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Featured Guest Blogger: Report from German Conference on Women and Gender Studies

by Liane Curtis - May 23rd, 2016.
Filed under: conferences, gender research, Germany, music history, Uncategorized.

Anja-BunzelI was recently in touch with musicologist Anja Bunzel, because I am intrigued by her research project on Johanne Kinkel. Bunzel will write another post for us about Kinkel, but first we asked her to share with us about the annual conference of the Working Group for Women’s and Gender Studies of the Society for Music Research, Germany.   She also points out that a conference on a related topic is taking place this weekend (“Stepping out of the shadows’. Women at the side of learned men of science and art”). Originally from Germany, Bunzel has a Master’s degree from the Freie Universität, Berlin, and she has presented her research in countries including the UK, Greece, Italy, Austria,  Turkey (see photo), and, also in Ireland, where she is currently based.   Bunzel is on Academia.edu,  and also has her own blog.   Last year, Bunzel was featured on the classical music website, Finale Note Magazine

Thoughts on Current Research Strands in Musicology

A Ph.D. candidate at Maynooth University, Ireland, I was thrilled to have been invited to present parts of my research at the annual conference of the Fachgruppe Frauen- und Genderstudien in der Gesellschaft für Musikforschung (Working Group for Women’s and Gender Studies of the Society for Music Research, Germany), which was organised by Cornelia Bartsch (University of Basel), Katharina Hottmann (University of Hamburg), and Corinna Herr (HfMT Cologne), and hosted by the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, Cologne, on 1–3 April 2016. The conference programme featured inspiring presentations by a refreshing mixture of both senior and junior scholars from within the fields of musicology, history, gender, literary, media, and cultural studies. The subjects included music as cultural practice, gender representations in different art forms, and recent methodological challenges.

After a warm welcome, the conference launched into its first section titled ‘Between Daily Routine and Work: Artistic Practice in Social Networks.’ In her paper on the reception of Bach as reflected in Lea Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s letters, Evelyn Buyken (HfMT Cologne/ University of Cologne) discussed gendered music pedagogy, masculine role models within the musical education of children, and the questionable division of nineteenth-century performance practices between everyday life on the one hand, and special occasions on the other. The idea of everyday cultural practice was taken up by Birgit Kiupel (Independent Scholar, Hamburg), who provided some entertaining and impressive insight into the social network of the Hamburg singer and concert organiser Margaretha Susanne Kayser (1690–1774). Following on the notion of social interaction and creative exchange, Henrike Rost (HfM Detmold/ University of Paderborn) offered a glimpse at the nineteenth-century fashion of Stammbücher, an exciting phenomenon which was practised widely by both men and women during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and whose potential as research material is being underrated today. Based on the Stammbücher of Emily (1827–1889) and Serena (1830–1902) Moscheles, Rost demonstrated how these poetry books, which include personal wishes and sometimes small personalised compositions, musical sketches, or drawings, bear witness to a fascinating and vibrant culture networking and sociability during the nineteenth century throughout the German-speaking regions and beyond. Veronika Keller’s paper on her empirical research of US-American female students at German conservatories between 1843 and 1918 accentuated the notion of cross-national cultural exchange.

Another broad area discussed at the conference was the aspect of gender representation in the arts. Stephanie Schroedter (FU Berlin) touched on representations of femininity in nineteenth-century French music theatre and dance; Karin Martensen (HfM Detmold/ University of Paderborn) elaborated on satirical interpretations and constructions of gender in caricatures around 1900. Examining representations of musical everyday life, Katharina Hottmann (University of Hamburg) looked at the construction of boys’ experiences through the lens of gendered musical upbringing and education in the novels by Agnes Sapper (1852–1929) and Else Ury (1877–1943). Nadine Scharfetter (University of Graz), Theresa Steinacker (University of Basel), and Federica Marsico (University of Pavia) offered a diverse music-analytical account of gender constructions in selected works by Richard Wagner (1813–1883), Leoš Janáček (1854–1928), and Sylvano Bussotti (1931–).

Scheduled within the section ‘Analysis: Representations of Family,’ I advocated in my own paper a reception history ‘ex nihilo’ by using as a starting point the reception history of Johanna Kinkel’s (1810–1858) early Lieder compositions and her non-reviewed Heine ballad Don Ramiro. Drawing on Charlotte Salomon’s (1917–1943) series of paintings Leben? oder Theater? (Life? or Theatre?), Elisabeth Reda (University of Hamburg) provided some fruitful insight into this stirring work of art, and she also raised attention to current concepts of remembrance and recollection studies within the humanities. She thereby linked the aspect of researching the past with scholarly challenges of the presence.

In the spirit of contemporary challenges to both the research and wider public communities, Svenja Reiner and Corinna Herr (both HfMT Cologne) elaborated on representations of musical practice within the context of twenty-first-century media and technology, more particularly the World Wide Web and its manifold opportunities and challenges. Carla Schrievers (University of Oldenburg) offered an interesting account of her ethnographical research of twenty-first-century patterns of fandom – her research is based on the fan community around Prince, a field which certainly could not be more topical. All three papers encouraged a lively discussion of such current notions as mediated self-representation and identity, gender bending vs voice bending, hidden commercialisation, materiality of the self, and the music business at the edge of morality, researched under the consideration of social structures of power.

The conference concluded with two papers focusing on questions of methodology. Elisabeth Treydte (HfMT Hamburg) discussed vividly and comprehensively the research potential of discourse analysis geared to gender constructions in musical journals and newspaper articles. Beatrix Borchard (HfMT Hamburg) reflected on her own biographical work on Pauline Viardot-Garcia (1821–1910) and on research difficulties she faced as a result of gaps in the documentation of sketches and improvised works. She reiterated the importance of a gender-sensitive musical historiography through the lens of cultural practice rather than musical masterworks in isolation, and suggested different modes of historiography, e.g. montage, (un-)annotated images, encyclopaedia entries, and multi-media representations.

All conference papers ignited a fruitful discussion of such broader concepts as music and biography, representations, (re-), and (de-)constructions, and (re-)considerations of musical histories within their own socio-political and cultural contexts, ranging from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries. The discussion was enriched by stimulating comments and questions from the chairs and floor. For example, Sabine Meine’s (HfM Detmold/ University of Paderborn) constructive input on salon culture and the conceptual use of the term ‘salon,’ Susanne Rode-Breymann’s (HMTMH Hanover) realistic insight into funding and administration issues for gender studies within the field of musicology, and Rebecca Grotjahn’s (HfM Detmold/ University of Paderborn) original commentary on a potential music historiography based on crowds rather than individuals offered much food for thought, also in relation to potential future events.

On my flight home to Maynooth, I found my tired but happy self reflecting on an eventful weekend, and I can certainly say that it is a real pleasure to be part of such a vivid, friendly, and innovative research community, which, thanks to such international online projects as Sophie: A Digital Library of Works by German-Speaking Women or Musik und Gender im Internet is no longer limited to national research infrastructures. In this spirit, it shall be interesting to watch out for further developments of such exciting endeavours as the establishment of a cross-disciplinary and cross-university MA course ‘Gender Studies’ as is currently planned by GeStiK (Gender Studies in Cologne), various international projects and cross-disciplinary internet platforms, a selection of which will be introduced at the international conference Lexicography, Gender, and Music Historiography (HfMT Hamburg, 26–29 May 2016), and such other promising upcoming conferences as ‘Aus dem Schatten treten’: Frauen gelehrter Männer aus Wissenschaft und Kunst (Berlin, 27 May 2016), and The Visualisation of the Salon (St. Petersburg, 7–9 September 2016).

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