song together. As humans, we seem to all be capable of moving and synchronising to a musical beat. But is it indeed so easy to hear a beat in musical rhythm? How does the brain allow us to perceive a beat in sound and to predict when the next tone will be heard in a musical rhythm? In this talk, cognitive musicologist Fleur Bouwer will address these questions. Moreover, she will present data from her recent experiment in which she aimed to find out whether the perception of a beat in musical rhythm is "special" or uses general timing processes in the brain.

Fleur Bouwer is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam, supervised by Heleen Slagter and Henkjan Honing. Using methods like EEG and fMRI, she examines how predictions shape the perception of music in general and musical rhythm in particular. Fleur obtained her PhD in 2016. She holds both a Master in Psychology (UvA) and a Master of Music (Amsterdam Conservatory). In 2016, Fleur received an ABC Talent grant, enabling her to continue her research combining her fascination for the human brain and her passion for music. In addition, Fleur is an enthusiastic educator, both in teaching courses at the UvA and in bringing the science of music cognition to the public.


Modelling Melodic Patterns: Findings and Open Questions

Colloquium Musicology
Peter van Kranenburg, Meertens Instituut

Thursday 21 February 2019, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

From music theory it is widely accepted that music can be modelled hierarchically, score notation being just one level in that hierarchy. For example, for Western tonal music, theories such as the Generative Theory of Tonal Music (GTTM) or Heinrich Schenker's reduction methods are considered to result in valid analyses, revealing higher-level structures encompassing multiple individual notes, or even entire pieces. For the specific musical dimension of melody, no such well-established methodology exists. In this contribution, he will talk about a number of studies in which he uses computational methods to extract melodic patterns from monophonic music, both represented symbolically and as audio recordings. He will report some successes in detecting melodic cadences and relating melodic gestures in Jewish Torah recitation. Next, he will present some open questions, mainly on interpretation and evaluation of the findings of melodic pattern discovery algorithms.

Peter van Kranenburg is a researcher at the Meertens Instituut in Amsterdam. As a musicologist, he is interested in how and why we make and experience music. As a computer scientist, he investigates how we can use computers to support research on music. He is continuously searching to connect humanities and scientific approaches; a very intriguing challenge. Van Kranenburg has developed a method to automatically recognize the personal style of certain classical composers. Moreover, he worked on analyzing melodies that are used to recite the Qur’an, and he developed a way to compute to what extent two melodies are similar.


Creativity & Innovation: North Bali’s Signature

Colloquium Musicology
Henrice Vonck, University of Amsterdam

Thursday 17 January 2019, 15:30-17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Last summer, Undiksha University in Singaraja (North Bali) expressed their wish to set up a research centre for an in-depth and long-term study of North Balinese art and culture in cooperation with the Musicology department of the University of Amsterdam. This research will result in an online database, accessible for local and (inter)national interested parties, and researchers, and aims to revitalize the local culture and performing arts.

Recent studies increasingly show that innovation and creativity are the main style characteristics of North Balinese art and culture, compared to the more traditional and standardized South Balinese culture. Besides that, the region North Bali is a highly cultural diverse area, which led to a high sense of artistic competition among artists. In this dynamic whole, around the year 1915 a new and vibrant – and now omnipresent gamelan style – arose, called gong kerbyar. Sadly enough, the particular North Balinese style went out of vogue and has almost disappeared, because of the economic and cultural dominance of southern Bali.

In her colloquium she will shine a new light on the style characteristics of North Balinese art and culture, and then explain how we aim to (re)discover, describe and revitalise this local culture, and bestow it its rightful place in the artistic world.

Henrice Vonck is a musician-researcher and ethnomusicologist, whose dissertation Manis and Keras (1997) about gender wayang in Tejakula (North Bali) remains one of the few musicological studies of North Balinese music. Since 1987 Henrice is artistic leader of Irama Foundation, which has a longstanding history of concerts, theatre productions and summer schools with renown Balinese artists, like dalang Wayan Wija, dancers I Wayan Catra and I Wayan Dibia, composer I Made Asnawa, and teacher and gamelan maker I Nyoman Sudarna. Vonck was also programme coordinator of the two editions of the International Gamelan Festival Amsterdam (IGFA), in the Tropentheater Amsterdam.

