Researching Performance, Performing Research

Collaborations and Confrontations
An international symposium organized by the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, and VU University / Orgelpark, in association with the Cambridge Centre for Musical Performance Studies, University of Cambridge.

October 27-29, 2017

Conservatorium van Amsterdam
Oosterdokskade 151
1070LP Amsterdam
The Netherlands


The purpose of this symposium is to explore the manifold contexts in which interactions between musical performers and scholars take place, and the different modalities in which such interactions may be conducted. In both the past and the present these have included productive collaborations and shared visions, but also genuine confrontations. The symposium will address not just the overlaps between the activities of performers and scholars and between the different types of knowledge that undergird both musical performance and the performative act of doing research, but also the disagreements, tensions, and failures that may arise when bringing these practices into dialogue.

Call for sessions

Deadline for submission: April 1, 2017
We invite proposals for fully-formed sessions, either of 60 minutes, 90 minutes, or 120 minutes. Each session should consist of at least two speakers and one to two performances or lecture-recitals.
All topics related to the symposium theme are welcome. Some suggested topics we wish to explore include:

Performers, scholars, and knowledge
What kinds of knowledge do performers draw upon? Where does that knowledge come from and how does it inform the decisions that they have to make? To what extent is the act of performing itself a source of knowledge? Questions such as these extend to all areas of performance and music-making in general, and includes all musical genres and styles.
Scholars and performers in collaboration and/or confrontation
What does it mean for scholars and musical practitioners to collaborate? What kinds of collaboration have existed in the past? What kinds of new collaboration can be opened up? At the same time, what kinds of gaps exist between them? Should some of these gaps be purposefully perpetuated? Can we learn something from the gaps themselves? In other words, how can we build on the collaborations between scholars and musical practitioners while acknowledging and appreciating their confrontations?

Language and communication: Speaking with, to, about, and like performers and scholars
We convey our knowledge about music in a number of ways, including various forms of verbal cues, bodily gestures, visual signs, and aural stimuli. But, what does it mean to 'speak' like a musical performer? What kinds of vocabularies and discourses does one use in conveying an understanding of musical performance, whether its aim is aesthetic, epistemic, or a mixture of both? How can performances as musical-interpretive acts 'speak'to us? Can they interject on behalf of written or spoken accounts? That is, how can performances themselves collide, enhance, contradict, or shift discourse around music?

The role of theory
While traditional music theories have been cultivated in various cultural contexts the world over, the bearing it has on current musical practices has never been universally taken for granted. Meanwhile, practicing musicians have looked for theory in other areas, for example sport sciences (to stand up to the challenge of an audition), social and evolutionary psychology (to foster teamwork in an ensemble), and medicine (to prevent injuries). And some musicians have expanded the knowledge base of their own disciplines, through their practice-based research. Should these tendencies have a bearing on the notion of music theory?

Institutional cultures: how do institutions cultivate certain kinds of attitudes towards research?
The dialogue between musical practice and scholarship has never been easy, but has this been due to a lack of shared expertise or to the incompatibility of institutional cultures – e.g., those of the conservatory and the university? In terms of the relationship between practical and scholarly education, conservatoires and universities can be very different among themselves, so what purpose do these generalizations serve? To what extent do institutional divisions dictate the behavior of their constituents? And what would it mean for the above-mentioned dialogue if these divisions were transcended once and for all?

Power and prestige
Many think there is a discrepancy between the repertories favored by scholars at universities as well as performers at conservatories, and the rich variety of existing musical practices. Even though this rift has been slowly but steadily closing in the past few decades, academia as well as music schools still tend to legitimize and privilege certain repertories over others. In what ways does such legitimization work? How does this affect public image of music scholarship and the profession of a musician?
Please note: this is not intended as a specialist symposium, but one that questions and tries to break down professional boundaries – disciplines, institutions, musical genres, and attitudes. One of the explicit goals is to reach out to a broader audience and to open up a wider dialogue within the musical community.

General requirements for the proposal

* Language of proposal and session: English
* An introduction to the session as a whole: 500 words max
* A 250-word abstract for each contribution to the session, including performances (please also explain the rationale for the performance in view of the session).
* A list of keywords at the top of the proposal
* A list of audio-visual requirements

Specific guidelines

* The session must be well-conceived in advance, with a clear number of speakers and performers, a breakdown of the timings, and a well-defined format (i.e., styles of presentation). Everything should be clearly explained in the introduction and in the abstracts.
* Please indicate whether you are proposing a session of 60, 90, or 120 minutes. Please give a breakdown of the timing for the entire session, including discussion time.
* The choice of musical repertoire is completely open, but please indicate what kind of repertoire(s) will be performed and discussed.
* Session proposals should always contain performances as well as papers/presentations; ideally, there should be a symbiosis of these two basic elements, whatever form it takes.
* Based on our impressions from the proposals, the organizers may ask the session convener to make minor alterations to the proposal to suit the needs of the symposium.

We would like to promote a diversity of topics and music as well as one of ethnicity, gender, and age. We therefore encourage submissions from a wide range of musical scholars and performers, those with a pluralistic outlook on performance and research. Additionally, we also encourage proposals from young scholars, musicians, and students. For those coming from economically-disadvantaged circumstances or areas of the world, we will provide the opportunity to apply for a conference fee waiver.

Proposals (in PDF, single file) as well as any questions should be sent to:

We look forward to seeing your proposals!
The organizing committee,
Hans Fidom (VU University / Orgelpark)
John Koslovsky (Conservatorium van Amsterdam / Utrecht University)
Julia Kursell (University of Amsterdam)
Olga Panteleeva (Utrecht University)
Michiel Schuijer (Conservatorium van Amsterdam)
Floris Schuiling (Utrecht University)