Universiteit Leiden

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Moving Early Music: Improvisation and the Work-Concept in Seventeenth- Century French Keyboard Performance

How can historically-informed performers step outside the confines of the work-concept?

Dr. Mark Edwards
01 January 2021

At present, historically-informed performance (HIP) functions simultaneously as an established musical tradition and as a method for artistic inquiry and renewal. HIP’s capacity to effect change within artistic practice is, however, constrained by its own doxa, those imperceptible elements of traditional practice taken for granted. The work-concept, in particular, acts tacitly to constrain the performer’s potential for creative thought and action within historical repertoires. This study attempts to circumvent the influence of the work-concept by replacing it with an alternative constellation of concepts and practices. It asks the question: what kinds of new practices might have once been, and might still become possible without the influence of the work-concept? Using the keyboard music of Jacques Champion de Chambonnières as its central case study, this dissertation proposes understanding a piece’s fluid range of identities using the concept of mouvance, understood as a kind of variance that arises within performances and is acknowledged by cultural participants (audiences and performers). Moreover, this study attempts to re-create this practice of mouvance by also re-creating the improvisational practice upon which mouvance relied. To that end, it adapts and extends existing research on historical improvisation (particularly studies of partimento) using techniques from computational musicology. It puts forward an “inductive” approach to style re-creation and improvisation pedagogy in which techniques and procedures are extrapolated from highly specific repertoires. Through mouvance, this study thus offers a new and historically-informed approach for applying the insight gained through improvisational practice to the creative performance of historical repertoires.


Prof.dr. Marcel Cobussen

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