SESSION 1: Lessons from Music Histor(iograph)y

Thursday, 26 November 2020


9:30 – 11:00 SESSION 1:

Lessons from Music Histor(iograph)y

chair: Ivan Ćurković

9:30 – 10:00 Erlend Hovland:

Berlioz as Provocation to Music History: On the Institutionalisation of Musicology

10:00 – 10:30 John Vandevert:

The Defence of Unbiased Musicology in the Wake of Modernisation: Learning from the Soviet Example and the Corrosive Power of Half-Truths

10:30 – 11:00 Amy Damron Kyle:

A Call for Context: Pauline Viardot Garcia as a Template for Changing the 19th Century Musical Genius Archetype

Erlend Hovland

Norwegian Academy of Music, Oslo


Berlioz as Provocation to Music History:

On the Institutionalisation of Musicology

Is the current crisis of (ir)relevance of music history a result of how we have institutionalised musicology? In order to answer this question, we may need to re-examine the ordering principles of music historiography, not only to uncover the hidden value judgments, ‘techniques’ and narra­tive structures that are imbedded in and through our practice as musi­cologists, but also to improve the ways we are ‘doing history’.

Arguably, no other composer has more consistently challenged the writing of music history than Hector Berlioz. Berlioz has always been – and still is – a ‘problem’ (Barzun 2003, Rosen 1996, Taruskin, 2002). By taking the history of Berlioz reception from J. F. Fétis and up to Carl Dahlhaus as a case study, my ambition is to ask why leading music historians demon­strate a surprisingly unscientific disinclination towards the composer and how their historiographical rationale works against the music of Berlioz.

Berlioz’s music did not comply with the lines of historical evolution (Fétis) nor with the elevation of the autonomouswork of music to a historio­graphical principle (Dahlhaus), and confronted with musical analysis it was defined as ‘unanalysable’. This may explain the provocative and trans­gressive status of Berlioz. But how to style this transgression?

My hypothesis is that ‘le cas Berlioz’ is particularly useful for a critical examination of how music history is founded on a structure of structuring values, narratives and ‘techniques’. It can reveal dogmas and ideological assumptions that we may need to challenge in order to make music history relevant.

Key words: Berlioz, musicology, historiography, value judgment

Erlend Hovland (1963) is currently associate professor at the Norwegian Acad­emy of Music, Oslo. After music studies, mainly orchestral conducting, in Trondheim, Oslo, Paris, Basel and Salzburg, he began his doctoral studies in 1990 at IRCAM, Paris. Hovland defended his thesis on the orchestration of Gustav Mahler at the University of Oslo, where he later worked as a post doc. fellow on contemporary opera. He has led the Doctorate programme at the Norwegian Acad­emy of Music (2009-2015), different research programmes, and is supervising several PhD students. He has further worked as music critic (in Aftenposten) and is chief editor for Music & Practice. He has been a guest researcher in Oxford. He has also studied philosophy, history and literature. His latest research dealt with Berlioz’s use of the guitar as a composing tool, which soon will be published as a book (The Berlioz Problem).

John David Vandevert

Independent researcher


The Defence of Unbiased Musicology in the Wake of Modernisation: Learning from the Soviet Example and the Corrosive Power of Half-Truths

Soviet musicologists regarded music as ‘a reflection and realisation of the surrounding reality’. Thus, they researched how music could and ulti­mately would lead to disastrous effects on the state of governmental control in the Soviet Union, specifically in regard to Stalin’s regime. The re­sponsibility of musicologists was to determine the role that music played in its crafting of the model Soviet citizen, as music served the pur­pose as a tailor of the human condition and tool for musical propaganda via censorship.