Out of enthusiasm for the enormous diversity of the no longer in vogue North Balinese art and culture, she initiated and organized the International Conference and Festival for North Balinese Arts & Culture in Singaraja (2010, 2013). Following up on the recommendations from the 2013 edition, she is now establishing a Research & Education Centre for North Balinese Arts, in cooperation with Undishka, Universitas Pendidikan Ganesha (Singaraja, North Bali) and the Musicology department of the University of Amsterdam. In her working life Henrice is affiliated as Artistic Research coordinator to the Master of Music of Codarts University for the Arts, Rotterdam. Last but not least she works as a mindfulness trainer at Codarts and the Centrum voor Mindfulness in Amsterdam.


Musical Parsing in the Age of Spotify

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. Sebastian Klotz, Humboldt University

Thursday 11 October 2018, 15:30-17:00

Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

This talk addresses the interface of empirical music psychology and commercial music technology
applications. Music streaming and recommender systems rely on advanced semantic searches and
similarity queues. The software defines some 1.000 musical events per track, generated from real
consumer behaviour during streaming & listening. While these parsing algorithms are shielded by the
companies, they beg the question which theories stand behind these clustered segmentations and
synthesized user profiles.

New parsing strategies coincide with potential changes of the formal design of tracks: in main-
stream maximal pop (Hannah Pilarczyk), in-song structural and dynamic changes are replaced by persistent hook-lines which affect the overall lay-out. Should this be the case, non-syntactic
algorithmic parsing would be the ideal tool to capitalize on this tendency.

The presentation argues that user-based approaches to musical events add a new dimension to the
primarily syntax-based concepts used by music psychology and computational feature extraction.
Following up on research undertaken by Robert Prey, the talk will examine the ideologies and the
technical operativity of listening and of corpus-based analysis. Does Spotify re-define listening? Are
streaming platforms part of an ubiquitous audio-governementality (Tom Holert, Terre Thaemlitz)?

Dr. Sebastian Klotz is professor of Transcultural Musicology and the Historical Anthropology of Music
at Humboldt University Berlin. He is particularly interested in the ways music and sounds inform
knowledge cultures. Last year, he initiated the Erich von Hornbostel Audio Emergence Lab (HAEL) at
the Department of Musicology and Media Studies.


Stomping Ground: Modern Female Bodies and Flamenco in Tokyo

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. Yolanda M. van Ede, University of Amsterdam

Thursday 20 September 2018, 15:30-17:00

Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

This presentation addresses the complex interactions between localization and globalization through bodily practices in the context of Japanese flamenco. Spanish Flamenco has gained immense popularity in Japan, especially among women. A highly gendered phenomenon, Japanese appropriation of flamenco links the dancers bodily to certain imageries and representations of places far away; in this case, southern Spain. In the course of its adaptation, however, flamenco has become adjusted to local meanings and practices. Sensory structures in processes of transmission are the cultural incentive; the dance is embedded in local cultural aesthetics as well as re-enacting particular local practices. A comparison of Japanese flamenco dancing with both Spanish flamenco performance and dominant Japanese sensory orientations highlights the importance of sound. On one hand, “Japamenco” is embedded in global developments whereby flamenco has become more of a spectacle than a musical collaboration between singers, musicians, and dancers. On the other hand, its focus on the dancer’s footwork emphasizes sound, particularly the amplification of sound, which runs against hegemonic Japanese aesthetics of femininity. Viewed in the context of modernity’s association with hyper-aesthesia, or an overabundance of sensory stimuli, flamenco offers Japanese women a localized stage on which they can present themselves as modern and cosmopolitan, not merely visually, but foremost aurally.
Dr. Yolanda van Ede is senior lecturer at the anthropology department at the University of Amsterdam. She has been researching gender, ritual and religion, and the anthropology of the senses, until she returned to her initial passion, dance. She conducted field research on flamenco in Tokyo and social/ballroom dancing in Manilla. Currently, she is a part-time student in fine arts at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, in a quest for more creativity in anthropological methodology and knowledge (re)presentation.


