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The use of the bassoon in Naples during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

This research project explores when, where, why and how the bassoon was used in Naples during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  My initial investigation concerned a collection of unpublished information confirming the existence of a distinct bassoon tradition in Naples, beginning in the 1600s.

For example, a compilation of a list of more than 20 active woodwind players and their professional activities in Naples illustrates a continuing tradition in pedagogy and performance in this region.  Furthermore, it is easy to locate many arias with obbligato bassoon parts in operas and oratorios written by various Neapolitan composers in the first half of the eighteenth century.  

Two bassoon concerti, one of which is dated 1759, were composed by the bassoon teacher and multi-instrumentalist Ferdinando Lizio.  Although the figure of Lizio was largely brought to light due to my earlier research, there is still much more to be discovered about him and his activities as a teacher at the “Conservatorio della Pietà”. 

Reasons why the bassoon was so popular in Naples have never been discussed or even noticed by researchers previously. While my first and unique data collection presents evidence and partially answers some questions, many more have arisen.

I am convinced that a detailed examination of the use of the bassoon at the four famous Neapolitan music conservatories will offer answers about a lost pedagogical tradition, and bring significant information to the historically-informed musical practice.  For example:  I discovered that the bassoon was the only other instrument allowed to accompany voices in the church during Lent, instead of organ, during the 17th century.  This study will additionally consider many rare pages of Neapolitan music with obbligato bassoon parts deserving to be performed or at least made known.

The amount of archival information required to complete this work will still take some years of research.  A large part of these documents are preserved in the “Archivio e Biblioteca del Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella” of Naples,  “Archivio Diocesano” of Naples , “Archivio di Stato” of Naples” and “Archivio  della Chiesa dei Girolamini”.

This project aims to provide a concrete picture of the rich Neapolitan wind instrument tradition, particularly concerning the bassoon and its repertoire, and to provide further materials for contemporary research.

Kontakt:

Giovanni Battista Graziadio

giovanni.graziadio@unibas.ch

Tuning in Metal Percussion: Research and guided performance for the repertoire after World War II.

In Western music, tuning systems have continuously changed over time. Each system is, in a certain way, tied to specific compositional, instrumental and acoustic demands. Tuning systems do not emerge immediately and with a clear purpose; they come inspired and colored with stylistic qualities, instrumental construction requirements, influence of aesthetics from the past, or even the renewal of philosophical conceptions and consequent rupture with previous practices. As a result, it generally changes the entire musical panorama and practices as well as the instruments used.

Moreover, the 20th and 21st centuries saw a rise of new interpretative possibilities and challenges due to innovations brought by different composers and compositional schools in the percussion repertory. Harry Partch, John Cage, James Wood, Iannis Xenakis, Bryan Ferneyhough, Volker Staub and Walter Smetak are some examples of those who, in search for new sound possibilities and specific timbres, increased the development of new percussion instruments.

Most of the research on tuning systems and tuning models in music does not focus on performance issues. In this regard, much information remains uncollected or simply lacking of a pertinent discussion. A discussion connecting percussion instruments, musical performance and tuning phenomena would be an important contribution to the research in the field.

In the light of this context, the present research intends to discuss three fundamental points: which resources are offered for the performance of specific tuning systems; which resources for musical expression have certain aesthetical currents sought in the tuning material they have adopted; and how does the construction of new instruments arise new performance questions, and, more specifically, new perspectives on tuning metal percussion keyboards.

It is why this research has three main purposes: relating, describing and discussing tuning systems and tuning models for metal percussion, discussing the performance of works requiring specific tuning models in metal percussion instruments, observing how different tuning systems are used by some contemporary musicians and composers.

The project will focus initially on works by Lou Harrison (and his references to Eastern gamelan) and Iannis Xenakis (who for example created a new instrument, the Sixxen, influenced by works and ideas of ancient Greece).

Kontakt:

Ronan Gil de Morais

ronangil@gmail.com

 

Unaufführbare Musik

Gibt es so etwas wie unaufführbare Musik? Zunächst präsentiert sich der Begriff «unaufführbare Musik» als Paradoxon. Sind doch Aufführbarkeit und klangliche Verwirklichung Grundvoraussetzungen für Musik. Ausgehend von diesem Paradoxon lassen sich eine Vielzahl interessanter Aspekte der Musik aus einer ungewohnten Perspektive in den Blick nehmen. Quer durch die Musikgeschichte finden sich eine Vielzahl von Phänomenen, die die Notwendigkeit der Aufführbarkeit von Musik hinterfragen; insbesondere in der zweiten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts wurde die Aufführbarkeit als Grundvoraussetzung von Musik explizit in Frage gestellt.

Doch was kann überhaupt unter «unaufführbarer Musik» verstanden werden? Einerseits sogenannte unspielbare Musik: von der auf die Spielanweisung «So rasch als möglich» folgende «Noch schneller!» in Robert Schumanns Klaviersonate op. 22 (1839) über Charles Valentin Alkans monströse spieltechnische Anforderungen in seinen Douze études pour tous les tons mineurs bis zum ungreifbaren Cembalopart in Oophaa von Iannis Xenakis (1989) aus der jüngeren Musikgeschichte.

Andererseits könnte man musikalische Kunstwerke, die sich einer (traditionellen) Aufführungssituation entziehen, als unaufführbar bezeichnen: Darunter fällt z.B. die Gattung des vor allem in der Renaissance und im Barock bekannten Rätselkanons. Beispiele aus der jüngeren Musikgeschichte sind Dieter Schnebels MO-NO. Musik zum Lesen (1969) oder Jakob Ullmanns due frammenti (für Luigi Nono) (1990), die er selbst in die Werkkategorie «Aufführung utopisch» einordnet, und Peter Ablingers Werkkategorie der «Musik ohne Klänge», die für die Umsetzung keine ‹Aufführung› im herkömmlichen Sinne benötigt.

Der Begriff der «unaufführbaren Musik» schlägt auch Brücken zu anderen Kunstrichtungen: Die in Hanne Darbovens Installation Quartett 88 (1990) auftauchenden Musiknoten und die Tapete aus Beethoven-Noten in Mauricio Kagels Film Ludwig van (1970) sind Beispiele für musikalische Notationsformen, die nicht direkt als musikalische Aufführungsanweisungen, sondern als gestalterische Mittel angewendet werden.

In meinem Forschungsprojekt untersuche ich unterschiedliche Phänomene unaufführbarer Musik, anhand derer gewisse Grundvoraussetzungen, die hinter Begriffen wie «Musik», «Werk» oder «werktreue Interpretation» stehen, untersucht werden können.

Kontakt:

Early Twentieth-Century Forms of Improvisation in the Oeuvres of Erwin Schulhoff, Darius Milhaud and Otto Luening

Studies on improvisation in art music contexts between 1900 and 1950 are currently facing a paradox. On the one hand, scholars of the history of Western music contend that improvisation had become irrelevant in “serious” music after 1840 and only re-emerged after 1950, albeit in forms unrelated to any of its earlier variants. On the other hand, various biographical and historical studies hint at forms of improvisation in the oeuvres of famous and less well-known “classical” musicians (i.e. composers, performing-composers) of the first half of the twentieth century.

Framed by a methodology that associates conventional musicological tools with a constructivist approach to knowledge, as well as with notions derived from Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory, I question in my dissertation the prevailing consensus in musicology about the absence of improvisation in musical modernism of the first decades of the twentieth century.

Having defined the science of art music (Musikwissenschaft als Kunstwissenschaft) as a brand of musicology that was initiated by Hugo Riemann and Wolfgang Arthur Cohn in the first decades of the twentieth century, and whose leading figure was Carl Dahlhaus in the latter part of the century, I also observe how contrary to its post-1950 variant, the early twentieth-century discourse on the idea of the musical work (as formulated in the science of art music) did not necessarily discard all forms of improvisation from the musical work of art concept.

Lastly, I analyse four forms of improvisation in six musical examples taken from the oeuvres of Erwin Schulhoff, Darius Milhaud, and Otto Luening. These examples consist of Schulhoff’s Zehn Klavierstücke (1919), his Optimistische Komposition (1936), and his recording of Sami Dva (1933), Milhaud’s L’Homme et son Désir (1918) and his Cocktail aux Clarinettes (1920), and Luening’s Trio for Flute, Violin, and Soprano (1923/24) and his Music for Sister Beatrice (1926). 

The four forms of improvisation that can be observed in my musical case studies are: 

(1) Improvisation as a means of ‘live’ performance.

(2) Improvisation as a means of composition.

(3) Compositions which explicitly frame and project themselves as a means of generating in performance ever-changing forms.

(4) Conveyed or mediated improvisation (i.e. works that rely on artistic (artificial) means and performative elements to create the illusion of a form of improvisation).

These categories are not necessarily mutually exclusive and are mostly derived from Carl Dahlhaus’s distinction between the musical artwork as a classical-romantic category and ‘archaic’ or ‘regressive’ modes of music-making.

Kontakt: