It has been a few weeks since the University of Oregon’s conference ‘Musicking’ so I am a bit late in publishing my thoughts but I really could not live with myself if I didn’t publish this post of appreciation. The execution of such a hybrid event couldn’t have been more flawless and with an event list including masterclasses, panels, concerts and lecture-recitals with both in-person and virtual events the committee certainly had their work cut out for them.
I was fortunate to give a paper on improvisation pedagogy in 19th-century guitar but I honed in on how this instruction relates to some of the competing attitudes towards gender. I focused on a few first-hand accounts of women and men indicating some of their attitudes towards their status as a so called ‘amateur’ or ‘dilettante’. These attitudes played an important role in how the methods adapted figured-bass instruction for a more melody-focused community of amateur learners. This role is evidenced by contemporary writings of amateurs and their relationships to improvisation, some writers note that the guitar was the perfect instrument to extemporise on in informal and leisurely situations. Others were keen to castigate amateurs, especially ‘lady-amateurs’ for never being able to improvise at all! The criticism towards amateur was, unsurprisingly gendered, men often benefitted from behaviour that women are criticised for. You can watch the panel: ‘Obbligato & Improvvisato’ here where Catherine Bahn and I present papers detailing improvised accompaniment. Catherine’s paper is super informative and has several parallels with my presentation she provides an older example of teaching batteries for improvising on cello along with several other melodic and schema-theory based ideas for improvisation.
Another standout lecture-recital was titled ‘The Neapolitan School for Improvising on the Cello: Francone’s Passagagli, 1699’ by Giovanna Barbati, the playing was superb and explored alternative improvisation pedagogies including variations upon passacaglia using instrumental models and technical devices. I really was honoured to be included in a conference alongside such widely respected names like Peter Van Tour, Guido Olivieri and Marc Vanscheeuwijck. Overall it was a fantastic experience and the best part is, everything is online!
I’ve been busy finishing a bit of writing which I sent off for submission, but I really hope to start STREAMING again within the next few weeks. We are going to hit the ground running with some explicitly nineteenth-century improvisation based sessions so be on the lookout by following me on twitch and putting on notifications if you dare!!
See you all soon!