The Politicization of Melody: Religious Musical Performance and the Indonesian Culture Wars of 2017

Colloquium Musicology
Prof. Dr. Anne K. Rasmussen, The College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia, USA)

Thursday 14 June 2018, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Although religious praxis in Indonesia is underestimated by both scholars of Islam and co-religionists in the Arab world and Middle East, connoisseurs recognize a rich culture of Arabic language performance in Indonesia ranging from Quranic recitation to various styles of devotional song.
A proactive adaptation of popular tunes from the Arab Eastern Mediterranean along with the canonization of Egyptian maqam has characterized this Indonesian Islamic soundscape since before the country’s independence in 1945, however; local arts and Indian Ocean networks have always shaped cultural practice fueling not only hybrid forms but also vigorous debate. Put into the context of 20 years of experience with Islamic performance in Indonesia and based on new fieldwork conducted in 2017, this presentation illustrates the intense political culture wars sparked by the use of local, Javanese melodies for Quranic recitation at the Presidential Palace.
As voices from the country’s Islamist extremist activists arose in hostile objection, even a pious public began to hear the reciter’s use of langgam Jawa as the perfect example of the flaws, immorality, and objectionable permissiveness of Indonesian Islam vis à vis the models of puritanical Salafism and literalist modernism that, today, guide globalized Islamic movements in Southeast Asia. Swept up in the Tsunami of racist nativism both Indonesian and Mediterranean Arab performance aesthetics have been on the chopping block as the country struggles to contain the vociferous presence of religious hardliners (Islam keras). In contextualizing these events, I theorize the ways circulation and signification politicize melody in two interconnected Ocean worlds.

Prof. Dr. Anne K. Rasmussen is professor of music and ethnomusicology at the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia, USA). She did her Ph.D. in music at the University of California-Los Angeles and has repeatedly been elected to the board of the Society for Ethnomusicology. Since 1994 Rasmussen has directed the William and Mary Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, a forum for the study and performance of music and with musicians form the Middle East and Arab world.


Crafting the Sound of Hildebrandt’s Organ Pipes

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. Peter Peters, Maastricht University

Thursday 24 May 2018, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

As ‘mirrors of their time’ (Snyder, 2000), pipe organs have always reflected the artisanal knowledge and skills of their makers. Given their complexity as technological artefacts that are endowed with artistic qualities, these musical instruments offer a valuable contribution to an epistemic history of art that focuses on the travelling of facts and insights through technologies and materials. Since the 1990s, replicating instruments from the fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth-century has opened new ways of studying knowledge practices that revolve around historical organs. The actual building of these replica’s not only required a close reading and interpretation of sources, both archival and material, but also a relearning of historical organ building skills. In my presentation, I will present ethnographic fieldwork on the design and building of a new baroque organ at the Orgelpark, a concert venue in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This recently inaugurated instrument takes the sound of historical Hildebrandt organs as a reference, and provides access to this baroque sound material through both a mechanical action and a digital console. Drawing on the work of the anthropologist Tim Ingold, I focus on the way the pipes for the new organ were crafted to trace the relations between knowledge, skills and aesthetics.

Dr. Peter Peters is assistant professor at the department of Philosophy at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University. He has published on music, time, and travel in technological cultures. His current research is concerned with (1) the production of knowledge in artistic practices, and (2) the innovation of musical cultures. In the past five years, followed the design and construction of a new baroque organ at the concert venue the Orgelpark in Amsterdam. He recently acquired a NWO Smart Culture grant to study and experiment with audience participation in symphonic music concerts, in collaboration with Zuyd University (Maastricht Conservatory and research centre Art, Autonomy and the Public Sphere) and the South Netherlands Philharmonic.


