BCU Public Research Seminar: Historically-Informed Performance, Embodied Knowledge, and the Practice of Harmoniemusik

  • Emily Worthington (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Historically-Informed Performance (HIP) is one of the longest-standing areas of practice-research in the academy. Yet scholars and performers alike are still struggling with the fallout of the late-20th century ‘Authenticity’ debates, and there has been surprisingly little cross-fertilisation between HIP and the burgeoning field of literature theorising practice-research and embodied knowledge. As a result, in the words of the historian Emily Robinson: ‘theory and research ... continue to talk at cross purposes, the one insisting that the past is unknowable, the other unable to ignore the vitality of its sources’ (Robinson, ‘Touching the Void’: 2010).

In this paper, Dr Emily Worthington draws on theories of embodied knowledge from theatre, anthropology and musical performance studies to explore the epistemic nature of HIP practice. She argues that practice itself should be acknowledged as a primary research method in both Historically-Informed Performance and historical musicology, rather than being located ‘downstream’ of documentary study.

This argument is illustrated by discussing how performing late-18th and early-19th century Harmoniemusik arrangements has led me to reconsider the historiography of the Harmonie. Practice-based insights that are supported by, rather than originating from, a close reading of written sources suggest that far from being ’mere’ functional music for social occasions, Harmoniemusik arrangements were at times valued more than original works as a site for wind players to express their artistry and develop their practice.
Period24 Nov 2020
Held atRoyal Birmingham Conservatoire, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational