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Jun 02, 2022

Performing by the Book? Artist-Researchers’ Negotiations Between Text and Act

7 and 8 June 2022
Orpheus Instituut, Ghent

The performance of composed music implies the transmutation of silent, symbolically coded prescriptions—‘scores’—into sounding matter. Although recent times have seen completions of unfinished compositions and even (re)constructions of lost (or non-existent) works, the practice of performing historical compositions is conditioned predominantly by the very availability of ‘texts.’ Today’s standards of musical interpretation furthermore demand that musicians internalize growing amounts of con-text-ual information, such as historical treatises and methods, in an ambition to inscribe individual artistry into a verifiable text-ure of scholarly allure and authoritativeness. The phenomena of Werktreue and HIP automatically spring to mind, but deliberate rejections and (re)assemblages of musical documents also testify to musicians’ desire to negotiate with textual artifacts.

Inaugurating the Ton Koopman collection of books and scores at the Orpheus Instituut, this colloquium invites artist-researchers to critically re-evaluate the relationship between their performance practice with texts of various kinds. In which ways are their performative acts and attitudes shaped and reshaped by textual sources? And where do they situate the limits of textual interpretation, both in terms of the limits of interpretation itself and the desirability to have it encroach upon autonomous artistic choices? Since this topic transcends the boundaries of the early modern period, the scope of this meeting is deliberately broad, seeking to offer case studies from the Middle Ages until the 20th century.

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