Chiasmus and Reversal in the Works of Henry Purcell

Presentation Musicology
Dr. Alon Schab, University of Haifa

Monday 23 April 2018, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 1.01

The concept of temporal reversal seems to have occupied English composers throughout the seventeenth century. In some cases reversal is applied to general structural elements (like scoring and musical form, creating overarching structures that somewhat resemble later 'arch' forms). In other cases, however, as in Purcell's trio sonatas, reversal permeates the very foundation of contrapuntal technique. Thus, the allocation of imitative material to the various parts, as well as the disposition of imitative material along time, are directly dictated by a small number of palindrome-like patterns. In my lecture I will analyse some of Purcell's fugue movements, and discuss the various ways in which identifying temporal reversal challenges our understanding of Purcell's rhetoric, his compositional process, and the identity of those who influenced his technique.

Dr. Alon Schab is a musicologist, a composer and an early music performer. He wrote his doctoral dissertation in Trinity College Dublin on the subject of 'Compositional Technique in Purcell’s Early Instrumental Works'. Since 2012 he is a faculty member in the Department of Music at the University of Haifa. He is a committee member of the Purcell Society, and the secretary of the Israeli Musicological Society. His forthcoming book The Sonatas of Henry Purcell: Rhetoric and Reversal will be published (University of Rochester Press) in June. His recent rediscovery of the 1832 ‘Israeliten’ manuscript (together with his research partner David Rees), brought to light the earliest known source of Schubert’s Psalm 92 D.953.


Learning rhythm and meter: The roles of statistical learning and dynamic entrainment

Colloquium Musicology
Dr. Benjamin Schultz, University of Amsterdam (Music Cognition Group)

Thursday 19 April 2018, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Temporal expectancies play a crucial role in perceiving and producing music. Rhythm learning is hypothesized to occur through the statistical learning of temporal intervals but these theories are often insensitive to aspects of beat (i.e., perceived regular pulses at multiple timescales). The dynamic attending theory states that attentional oscillations synchronize with and adapt to regularities in an auditory scene and suggests that temporal expectancies are formed more readily for rhythms that imply a beat (i.e., metrical rhythms) compared to those that do not (i.e., nonmetrical rhythms). I present two behavioural experiments that show how rhythm and meter are learned through statistical learning and beat entrainment using highly controlled metrical and nonmetrical rhythms that contain identical statistical probabilities but differ in metrical structure. Results demonstrated that metrical and nonmetrical patterns are both learned. However, only one experiment showed that metrical patterns are learned more readily than nonmetrical patterns. In both experiments, abstraction of a metrical framework was evident in the metrical condition. Overall, results indicate that rhythm learning cannot only be explained by statistical learning but also requires dynamic temporal processing (e.g., entrainment). 

Dr. Benjamin Schultz was previously a post-doctoral fellow working with Caroline Palmer from November 2012 to June 2014 and Isabelle Peretz from July 2014 to July 2015. He received a Bachelor of Arts (2006) and Bachelor of Health Sciences (2008) in Psychology from the University of Adelaide, a PhD (2013) in Auditory Psychology from the MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney (Prof. Catherine J. Stevens), and a PhD (2013) in Cognitive Psychology from the Université de Lyon 2 (Prof. Barbara Tillmann). His primary research interests include how people learn rhythmic sequences, entrain and move to the beat, and coordinate their speech and actions with others. In particular, he is interested in how people adapt the acoustic properties and the timing of sound productions in response to those of others in speech and music. Benjamin’s current projects examine the mechanisms that underlie acoustic cueing in persons with Parkinson’s Disease and other motor-related deficits (with Sonja Kotz) and plasticity (i.e., neural changes) that occur during rhythm learning (with Henkjan Honing).


Solfeggio in the Long Eighteenth Century

Music Theorist in Residence 2018
Dr. Nicholas Baragwanath, University of Nottingham 

Thursday 8 March 2018, 15:30 - 17:30

Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01

Each year the Vereniging voor Muziektheorie invites a guest from abroad to come to the Netherlands and Flanders to offer lectures, workshops, and seminars on a topic of choice. This year, Dr. Nicholas Baragwanath will present on:

