Recreating Performing Knowledge: From 'Embodiment' to 'Re-enactment'

Gebauer, Peter Johannes; Köpp, Kai (25 April 2016). Recreating Performing Knowledge: From 'Embodiment' to 'Re-enactment' In: Performing Knowledge Conference. Emmanuel College, Cambridge. 25.-26.04.2016.

Musical performance can never be fully understood through texts of music or language. If music can be described as the result of a mindful body’s interaction with an instrument, as in the field of embodied music cognition, the bodily perspective can be reversed in the analysis of historical performances. Early sound documents provide a large quantity of information about performance that can be analysed through the established empiric methods of ‘close listening’ (Leech-Wilkinson, 2010) and computer-based analysis. A four-year research project at the Bern University of the Arts takes this approach even further by including an under-examined source: instructive texts and editions add historical perspectives to the choice of methods. Written instructions for professionals, that have been published in surprisingly large number before and alongside early recordings, are not only objects of textual criticism. Under controlled circumstances, they can be translated into physical movement and sound – a new method that may be called ‘embodiment’. In this translating process of listening with the body, fingerings and other technical aspects of performance (articulation, vertical precision etc.) can be identified. This requires a performer-researcher with embodied knowledge of sound production with a given instrument. In combination with the musical jargon from historical instructions, practical knowledge of the past that is evident in early recordings may be described from the perspective of a contemporary performer. Knowledge from this method can be applied in a critical recreation of a historical recording: a research-based performance that can be described as musical ‘re-enactment’. By this method, intentional decisions may be differentiated from less reflected actions and even mistakes. To demonstrate these methods, a ‘reenactment’ of Karl and Fridolin Klingler’s interpretation of Mozart’s duet for violin and viola KV 424 (78rpm / Electrola 1935) will be performed by Köpp and Gebauer. Johannes Gebauer presents another example of this research based on ‘instructive texts and editions’. In 1939, long after the change of paradigms at the beginning of the 20th century had taken place in musical performance, Marion Bruce Ranken privately published her reminiscences, Some points of violin playing and music performance as learnt in the Hochschule für Musik (Joachim School) in Berlin during the time I was a student there, 1902-1909. Her stay in Berlin coincided with the final years of teaching by Joseph Joachim and Robert Hausmann. Her intention was to preserve a performance style that, because of rapidly changing aesthetics, had already been largely forgotten. Her analysis is a unique source to understand phenomena like Joachim’s acclaimed free way of playing, as reported for instance by Eduard Hanslick in 1861. Ranken retrospectively tries to explain aesthetics and pedagogy of an already past tradition and in contrast to contemporary practice, which allows us to get a deep insight into the art of performance which she called the ‘Joachim-School’. What Ranken describes with the jargon keyword ‘das Freispielen’ (the free-playing) is not to be confused with a ‘Chopin-style’ rubato, limited to a particular kind of slow movement. It is closely linked to ‘die Gestaltungkraft’ (the power of shaping), which Joseph Joachim reportedly mastered with superior perfection. In her book, Ranken gives a step-by-step tutorial of ‘das Freispielen’, to explain exactly where this device is to be used and how it is performed. Ranken’s teacher Karl Klingler, Joachim’s student and one of his last quartet partners, himself an uncompromising advocate of the Joachim-Tradition, similarly tried to preserve the aesthetics of this tradition in several essays which he wrote at the end of his long life. His writings explain a style of performance based on Joachim’s idolised performance. Klingler gives the context to what Ranken calls ‘das Freispielen’ and ‘die Gestaltungskraft’ by providing numerous examples from the classicromantic violin and chamber music repertoire. The presentation follows Ranken’s step-by-step tutorial with live-performed examples, and seeks to understand the procedures behind ‘das Freispielen’ and ‘die Gestaltungskraft’, illustrating the topic with sound documents closely linked to the Joachim Tradition.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


Bern Academy of the Arts
Bern Academy of the Arts > Institute Interpretation
Bern Academy of the Arts > HKB Teaching


Gebauer, Peter Johannes and
Köpp, Kai0000-0003-3861-6305


M Music and Books on Music > M Music




Sabine Jud

Date Deposited:

14 Jul 2020 15:40

Last Modified:

31 Aug 2022 15:20


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