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AMS Boston 2019, Seminar 1

Putting it all into practice: Performance as a research methodology

Co-Convenors: Laurie Stras and Dana Marsh

Participants are warmly invited for this seminar scheduled for AMS Boston 2019. Proposals for papers that consider the topic as outlined below should be submitted via the proposal submission form, available at the AMS website after 15 December 2018. (Deadline: 15 January 2019). See the Seminar FAQ for more information


Musicology and performance have not always had an easy relationship. The methodological and evidential rigor required of musicologists is not always available to or desirable for practicing musicians, who may prioritise creative or aesthetic decisions in order to bring a work to life in performance; musicologists can mistrust the embodied knowledge and intuition of performers, creating a tension between verifiable evidence and aesthetic judgement.

Nonetheless, performance – not just score-reading in the privacy of the study, but the sustained interrogation, internalization, and decision-making required to bring music to recording or concert/live performance standards – has become an established element of the research process for musicologists investigating music and musicians from the most distant eras to the present. Diverse areas of enquiry – historical musicology, jazz and popular music studies, ethnomusicology, studies of race, sexuality, ethnicity, gender, and disability – can and have been expanded by incorporating performance into their methodological frames. This seminar would provide an opportunity for musicologists and scholar-performers to share how performing and manipulating musical materials may provide insights into the cultures in which those materials arose; illuminate or problematize the assumptions we make about the compositional process; clarify matters of reception or interpretation; or help to decode the language that is used to describe their performance. The seminar will also be a forum to identify common obstacles (and strategies to overcome them) as well as helping participants share the vocabulary and rhetoric they have used to describe this kind of work and its outcomes. Such sharing of experience will be valuable particularly in a scholarly and economic environment that requires clear accounts of method and benefit but is still grappling with how this may be achieved for artistic practice.

Indicative bibliography

Since “performance as a research methodology” is not a discrete field, we have selected a sample of books, essays, and recordings, produced by or in conjunction with performers, in which performance has informed and/or been informed by musicological investigations. 

Butt, John. Bach's Dialogue with Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 

Cypess, Rebecca, dir. In Sara Levy's Salon. Acis Productions, 2017.

Doğantan-Dack, Mine. Artistic Practice as Research in Music. Farnham, Surrey, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015.

Dreyfuss, Laurence. “Beyond the Interpretation of Music.” Dutch Journal of Music Theory – Tijdsc 12:3 (2007): 253-272.

Ege, Samantha. Four Women: Music for solo piano by Price, Kaprálová, Bilsland & Bonds. WaveTheory Records, 2018.

Faulkner, Robert R., Howard S. Becker. Do You Know...? The Jazz Repertoire in Action. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Haynes, Bruce. The End of Early Music: A Period Performer’s History of Music for the Twenty-First Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Honisch, Stefan S. “‘Re-Narrating Disability’ through Musical Performance.” Music Theory Online 15, no. 3 and 4 (August 1, 2009). http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.09.15.3/mto.09.15.3.honisch.html.

Marsh, Dana. “Foreword.” Historical Performance 1 (2018): 1–6.

McGuinness, Sara E.  “Grupo Lokito: a practice-based investigation into contemporary links between Congolese and Cuban popular music.” PhD Thesis. SOAS, University of London, 2012.

Rink, John. “Chopin and Improvisation.” In Chopin and His Musical World, edited by Jonathan D. Bellman and Halina Goldberg, 249-70. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.

Rodin, Jesse. Josquin’s Rome: Hearing and Composing in the Sistine Chapel. AMS Studies in Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Stras, Laurie. “Introduction: Musica Secreta,” 1-14. Women and Music in Sixteenth-Century Ferrara. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. 

Studies in Musical Performance as Creative Practice. 4 vols. Oxford University Press, 2017-18.

Treadwell, Nina. Music and Wonder at the Medici Court: The 1589 Interludes for La Pellegrina. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

Waksman, Steve. Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Wistreich, Richard. Warrior, Courtier, Singer: Giulio Cesare Brancaccio and the Performance of Identity in the Late Renaissance. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.