What's wrong with classical music?

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Council Room (K2.29)

King's Building, Strand Campus

King's College London

London, United Kingdom

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What's wrong with classical music?

Young musicians are taught how each score is intended to be performed so as to generate the expressive qualities it is supposed to convey to listeners. Performances that fail to produce the musical character expected are often held to be incorrect. Teachers, examiners, adjudicators, critics, agents, concert managers, festival programmers and record producers work in harmony to ensure that standards and styles of performance are strictly maintained. Playing ‘out of style’ denies performers work.

Classical musical performance is policed and self-policed more rigidly than theatre, where new readings of old texts are encouraged and provide a powerful incentive for audiences to attend new productions. Nowhere is this contrast more obvious than in opera, where innovative work on stage struggles to combine plausibly with deliberately conventional performance in the pit. Yet no one, in that situation, asks why the musical performance cannot be as innovative as the stage directing.

In this talk, Daniel LeechWilkinson scrutinises classical music ideology. What damage does it do? What alternatives does it evade? What might happen if its beliefs were undone? This illustrated talk will offer playful and provocative answers in equal measure. 
It acts as a prequel to the Helios Collective’s transgressive version of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, which they will be presenting on 12, 13, and 14 October at the Festival.

DANIEL LEECH-WILKINSON is Professor of Music at King’s. His current research critically examines the politics of classical music performance, in particular the policing of performance norms, and explores creative alternatives. Books include The Modern Invention of Medieval Music (2002),The Changing Sound of Music (2009) and, Music and Shape, coauthored with Helen Prior (2017).

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Council Room (K2.29)

King's Building, Strand Campus

King's College London

London, United Kingdom

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