In the Western world, musicology is used to enrich our understanding of the trends of music and elements of its construction concerning historical and biographical demarcations. As noble as these pursuits are, the future must lie in understanding the role of music in current mainstream society and how, through music, culture is being shaped in response to global di­lem­mas, on a national and international scale. The pertinent question is, how can musicology be free of coercive opinions and half-truths. How can we unanimously define ourselves as truth-tellers through the retelling of history and the analytical analysis of current trends without a bias skew? Musicology, if observed from a back to front traditional mindset, can be extremely telling in its commentary on the social climates it finds itself in and the regulatory influences it subjects itself to. In Russia, all was in ser­vice of the Party, now it has been emancipated from its political conno­tations, but perhaps not as thoroughly as one would hope if we conflate biased opinion with knowledge. When this occurs, musicology will be destroyed, as the -study of- will become seemingly separated from fact. Musicology must uphold factually, evidenced-based conjecture, not feel­ing and opinions. The Russians banned artists based on belief; do we want that on a global scale?

Key words: Russian musicologists, Russian music, censorship, Soviet musicians, unbiased research, Soviet musicology

John David Vandevert is a recent graduate of Westminster Choir College and a current, Independent Music Researcher and Writer, whose interests range from Soviet and Post-Soviet Music and its related Method, to the eclectic temperament of Hip-Hop, specifically artists like controversial American rapper Lil Darkie and, who John calls the Pushkin of Rap, Husky [Хаски]. He has written articles on the concept of ‘musical genre’, Danto’s Style Matrix, even Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes and Fugues. He is currently working on an article analysing Beverly Baroff’s pre-1969 experimental dance-film, Ravel’s ‘Pavane for a Dead Princess’ serving as its accompani­ment. Collegiately, he has presented a scholarship on Svetlana Neste-rova’s In the World of High Technology, and Samuel Barber’s op. 41 song cycle Despite and Still. How­ever, this conference presentation marks his first post-collegiate musico­logical engagement, and thus, he welcomes any and all feedback, both complementary and critical.

Amy Damron Kyle

Sorbonne University, Paris


A Call for Context: Pauline Viardot Garcia as a Template for Changing the 19th Century Musical Genius Archetype

The year 2020 has set the world, and the way we view it, aflame. We look for comfort in exemplars of creativity and their works. But how were the great ones chosen? Where will an audience automatically place someone like Pauline Viardot-Garcia on the spectrum of musical genius? and Why? Why does the musical canon, formed in the late 19th century, still look much like it did fifty years ago? It has developed a rigidity that still impedes wider appre­ciation of women’s musical work (Kijas 2018). As Marjorie Garber put it: “The genius was, and to some extent continues to be, the Romantic hero, the loner, the eccen­tric, the apotheosis of the individual…” (Garber 2012)

Genius, still awarded through these masculine ideals, demands what now seems impossible; to find the sole-male-creator narrative complete and relat­able. Viardot-Garcia, a recognised genius in her time, does not fit this criterion. Her persona and work have faded from memory. The musical canon is not much closer to accommodating women now than it was in the early 20th century. Classical music, already struggling to maintain its audi­ence, continues its trajectory towards in-accessibility in the public eye. But in order to change we must know how we got here. Pauline Viardot-Garcia’s public genius-persona, much like George Sand’s, was held up as an anomaly in the battle for the male-exclusive right to genius in philosophical writings of the 19th century. Her work and life can now lay bare the imbal­ances of these arguments that still inform public perception of genius and the process of creation today (Paliyenko 2016). Viardot-Garcia and her works open the door to social context leading to deeper understanding of the creative process. The conversation can then, not only academically, but publicly, advance beyond the idea of separate gender spheres. Genius would be recognised and affirmed regardless of gender throughout history; thus, breathing vitality, relevance, and new works into the musical canon.

Key words: context, female composers, musical genius, musical canon

Amy Damron Kyle is a third-year musicology doctoral student. Her thesis contains both musicological and sociological aspects. Through an analysis of historical as well as theoretical contexts of three operettas of Pauline Viardot Garcia, notably including the newly discovered Partie du Whist, she investi­gates women composers’ systematic exclusion from the musical canon during the 19th century. Through an analysis of the evolution of the musical canon, particularly in the 19th century, Amy poses the question of how present-day musicologists can reformulate the concept of musical genius and canon to welcome great female composers. Amy previously taught music theory at the University of Utah while earning her masters. Amy also taught both Music theory and Music history at Roxbury College (a 2-year university in Boston). Amy just presented a TEDx talk on women at the Sorbonne in October 2019 in music history and speaks regularly in various conferences about the historical importance of female composers of merit.

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