Performance, Language, and Culture

The worlds of “artistic” and “academic” music research stand in a curious relationship with one another. For one thing, these two paradigms of musical discourse can be seen as emblematic of the continued separation of higher professional education (i.e., conservatories, art academies) and the university. For another, the cultures fostered by these institutions are expected to respond to various kinds of professional, societal, and economic pressures, which are oftentimes out of sync with one another. Consider how conservatory-based educators and researchers are impelled to show the “practical,” “reproducible” worth of their work in the form of (for example) performance practice, new compositional techniques, and the relationship between analysis and performance. It is above all a “praxis-” and “artistically-based” approach to research, one that ultimately aspires to produce direct “results” on the concert podium or in the classroom. Standing next to this are the university-based music researchers, both musicologists (historical/cultural) and other researchers in the humanities whose work touches on music. Such scholars are generally required to prove their worth by advancing a conceptual field and by connecting that field to a broader academic and societal discourse. In the current climate of historical and cultural musicology in the Netherlands, for example, this often leads to topics that go far beyond the daily concerns of the music conservatory; to name the most obvious examples, this includes issues of post-structuralism, post-colonialism, media, gender, race, and identity politics. Further separating both sides of the artistic-academic divide is the cultivation of differing types of expertise, of terminology, and of professional codes, even when the object of research is one and the same.

While we might take this fundamental divergence in outlook and output as a confirmation of the incompatibility between these institutional cultures, we could also use it as a way of initiating a productive dialogue between these worlds, and in this way see them in a more performative relationship with one another.