How to fall head-over-heels in love with musicology (+ why it took me a while)

Have you ever considered…

Why you play your classical music the way that you do? (And who decides these ‘style rules’ anyway?)

Why one type of playing is valued over another in the music conservatory (by the way, who decides what is ‘proper’?)

Why there are so many recordings of musicians performing the same pieces decade after decade? (What are we trying to prove to each other?)

Why you might play some styles of music more freely and some more strict, even if the notation looks similar?

Maybe you’ve pondered these questions frequently…or maybe not at all.        

You see, Performance Musicology (the study of performance as an academic subject) often seeks to understand these questions by studying things like:

What do you, as a performer do?

How do you do it?

More importantly, why do you do it?

I’ll be the first to admit that even with a doctoral degree in ‘performance musicology’ I didn’t fall in love with such questions straight away. The concept of what musicologists do seemed too much like all talk and no action (I mean, why spend so much time writing about performance when you can just… perform?).

Previously I tended to see musical academic research as

Methodical. Number Crunching. Data-driven. Geeky. Quantitative. Elitist. In the Ivory Tower. Scientific. Clinical.  Out of touch with my reality.

It seemed far removed from my own view of creativity: soulful, intuitive, creative, colourful, passionate, improvisatory, innately expressive, ethereal, and always highly personal.

It took me a while (oh, about 4 years of full time researching and writing, to be clear) to bridge the gap of how academia could enhance my own playing (and perhaps other’s, too).

Let’s just say musicology and I have fallen in love from a slow-burn affection, it certainly wasn’t a fast-action affair by any means.

When the folks at Cambridge University Press invited me to write for their ‘Thought Leadership Blog Series’, I wanted to address how the everyday musician– in the thick of practicing, teaching, performing– might benefit from taking something analytical like research and frame it as creative, applicable and soul-rendering for musicality.

In this recent article I briefly discuss how artistic research can give us fresh, brand-spanking new ideas to be even more creative in our performances. How a new perspective of musicology can help bridge this gap between the study of music and the actual performance of music.

Who knows… maybe you could start to love what the big ‘M’ can do for your playing, too?

To read my latest article from the Cambridge University Press website, click here. 

In last month’s writing I asked “how do you recharge your creative batteries?”
Responses that landed in my inbox included:

“I try to do something beautiful every day …something that reminds me that art and beauty are good for the soul.”

“I get inspired by You-tubing wonderful pieces such as the Chaminade concerto opus 107 (beyond my capabilities) – but it still inspires me to play the first few bars before it falls to bits!”

“I passed my ABRSM grade 6 last year so that has given me the enthusiasm to carry on with my lessons”

“I play with the Chichester Flute Choir

“I attend a concert”

“I go to a museum (there’s actually one up the street)”

“I record Adele and Ed Sheeran’s tunes in a duet format (yep…with myself) on the Acapella app

“I spent a day in London and took hours in a flute shop trying out new beat-boxing scores”

“I read a poem: Rich Villar, Pazcual Villaronga, Miguel Pinero, Miguel Algarín, Sandra Rodríguez, Pablo Neruda, Juan Luis Guerra, Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barret Browning, John Donne, William Blake. And speaking of the British Isles, I love Dylan Thomas”

With Special thanks to Aina Ruquena for her gorgeous calligraphy art shown above.


When your flute playing falls apart (if there was one thing I could share with you this would be it)
How to recharge your flute playing + creativity without spending a dime (I asked, you told)

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