Solfeggio in the Long Eighteenth Century

Apprenticed musicians in the eighteenth century would spend three or more years singing solfeggio before they were allowed to undertake lessons in playing an instrument, counterpoint, or composition. Solfeggio training provided the fundaments for almost every musician, regardless of their later specialism. Many thousands of their solfeggio manuscripts survive. They record compilations of sung lessons, usually conceived by a maestro and written-down for a pupil to sing, but sometimes originating in the pupil’s own improvisations. What they reveal about the art of melody is just as relevant to sonatas and concertos as arias.
To reconstruct how solfeggi were used, I will present evidence drawn from the following: (1)hitherto unremarked performance indications that regularly appear in manuscripts; (2) contemporary solmization and its founding principles; (3) a broad range of contemporary vocal repertory and singing treatises; and (4) consideration of the practical demands and pedagogical purposes of individual solfeggi.
Knowing how to “speak” galant melody explains how castratos managed to amaze audiences by singing the same aria five or six times in completely different ways, and how composers could write an opera in a matter of days. The secret lies in understanding how the same basic cantus firmi, learned in the first weeks of training, were sung for up to six years.

Following studies as a pianist, Nicholas Baragwanath completed postgraduate degrees at the University of Sussex. From 1998 he was Lecturer in Music at the University of Wellington, New Zealand, moving in 2001 to the Royal Northern College of Music, where he was Head of Postgraduate Studies and subsequently Dean of Research and Enterprise, overseeing the establishment of a new Graduate School and the introduction of PhD programmes. He joined the University of Nottingham in 2010.


Volume and Vibration. A Sound and Music History of Loudspeaker Systems, Germany circa 1930

Colloquium Musicology
PD. Dr. Jens Gerrit Papenburg
Thursday 15 March 2018, 15:30 - 17:00
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16, room 3.01
For the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the Nazis built the “Reichssportfeld“ (now: “Olympiapark Berlin”). An important part of this gigantic sport field were various loudspeaker systems, which were installed by the electroacoustic department (ELA) of the company Telefunken. In my presentation I sketch a sound and music history of these systems that is informed by cultural and media theory. For this purpose I analyse different sonic strategies employed for addressing open air stages and stadiums and other fields and rooms circa 1930. To be able to elaborate the aesthetical, political and epistemological implications of these strategies I analyse the installation, application, use and reception of the sport fields’ loudspeaker systems, its sounds between “tender outdoor music” (Carl Orff) and monumental “mass rally music“ (Friedrich Trautwein) and the development of powerful tube amplifiers and giant loudspeakers by the companies Siemens & Halske and Telefunken.
Via 1920s and 1930s loudspeaker systems, I argue, sound was conceptualised more and more as an entity with “volume”. I introduce volume as a productive and fuzzy, primarily spatial concept that is situated between physics and traditional music theory, between measurable amplitude and musical dynamics. What discourses, practices and media technologies correlated circa 1930 with a new conceptualization of sound as a voluminous entity? In the second half of the 20thcentury massive sound volumes became a central aesthetic dimension of multiple forms of popular music. By exploring sound systems of the 1920s and 1930s aspects of a pre-history of this dimension can be studied productively.

PD. Dr. Jens Gerrit Papenburg studied musicology, communication research, and economics in Berlin, obtaining his PhD in 2012 with the dissertation “Hörgeräte: Technisierung der Wahrnehmung durch Rock- und Popmusik” and his postdoctoral qualification (Habilitation) in 2016 with “‘Para-auditive’ Subjekte der populären Musik: Eine Kultur- und Mediengeschichte, 1890–1936.” In 2017, he was visiting professor at the Institute for Culture and Aesthetics of Digital Media (ICAM) at Leuphana University Lüneburg, and in 2016/17 visiting professor for History and Theory of Popular Music at the Humboldt University, Berlin, where he taught and researched from 2006 to 2016 and again from October 2017.
Jens Gerrit Papenburg is the coeditor of  Sound as Popular Culture: A Research Companion (MIT Press, 2016). He cofounded the international research network “Sound in Media Culture: Aspects of a Cultural History of Sound” (funded by the German Research Foundation DFG, 2010–2016) and serves on the editorial board of Sound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (Routledge). His research interests are popular music, culture, and media since 1890; sound studies; sonic media theory and historiography; and the history and culture of engineered music listening.