Conference review: The Art Song Platform: Traditions and Current Practices, 10 May 2019, Goldsmiths, University of London

This study day gathered together academics, performers and composers engaged in art song, with presentations covering topics from history of art song and analysis to issues of programming of art song today and performances of the new repertoire. Formats included lectures and lecture recitals, as well as 10-minute research and performance reports allowing students to present work in progress.

The audience was introduced to a lesser-known repertoire, with Bianca Schumann’s (University of Vienna) paper ‘Going beyond Schumann – Mondnacht-settings of the 19th-century’ on songs by Friedrich Kiel, and Clare Wilson’s (Ulster University) presentation ‘The Mélodies of André Caplet: Analytical Performance and Context’. As well as recovering the repertoire, presentations on lesser-known female composers discussed the gender issues. Orla Shannon (Dublin City University) gave a lecture-recital on contributions of Joan Trimble to Ireland’s canon of twentieth-century art song, addressing the gender disparity in programming and insufficient inclusion of works by female composers. Katy Thompson (Royal College of Music) gave a lecture-recital on life and work of Ruth Gipps, introducing a larger RCM project ‘Women in Music’ with resources and databases of solo and chamber works by female composers.

The presentation ‘Syllables of Velvet, Sentences of Plush – The Emily Dickinson Song Project’, by Nicole Panizza (Coventry University) broadened the gender discourse. Combining existing works with premiere compositions, the album Emergence: Emily Dickinson (2019, Stone Records) by Nadine Benjamin and Nicole Panizza provided the audience with a new way in which to read, hear, and perform the work of Emily Dickinson.

New repertoire was also showcased in ‘Bracelets’, presented by David Aldred (Leeds Beckett University) and Shrikant Subramanian (Mimesis). Set to David’s poem of the same name by Chinese composer Zhenyan Li (Royal Academy of Music), for a countertenor and piano accompanist, this presentation included additional elements of musique concrete and video projection with dance sequences in the classical Indian genre of Bharatanatyam performed by Shrikant. ‘Characteristics and expression of “homesickness” in Chinese art songs’ by Zhao Muxi and Shun’ai Jin (Northeast Normal University, China) further added to the exploration of different traditions.

The screening of the short film ‘Three Turns of Hanaker Mill’, produced by Kit Ashton (Goldsmiths, University of London), continued the discussion on the use of media in performance, culminating in a presentation by Rena Sharon (University of British Columbia). An overview of her work spanning over two decades of performing and curating art song performances in various multimedia settings, it opened questions of the future of the song recital as the form and the role of a performer.

The performance aspect emerged as the common thread of the event, with the themes that dominated discussions being the genre’s cultural work, different performance contexts and the role of a performer/performers in creating the work. Clare and David Lesser (New York University Abu Dhabi) performed Hans-Joachim Hespos’ Weiβschatten discussing its indeterminate hierarchy of composer and performers and Frankie Perry explored two recent reimaginings of Schubert’s An die Musik, while Stewart Campbell’s (University of Birmingham) ‘Songs Without Borders: Investigating audience experience in live art song consumption’ offered new perspectives on investigating the consumers’ experience. Delegates discussed the need for a follow-up event on the study day’s main themes, as well as turning the outputs into a web resource that could connect scholars and performers and publish items of interest.


Verica Grmuša is an Early Career Research Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London, with principal research area in voice and art song performance.


Professor Simon McVeigh, Goldsmiths, University of London
Professor Laura Tunbridge, Oxford University
Dr Chris Dromey, Middlesex University
Dr Verica Grmuša, Royal Holloway, University of London

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *