The evensong is a long-standing tradition in English cathedrals: at the end of the afternoon a short, spoken reflection is framed by choral music. Festival Oude Muziek 2015 (aug 28th – oct 6th), in close collaboration with the Centre for the Humanities, presents a secular vespers service called Eventalk. Every day another speaker will present a short talk, musically supported by festival ensemble Vox Luminis.
The line up of speakers
Sat 29 Aug. 18.30: Jordi Savall, conductor and viola da gamba player: ‘A citation of Stendhal from 1809, in which he criticises the European music of anterior times in an ironic way, will be our starting point for a reflection on how to evaluate the history of our European music. Can we speak of progress? How to explain all those forgotten centuries of great music? How can we evaluate music of other times or from other cultures doing justice to its value?’
Sun 30 Aug. 18.30: Prof. Rosi Braidotti, Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University: ‘Music, Drugs and Emancipation’
Bach’s Coffee Cantate is often described in music history books as light-hearted, but the particular themes that this cantata addresses invite a serious exploration of the role of drugs like coffee and the emancipation of women in early music. Eventalk is thus an experiment on changing the way we look at sacred monsters like Bach, remembering not only his light-hearted Coffee Cantate, but also his role in the sex-wars of his time.
Mon 31 Aug. 18.30: Dr Barbara Titus, Musicology, University of Amsterdam: ‘Wie bezet(te) het Maagdenhuis?’ (in Dutch)
What is a university nowadays? A public institution? A company? A privilege for the happy few? A haven for experiment with the implications of failure or success? A training institute for a country’s economy? A reservoir of human expression forms, ideas, stories, techniques and heritage? These questions were given urgency during the occupation of the Maagdenhuis of the University of Amsterdam in the hot spring of 2015. So, who occupied the Maagdenhuis?
Tue 1 Sept. 18.30: Dr Ernst van den Hemel, Religious Studies, Utrecht University: ”The Times They Are A Changin’. Protest songs: religion, music and provocation’ (in Dutch)
When we hear the words ‘protest songs’, we tend to think of the sixties, when many musicians demonstrated against governments, companies and traditions in the lyrics and forms of their music. But, ambiguity and provocation, and coarse suggestiveness wrapped in catchy melodies, were also in the early modern era a favorite way to express protest. Through examples from the time of the Rederijkers and the Dutch Revolt, Van den Hemel explores how early protest, religion and music have co-formed the Netherlands.
Wed 2 Sept. 18.30: Prof. David Pascoe, Comparative Literature, Utrecht University: ‘Mourning Music’
Purcell’s Funeral Sentences played a central role in mourning the death of the English monarch Queen Mary; but what happens when such music is removed from its original context, and framed in garish new forms in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange? Might such inauthentic use cause us to mourn the violent death of early music; or does it, in fact, herald a bright new dawn?
Thu 3 Sept. 18.30: Prof. Wiljan van den Akker, Literature, Utrecht University: ‘Poetry, Flamenco, Improvisation, Creativity’
Wiljan van den Akker will talk about creativity, starting with the assemblage of the most simple nightstand from Ikea and ending with the many misunderstandings about improvisation in music, by the example of flamenco. Is there a free will in creating? To lift any suspense: his answer is ‘no’.
Fri 4 Sept. 18.30: Prof. Josine Blok, Ancient History and Classical Civilization, Utrecht University: ‘Draagt muziek bij tot goed burgerschap?’ (in Dutch)
People are moved by music. In the Greek city states, music was an indispensable factor in the collective life of the citizens. What ideas were behind it and why did political philosophers consider music as the foundation of good citizenship? And what do these ideas nowadays say about us as modern citizens?
Sat 5 Sept. 18.30: Prof. Wessel Krul, History of Art and Culture in Modern Western Europe, University of Groningen: ‘Muziek als tijdmachine’
We go to concerts of early music because we love these beautiful pieces, but also because they are old. Old music holds something of the past alive, that many would not like to miss. For the duration of a concert, we are in a different world, an old world. But to which history does music connects us? Can we really go back in time through music?
All Eventalks were be recorded by Concertzender.
Sun 6 Sept. 11.00, 12.30: Start of ‘Culturele Zondag Uitfeest‘
The last Eventalk will be different. It will take place at 12:30, in the Grote Zaal of TivoliVredenburg. Vocal ensemble Vox Luminis, the artist in residence during the festival, will be expanded to a choir of 40 people. They will sing the rarely performed masterpiece Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis (composed around 1570). The Utrecht poet Ingmar Heytze reads a poem on the importance of music. Moreover, the omnipresence of music. Music is everywhere. You can even hear music before you are born. This double bill of Vox Luminis and Ingmar Heytze is also the opening concert of Culturele Zondag.
The Utrecht poet Ingmar Heytze recited in which he adressed the importance of music. Moreover, the omnipresence of music: man can hear music before he even is born. “Amniotic fluid resonates like the soundboard of a Stradivarius,” wrote Dutch author Jan Wolkers. “Music is everywhere,” argued Heytze in his poem Evenspraak, which you can read here (in Dutch).
This double bill of Vox Luminis and Ingmar Heytze was the opening concert of Culturele Zondag Uitfeest. At 11.00 there was a public rehearsal for early birds of Spem in Alium by Vox Luminis. The Dutch rapper Akwasi attended this rehearsal and was visibly touched by the music.
About Utrecht Early Music Festival
The theme of the Early Music Festival this year is the English Renaissance and the early Baroque of that country, with much room for the works of William Byrd and Henry Purcell. The French-Belgian ensemble Vox Luminis led by Lionel Meunier will be the artist in residence. They have quickly risen to prominence in recent years and have become a fixture of the festival.
About Centre for the Humanities
The Centre for the Humanities of Universiteit Utrecht is a platform where pioneering activities and innovative research are related to the greater socio-political relevance of the humanities. The Centre makes this link by focusing on the social status of and public opinions concerning the humanities in today’s day and age.