Category Archives: General

Performers as Commissioners – New Research Project

The last quarter of 2021 held something special for me: the start of my new research project “Performers as Commissioners of New Music in the Twentieth Century: Preconditions, Self-Conceptions, Impacts.” It is funded by an Elise Richter Grant (with a volume of € 379,095.37) from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and runs from October 2021 to September 2025 at the University for Music and Performing Arts Vienna. As a follow up to my work on Benny Goodman, this study includes further artists, who essentially shaped their instruments’ repertoires and aesthetics by hiring composers to write for them (see below), and takes the questions investigated within the Goodman-pilot onto a broader level.

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Introducing Performer Patronage as Research Field

The Genius of Music, Italian, late 15th–early 16th century (Rogers Fund, 1938, public domain, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

It all seemed so simple, not so long ago: composers (white, male, European) were directly in touch with their muses (mysteriously and unmediatedly – but also overcoming doubt, struggle and hardship), and were at the same time the obedient servants of the destiny of the material. Under the twin guidance of these absolute forces, but somehow also fired up by moments of inspired subjectivity, the music poured out effortlessly onto the page (Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn), or was hewn into shape with superhuman effort and hard-won musical logic (Beethoven, Schoenberg, Boulez). And then along came faithful, unflinching performers, ready to renounce their identities in their service to The Work, […].

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