In 2020, DARIAH selected two streams of funding as part of the Theme funding call, ‘Arts Exchanges’ and ‘Arts, Humanities and COVID-19’. The call attracted a high number of well articulated and competitive applications, mainly addressing, perhaps not surprisingly, the topic of ‘Arts, Humanities and COVID-19’.
With an overall budget of 87.920 €, DARIAH funded nine projects for a year (December 2020 – December 2021). This series presents their results with a special focus on each of these projects.
Fitting inside COVID-19. Aesthetic Resilience of Contemporary Music facing a Pandemic Crisis
Coordinator: Marlies De Munck
Having as central questions: (1) how to improve the aesthetic resilience of music productions in the face of the coronavirus pandemic restrictions? and (2) how to improve the relationship with the public of contemporary music concerts in this new reality?, an interdisciplinary research team aimed to study the impact of COVID-19 on the aesthetic resilience of artistic production within the contemporary music sector. The team consisted of philosopher of music Marlies De Munck, sociologist of art Pascal Gielen, two musicians Pieter Matthynssens and Thomas Moore, supplemented with music critic Annemarie Peeters, studied the aesthetic resilience of artistic production in contemporary music.
In particular, the team examined the ability of musicians to successfully transform their performance practice to be in accordance with the COVID-19 restrictions, and still generate artistic meanings that fully resonate with their audiences. This research resulted in a sound comparison of off-line and on-line performances and in analyses of
the impact of digital formats on music performances. The research results where disseminated in academic journals and an academic book chapter, in popular journals, keynote lectures, a video, radio and journal interviews and in seminars.
Phase 1: Comparative case studies
Adjusting the original plan for attending scheduled concerts and conducting interviews at the Philharmonie Luxembourg, due to the ongoing travel ban, the team sought alternatives and followed live concerts and rehearsals by members of the Nadar Ensemble in their own country, Belgium. The team attended and analysed live performances and rehearsals of:
- ‘The Wilderness of Mirrors’ by Eva Reiter and ‘Cascade – Arcade’ by Maarten Buyl at Transit Festival (Leuven)
- ‘Game Over’ by Christof Ressi and ‘New Notations’ by Remy Siu for the online festival Time Canvas: Alter Ego in deSingel (Antwerp)
These cases were then compared to the live streamed online concerts of the latter two works, as well as with the live streamed solo concert ‘Double Speak Double Think’ by Thomas Moore in the Unerhörte Musik-series in Berlin.
Following these concerts, the team organized reflection meetings with performer Thomas Moore, composer Stefan Prins, artistic director of Nadar Ensemble Pieter Matthyssens and music critic Annemarie Peeters (the latter to include the listener’s perspective in the comparative analysis). During these first sessions, the differences between digital/virtual and live performances were discussed and, among other things, a significant discrepancy in experience between the performing musicians and the composer was established. The latter mainly saw advantages and (technical) possibilities in (composing for) digitally mediated performances while the former also reported the drawbacks in addition to certain new possibilities.
In particular, the inability to interact with an audience, during as well as after the performance, was highlighted as problematic. For the performer, for example, it was noted that it was extremely difficult to build up an arch of tension that spans the whole performance and musicians find they need live interaction to adjust their playing style and movement idiom. The team suggested that these perceived disadvantages were primarily related to digitised performances of works originally written for live settings.
Phase 2: Dissemination of research results
The second phase of the research included a rich programme of public engagement, with workshops and in-depth interviews on the experimental ‘test performances’ (varying digital re-enactments) of FITTINGinSIDE by Stefan Prins.
On the basis of the first analyses and discussions, the team presented research in two scientific articles: (1) ‘The Politics of the Conductor’ by Pascal Gielen and Thomas Moore at the journal Music & Practice; and (2) ‘The auratic city’ by Marlies De Munck and Pascal Gielen, to be published by ASP / VUB Press in the book ‘The city better after corona’. Furthermore, the team has already given several interviews about the effects of the corona measures on the digitisation of live concerts for, among others, the Ukrainian cultural online platform ‘Suspilne media’, and the radio program ‘Lessons of a Virus’ (Kanal Centre Pompidou, Brussels).
* DARIAH Theme is an annual thematic priority set by the Board of Directors of DARIAH-EU. The aim is to stimulate activities and events related to an important topic of research in the digitally enabled arts and humanities by issuing a call for funding.