Universiteit Leiden

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Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA)

Impact and Relevance

Below some examples of ACPA projects that have a meaningful impact on arts and society. This page will be refreshed every now and then with other projects that exhibit how arts research bears upon our perception, our understanding, and our relationship to the world and other people.

Statement on societal relevance of research at ACPA

The question of the societal relevance of research at ACPA has as many answers as researchers. Some research forms a link between artistic practice and its audience, or has a tangible and/or potential impact in terms of public policy, health or education, while other research is primarily directed towards an audience within the academic and artistic community – which, it should perhaps be stressed, is also part of society, and a part which could be seen as increasingly marginalised.

All of these approaches should be viewed as complementary: research is both driven by a vision of its potential impact, and by the conviction that the relevance of arts and humanities research is expressed by their addressing fundamental questions of what it is to be human, and by their prioritising critical thought and understanding.

ACPA promotes this complementarity among the staff/student community in the way that we investigate, in and through artistic practice, who we are and how we relate to the world and to other people.

Making Matters. Collective Material Practices in Critical Times

The NWO-funded research project Critical Making, a collaboration between several educational and art institutions, engages with practices that cross the disciplinary boundaries of art, design, engineering and technological making, and (artistic) social intervention. 

The project is a collaboration between several educational and art institutions, represented by members who together form a working group: Leiden University (Prof. dr. Janneke Wesseling, main applicant), Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam (dr. Florian Cramer, co-applicant), het Nieuwe Instituut Rotterdam (Klaas Kuitenbrouwer), de Waag Society (Lucas Evers), and West Den Haag (Marie-José Sondeijker).

Recently, the title of the project has been changed into Making Matters. The emphasis is on collective material practices that transgress the classical opposition between theory and practice, or thinking and making. These practices actively engage with our catastrophic times and generate collaborations that connect social, technological and cultural concerns. They show a potential to develop a comprhensive approach to art, science and technology, driven by the necessity to fundamentally reimagine the relationship of humans to the world.

Making Matters is also the title of two conferences organized by the working group, one in 2018 and one to take place in November 2020. The outcomes of the two conferences will be presented in a book with the working title Making Matters. New material practices beyond the opposition of thinking and making. It will be a cross-media publication, connecting textual and image contributions, as well as rich media content.

  • Janneke Wesseling Professor Emeritus Practice and Theory of Research in the Visual Arts

Doesn't Play Well With Others

What are the socio-political implications of performing Johannes Brahms's chamber music in 19th-century style? This project explores prickly resonances between socio-political currents that Brahms abhorred and modern ultra-Romantic revivalist movements in political, literary and musical spheres.

May 1896. Johannes Brahms gloomily listens to a group of friends rehearsing his Violin Sonata Op. 100 and Piano Quintet Op. 34. Beyond this affluent, intellectual and cosmopolitan enclave, an ascendant far right seeks to oust these progressive Liberal elites from cultural and political positions of power by highlighting their ties to Jews, and by seducing lower-class voters with their abrasive style of emotional rhetoric. Brahms is labeled degenerate and anti-German—his chamber music, designed for the private salon, undemocratic. 

May 2019. A group of friends perform Op. 100 and Op. 34 in an Amsterdam synagogue. They use 19th-century performance techniques to champion liberty over consensus, provocation over compromise, and expressive immediacy over precision, control, and serious art-historical reflection—music for the people, not for a cultural elite. They soon learn, however, that these musical values align both with historical ideologies that sought to annihilate Brahms, and with the violent underbelly of the modern neo-Romantic movement.

This project explores prickly resonances between socio-political currents that Brahms abhorred and modern ultra-Romantic revivalist movements in political, literary and musical spheres. As neo-Romantics we look to 19th-century German aesthetic ideals as a form of protest—against an elite status quo, mundane bourgeois comforts, the rigidity of modernism, and the ironic cynicism of postmodernism; we promise an emancipation of feeling—the freedom to encounter art works, and each other, directly, powerfully, and without intellectual mediation; we champion the 'sharper key'—a coarse, individualistic, instinctive and emotionally-immediate rhetorical mode. Like those who unleashed the sharper key on Brahms, however, beneath this movement's revolutionary façade lurks a virulently anti-Liberal, hyper-nationalistic, anti-LGBTQ and xenophobic underbelly. As such, while this project explores a sharper musical key in Brahms's chamber works via public performances and experimental, unedited lo-fi recordings, it also asks what responsibility we have vis-à-vis its more ominous socio-political parallels: are we ethically bound, for example, to create work that highlights the messy pluralities, and violent consequences, of an easily idealized and perverted past? While these are complex issues, what is clear is that identity and politics have always been entwined in this repertoire and to suggest otherwise may certainly be unethical.

Dr. Anna Scott (piano), Joan Berkhemer and Rada Ovcharova (violin), Dr. Emlyn Stam (viola), Willem Stam (cello), and Geoff Miles (audio engineer)

Contact: Dr. Anna Scott
Duration: 2019 - 2020
Funding: SIA Regieorgaan
Photo credit: Dr. Anna Scott

MOOC – The Importance and Power of Music in Our Society

Launched in 2017, The Importance and Power of Music in Our Society is an open online course, taught by Professor of Auditory Culture Marcel Cobussen and music philosopher Hafez Ismaïli M’hamdi and accessible to anyone with an internet connection. This MOOC provides a thorough introduction to the various ways in which music and society are connected through engaging lectures, insightful interviews, challenging assignments, interesting readings, and of course a lot of musical examples. 

About the Course
Music plays an important role in our daily lives and is woven into the fabric of society. We listen to music while alone or in company, in a dance club or at home, through simple headphones or via high-end speakers, as background or as foreground, after we get up or before we go to bed. Music accompanies us when we are traveling, doing sports, shopping, working or relaxing. This omnipresence of music raises several questions: how does music affect our lives? What is the relation between the society we live in and the role, function, and position of music within that society? How is music influenced by and how does music influence social, political, economic, technological, and multiple other developments? 

Marcel Cobussen: “Music mirrors society just as society mirrors music.”

The Importance and Power of Music in Our Society provides a thorough introduction to the various ways in which music and society are connected through engaging lectures, insightful interviews, challenging assignments, interesting readings, and of course a lot of musical examples. The course aims at increasing your insights on where, how, and why we listen to music; how music contributes to shaping and deconstructing identity; how music forms, expresses, and subverts political ideas; and how music affects our thinking about ethics as well as our concrete moral norms and values.

Hafez Ismaïli M’hamdi: “Music is paint for the canvas that is society.”

Beyond the Course
The creation of this MOOC is just one of many results flowing from Marcel Cobussen’s  work at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts. Besides books and articles, he has published an open access e-pub on musical improvisation and complexity theories; he is editor-in-chief of the online open access Journal of Sonic Studies; together with Edwin van der Heide he creates sound artworks in public urban spaces; and he is preparing a new e-pub and podcast on everyday sounds and sonic materialism.

A Short Introduction

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