“Resisting Closure: A Museum Studies Approach to Performing the Canonic Heritage of Symphonic Music” (Working Title)

A PhD project funded by the Maastricht Centre for the Innovation of Classical Music (MCICM) and supervised by Prof. dr. Peter Peters and Prof. dr. Karin Bijsterveld at Maastricht University’ Philosophy Department, The Netherlands. 

The repertoire that orchestras perform in concert halls all over the world is still largely directed by what we commonly refer to as the canon of classical or symphonic music. This canon comprises a broad range of musical works which are deemed crucial or iconic for the heritage of Western Art Music. At the same time, the canon is a social construct, the result of a variety of intertwined musical practices at work. It is through these practices that the canon has been conserved and thus became obdurate: The musical works it incorporates are deeply embedded in the practical procedures of our orchestras, concert halls and conservatories today.

Inspired by science and technology studies (STS), Denise investigates what role material artefacts play in the formation of artistic heritage, how this heritage is negotiated in practice, and how it can be brought into the future in meaningful ways from the eyes of the practitioners. Particularly, she wants to understand how these works have been transmitted and maintained in the last decades through three different material musical artefacts in practice: programme notes, the violoncello and streaming applications for classical music.

In her interdisciplinary approach, she borrows approaches from time-based media conservation theory developed within museum studies. This helps her to explore how the tension between “conserving” and “innovating” artistic heritage can be analysed on a theoretical as well as a practical level in a highly professional and tradition-loaded community of actors. Thus, it is first through understanding how obduracy works that she intends to develop strategies and contexts through which we might ‘open up’ our musical legacy together with the practitioners. This is relevant because many orchestras and conservatories struggle with how to navigate, articulate and introduce well-known works from the repertoire and canon in innovative ways, while at the same time accounting for their responsibility to maintain them.

Photo by Sònia Pereda.

June 2020