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CfH Lectures


Transposition is a term native to music, and yet it has been marginalized in music historiography that continues to focus on composers and “originals.” In this talk, Utrecht Early Music Festival Fellow at the CfH R. Ahrendt proposes transposition as a productive model for mobility studies. For transposition is a process of adaptation, a strategy that renders performance possible. Linked to notions of movement and necessary change, transposition implies a conscious response to external constraints, a need to reimagine materials or self. Transposition is not always explicit; in music, transpositions are often implied, and things are not always what they seem—borders become porous, configurations become flexible.

Understanding the agency and effort required by transposition can help elucidate the transformations in the musical labor market at the turn of the eighteenth century. And yet, understanding the lives and experiences of performers on the ground has long been frustrated by lack of evidence.  Until now. A previously-unstudied archive of letters conserved at the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague provides a glimpse into the sociable world of performers who knew each other well, who liked working together, who tried to get ahead or get away.  In some ways, they were like stateless citizens of the same world, the theatrical nation, the Republic of Music.

For the Power Point presentation used during the lecture, see here.