Redefining Early Recordings as Sources for Performance Practice and History: Newsletter 4, July 2022 

Dear all,

We hope you are having a good start of the summer! A number of developments in the early recordings arena have taken place since our last newsletter, which we sum up in the rest of this message.

Berlin symposium covers methodological approaches to performance analysis and its technical realisations

The third symposium of the series, Mechanical technologies and their transfers. Theoretical considerations on performance analysis and its practical realisation, took place on 7th April at the Technische Universität Berlin under the leadership and organization of Dr Karin Martensen (TU Berlin), who assembled an eclectic programme that illustrated in though-provoking ways the multiplicity of approaches that can be taken when studying performance through early recordings. The symposium built up on the two previous events in helping participants identify broader challenges and issues in the field of early recordings research. Papers pointed to the need for contextual research on a range of factors pertaining broadly to both the performance and the recording process: indeed, it seems increasingly unusual for researchers to consider recordings in isolation, which is surely a positive development; of course, the difficulty might be in having access to sources as well as the ability to interpret them – which suggests that collaborative research with scholars looking at a range of contextual issues in early recordings might be a promising avenue in the future.  Similarly, while detailed analysis, by whichever means, of specific performance parameters remains necessary, the day suggested that researchers increasingly contextualize such parameters within broader questions of expressivity, tradition, and mediatization, rather than considering them as mere components of “performance practices”. You can read a full report of the symposium here.

Dates for next symposia confirmed

On 30th September we will meet at the Guildhall School of Music in London for a symposium featuring a recording workshop with a number of leading performer-scholars, followed by discussion. The programme and registration link (free to attend) will be up about a month before the event on our website, so look out for that! The dates for our final symposium have been confirmed as 19th and 20th January 2023 at City University London, and again programme and registration details will be posted in due course.

The network’s PI and CoI also organized a roundtable under the title “Practice-led Methodologies in Early Recording Research” on 2nd July at the University of Surrey, as part of the Performance Studies Network Conference. Also taking part in the roundtable were three participants in the network’s first symposium – Dr David Milsom (Huddersfield), Dr Emily Worthington (York) and Dr George Kennaway (Leeds). 

A slide from Dr Moreda Rodríguez’s roundtable contribution at Surrey, focusing on zarzuela theatres and recordings in 1890s Madrid

The PI and CoI, as well as international partner Dr Karin Martensen (Technische Universität Berlin) will also take part in a study session under the name “Investigating mediatization in early recorded artifacts” to be held on 24th August at the conference of the International Musicological Society (IMS) at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The session will gather a range of researchers from musicology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies/Media Archaeology and Sociology of Music, and the full line-up can be seen here.

Conference: 78 rpm at home: Local perspectives on the early recording industry (Zagreb, Croatia)

Our friends at the Institute for Ethnology and Folklore Research in Zagreb (Croatia) have also forwarded us the call for papers for their upcoming conference 78 rpm at home: Local perspectives on the early recording industry, to be held from 9th to 11 March 2023 at the Institute itself and online via Zoom. This international symposium seeks to examine the production, circulation and consumption of music under the aegis of music industries in specific social, cultural and political settings. It is informed by an ongoing project on the workings and impact of three Zagreb-based record companies, active during the era of electrically recorded 78 rpm shellac records, on the local music culture of that and subsequent periods. Apart from the “big five” concept of the recording industry as a globalizing force, attuned to the “West and the rest” matrix, the symposium aims to elucidate other directions of musical flow, thus probing a rhizomatic concept of the recording industry in culture.

The deadline for abstracts is 30th September, and the full call for papers can be found here.

If you would like to share any content related to early recordings research (a new publication, a conference or seminar, a performance, etc.) or write a post for the blog, please get in touch: we will be delighted to feature it.

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