The Composer as Process

The Composer as Process,

or, for a Music History Without Protagonists 

with Dr. Fabio Morabito, Assistant Professor of Musicology, U of A

Wednesday February 8, 2023
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM MDT

In-person at the Sound Studies Institute
with refreshments
Room 3-47, Old Arts Building and Convocation Hall
or tune in to the livestream

The nineteenth-century composer has a persistent image problem: inspired, unworldly, male, writing works of genius for posterity. If it has been the project of musicologists for the last 30 years to erode this checklist, he lingers still like a bad smell. This paper uses Antoine Reicha (1770-1836) as a case study through which to develop alternative approaches to the nineteenth-century composer. That Reicha was a composition teacher and prolific writer of instruction manuals, for example, provides an opportunity (and new types of sources) to focus on composers’ attempts at becoming composers. How can we catch them “in the making,” exploring not a body of works and achievements, but the priorities and anxieties of these individuals (the knowledge they followed or created) in crafting their artistic identities for the public? Can a networked model of music-history writing – we might call it “a history of music with no protagonist” – assist musicologists in working on non-canonical composers without retrospectively making monuments out of them? These and other questions frame this project, in order not only to reassess Reicha, but also our disciplinary toolkit: to ask how/why/to what end we tell stories about composers in musicology more generally.

Dr Morabito joined the Department of Music at the University of Alberta in 2020, as Assistant Professor of Musicology. His research focuses on cultures of Western art music in the late 18th and early 19th century, exploring issues of canon formation and the origins of celebrity; music and cultures of sociability; music collecting and annotating; and the role of musicologies of the past and the present in shaping musical identities. His most recent articles are out in the 2022, 2021 and 2020 issues of 19th-Century Music, Music & Letters and the Journal of Musicology, and he co-edited the volume Antoine Reicha and the Making of the 19th-Century Composer (2021). Dr Morabito was the Principal Investigator of the project 19th-Century Musicians as Annotators (based at the University of Oxford and funded by the British Academy), for which he created a prototype digital resource to explore musicians annotations, and directed two short films on how people in the West interacted with music before the advent of recording technologies.