Aktuelle Projekte

Music masterpieces against their sociopolitical background


(5 – 9 July 2021: 4-day work shop in Thessaloniki, Greece)

Have you ever felt you want to dive deeper into some music? Understand it better? Have you ever thought that you might not really need to be an art expert in order to form an elaborated opinion about an art piece? Do you ever feel that you could already possess some basic tools for such a creative investigation?
Do you ever wonder how music ideas were formed in different eras? What forces of society forged them? What of the class and gender of the composer? What is a masterpiece after all? Is it that important?
Equip yourself with wits and curiosity and jump with us into a short journey through history to investigate how a music masterpiece is born, mediated and what meanings it acquires within different cultural and historic contexts!!

We continuously face the narration that art and culture stand (and always stood) above and beyond social life and political background. The depoliticization of art and the social role of the artist (and audience) is a big part of the general apolitical approach to life. This practice is transforming art and culture from tools of intercommunication and spread of progressive ideas to mere vessels of social decompression and personal entertainment. The objective of this project is to disentangle the idea that major music works are conceived and produced ignoring their political and social background.

The project has a preliminary phase which is consisted of 3 online meetings. In the first meeting we will mostly get to know each other, be introduced to the musicology academics (Kostantinos Chardas, Danae Stefanou, Petros Vouvaris and Anna Papaeti) and have a scientific touch base. We will examine some first examples of our activities and talk about the topics (see below). Each participant will get to choose one topic. The following two meetings will take place separately with each supervisor, deepening accordantly in each topic. Some non-compulsory homework can be taken between the online sessions which will be arranged in a time convenient for all.
The workshop itself will last four days and take place in Thessaloniki, Greece. It will have two sessions (morning and afternoon) that are divided by a lunch break. There will also be planned some cultural activities that have to do with the cultural life and physiognomy of the host-city will take place!

The workshop contain structured activities (listening and comparing recordings, analyzing sources and scores, interactive activities) and more improvised sessions (debating, creative brainstorming) that all focus on the analysis of musical masterpieces and the period they were conceived, created and presented. During the sessions the participants will investigate each masterpiece through the scope of the topic/team they have previously selected. Each team will report in the workshop their side of the analysis/investigation to the rest of the group aiming in the interaction of topics and teams.
Please note that everyone is welcome irrelevant of scientific background or previous engagement with music.

TOPICS (and some examples)

Music and Identity – with Kostantinos Chardas
Starting from the theoretical premise that the notion of identity is mobile, fluid and formative, the present workshop discusses how music might construct, form, sustain or reflect and represent social conditions of individual understandings of the subjective and/or collective self. More specifically, through collaborative listening, guided reading and discussions we will touch upon different musical perceptions and understandings of the self, and its inevitable others.
• The artistic identity and its rise within the emergence of high culture tradition in the 19th century, and the interrelated notion of the musical masterpiece, will be discussed in connection with the late music of Beethoven as it was conceived by him, but, also, as was understood and disseminated after his death.
• Exoticism and the notion of the other will be explored with reference to Spanish themes in French music of the early 20th century.
• The complications of identity expression on the national level will be explored with reference to two Greek, historically significant, works: Manolis Kalomiris’s Leventia Symphony (1920) and Iannis Xenakis’s Mycenae Polytope (1978).

L. v. Beethoven, Sonata for piano, Op. 110

Claude Debussy, La soiree dans Grenade

Manolis Kalomiris, Leventia Symphony

Iannis Xenakis, Mycenae Polytope
www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2o224WhJF4 www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzfn_TC9GO0

Music and Media – with Danae Stefanou
The idea of musical works as absolute, autonomous masterpieces that carry meaning and value independent of their context was established in the 19th century. However, the rise and proliferation of recorded music as well as the multiple, accelerating shifts in media & communication technologies during the 20th century have undermined these ideas of purity and autonomy. A complex web of mediations, involving multiple industries, is implicated in the production, dissemination and experience of music. As an abstract, non-representational artform, music also avails itself to ambiguous representations, and has often become a vehicle for the expression of different, even conflicting, social and political agendas. In this workshop we listen to, around and through musical masterpieces, to consider both music’s relation to media and communications, and music’s own capacity to act as a medium. We will rely on collaborative listening exercises, guided discussion and accompanying reading, to tackle such questions as:
• Through what kinds of media are musical masterpieces produced and reproduced? How do these media inform our concept of what music is?
• How are musical practices affected by technological, social and political changes in the mediatic landscape?
• Is music a medium in itself? Should it be considered as such? How does the answer to this question change, in relation to different media cultures and their historical and sociopolitical milieu?

Johannes Brahms speaking & performing his Hungarian Dance No. 1 in an Edison wax cylinder recording (1889) https://youtu.be/BZXL3I7GPCY

The Barbershop Scene from Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940)

The Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela and Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles performing Brahms‘ Hungarian Dance No. 5 (2012)

Music and Nationalism – with Petros Vouvaris
Given the significant upgrade of its ontological and sociocultural status during the nineteenth century, music inevitably partook in the consolidation and promotion of the ideological bundle of European nationalism. By aestheticizing nationalist ideas, it acted as a kind of experiential mirror that both registered the cultural impact of these ideas and contributed to their own construction by reflecting back to them. In fact, it was not only that musical “masterpieces” were called upon to serve the ideas of nationalism, but also that their capacity to do so contributed to the maximization of their cultural capital as masterpieces. Through a series of discussions, framed by a variety of reading and listening activities, the workshop hopes to acquaint participants with the conceptual tools and discursive practices pertinent to the address of such questions as:
• Which structural affordances allowed these masterpieces to serve the ideas of nationalism?
• In what ways did these masterpieces inform the shaping and dissemination of these ideas?
• How did the dynamic of this dialectical relation play out in the course of historical time, often leading to the drastic renegotiation of its own sociocultural valence (as, for example, in the case of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, whose semantic charge changed from serving the ideas of German nationalism to serving the ideas of European super-nationalism)?

An excerpt from the finale of the Ninth, performed in a 1942 celebration concert of Hitler’s birthday, www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhzHtKt5Qd4&ab_channel=SeokjinYoon

The official version of European anthem, arranged by Herbert von Karajan and performed by the European Union Youth Wind Orchestra in a 1994 recording at the Teatro da Trindade, Lisbon, https://europa.eu/european-union/sites/europaeu/files/docs/body/european-anthem-2012.mp3

GlobalOdeToJoy, A Worldwide Project for Beethoven’s 250th Birthday, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CzWmbuOdAk&ab_channel=ElSistemaUSA www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aj06Vb7P6jk&ab_channel=ElSistemaGreece

Music and Gender – with Anna Papaeti
To talk about musical masterpieces of the past is to talk about the works of male composers. The musical canon has been established on the exclusion of others on the grounds of gender, sexuality, race, and class. Their silencing is both real and aesthetic. Opera, more than any other genre, exemplifies the way in which cultural stereotypes of a patriarchal, white society are reproduced and confirmed. More often than not, these categories are collapsed into one: dark feminine sexuality is embedded with racial undertones. Idealized or demonized, opera heroines are banished into silence through madness or death. This workshop seeks to explore the following questions:
• How is femininity – and ultimately otherness – represented musically and aesthetically?
• How were instruments and musical genres “domesticated”?
• Where can we seek the missing masterpieces of women composers left out of history books, let alone the musical canon?
• How can performance challenge normative understandings of femininity and gender as well as musical boundaries?
• How have female performers re-appropriated and transgressed gender stereotypes by enacting them through their art?

Georges Bizet, “Habanera”, Carmen (Royal Opera House, 2013),

A clip of the flamenco production Yo Carmen, María Pagés’ feminist rewriting of Bizet’s Carmen: María Pagés, Yo Carmen (2016),

Diamanda Galás, You Don’t Know What Love Is (2011),

Applicant requirements: Absolutely none!!
Language: English
Place:Online (preliminary phase) and Thessaloniki, Greece (workshop)
Dates: June (preliminary phase) and 5 – 9 July (workshop)
Maximum participants: 12 (3 per group)
Covered costs: 2 meals, accommodation, percentage of the flight tickets, childcare
Paid by the participant: Percentage of the flight tickets (to be clarified)
Participation Deadline:9 May 2021
Academic supervisor/design: Konstantinos Chardas
Academic associates: Danae Stefanou, Petros Vouvaris, Anna Papaeti
Project manager/design: Christos Drouzas
Financial manager: Olga Kytidou
StipPK support: Yasemin Say, Nikita Chesnovitski

Contact: drouzaschristos@gmail.com