Minding Music, Making Sound

Music studies
Incorporating artistic arguments into otherwise rational thinking is an essential prerequisite for understanding ‘how art works’, and this is why this course is highly interesting not only for music (and other art) students, but also for academic/university students interested in (re)thinking how music (and art in general) ‘works’.
Course levelAdvanced Bachelor/Master, open to PhD staff and professionals
Recommended course combinationSession 1: Discover the Dutch: Language and Culture, Decolonizing Europe: History, Memory, Redress
Session 2: The Heart of Capitalism: Amsterdam 1600-present
Session 3
3 August July to 17 August 2019
Co-ordinating lecturerProf. J. Fidom
Other lecturersOther lecturers and teachers include Els Biesemans (Zürich), Hans-Ola Ericsson (Montreal), Zuzana Ferjencikova (Montpellier), Trevor Grahl (Amsterdam), Jacob Lekkerkerker (Amsterdam), Bert Mooiman (Den Haag), and Henk Verhoef (Amsterdam)
Form(s) of tuitionLectures, concerts, music masterclasses and listening workshops (including excursions to the Nieuwe Kerk and the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam), discussions
Form(s) of assessmentA short essay on the interaction between the artistic and the rational mind; group poster, presentation and participation in a debate
ECTS3 credits
Contact hours45
Total tuition fee€1150

Any university student interested in music, School of Music organ/keyboard students. Anyone interested in how music – or art in general – ‘works’ is warmly invited to join this course.

Together we will work on a new perspective on the age-old conundrum of where artistic and rational minds and talents meet. The course is a delightful introduction for all students interested in the humanities. But School of Music students with a keen interest in making music will also greatly appreciate what this course has to offer, as it includes masterclasses in music-making, improvisation, and listening. The instrument of choice on this course is a 21st century version of the pipe organ, combining age-old and brand-new sounds and technologies. The aim is to bring both groups of students together so they can learn from each other, and we can learn from them. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.

The course provides clues by focussing on music, and, consequently, on sound as the basis for any kind of music. As part of this approach, you will practise making music, listening to music and discussing music.
Attending all classes is mandatory for both academic and artistic students. This way music students will have a critical audience during their masterclasses, and academic students can, during lectures and other workshops, expect their perspectives on music (art) to be challenged by the music students.
As pipe organs are outside the realm of leading music cultures, in much the same way as music has always been different from the other arts, the Orgelpark is the perfect venue for this course. The Orgelpark is in fact VU Amsterdam’s musical laboratory during this course.

At the end of this course you will:
•  have a better understanding of the time aspect of music and art;
•  have a clearer idea of what it means to conceive the world by perceiving it using your senses (specifically listening);
•  understand how musicological and other art-related research can be used to improve music-making and enhance the experience of listening to music;
•  be able to contribute to current debates on the role of art in a society that is in danger of derailment due to ‘dataïstic’ structures (read Harari’s dark book ‘Homo Deus’).

The Netherlands is unique in many ways, but there’s one that you may find surprising: the country is home to the biggest collection of large high-quality historical pipe organs in the world. This collection perfectly illustrates the development of the art of organ technology, sound concepts and architecture through the centuries. The collection’s oldest organ dates back to 1479. In addition to classes at the Orgelpark the course also includes several excursions. Expect visits to the Oude Kerk and the Nieuwe Kerk, where two world-famous instruments are housed, and naturally the course would not be complete without the VU Amsterdam organ.
The basic theoretical knowledge needed for this course can be best acquired by reading the e-book ‘Music as Installation Art’ by Hans Fidom, available for free online: https://www.orgelpark.nl/nl/Wetenschap/Research-Reports.
If you are a School of Music student interested in making music during the course’s masterclasses, then you will be asked to prepare a selection of scores. More information about this will be announced in due time, but please feel free to make suggestions. This course is taught at the Orgelpark, which means you will have a great variety of sound concepts at your disposal. For more information, go to www.orgelpark.nl. The Orgelpark owns eight high-quality pipe organs – each representing a different and uncompromised sound concept – and two grand pianos, while arrangements can also be made for harpsichords, harmoniums, and other keyboard instruments. The main focus will be on Johann Sebastian Bach’s music, contemporary music, and improvisation.


Hans Fidom is one of the leading researchers/developers worldwide in the field of the so-called hyper organs: pipe organs that combine historical sound concepts and 21st century technology. The pinnacle of this development so far is the new organ at the Orgelpark, Amsterdam, an instrument that enthuses not only organists but laptop composers as well, who just love to be able to work with non-loudspeaker sounds. The basis of all this is a new understanding of what sound is and how it works, both as such and as material to make music with.

'I am deeply interested in rethinking the position of the listener, the musician, and the instrument as pivotal actors in musical situations; as well as of audiences and artists in art situations in general. I find it highly inspiring that it is especially female philosophers that provide the epistemological basis for that. It just makes so much sense to read, for example, Susanne Langer and Salomé Voegelin, who both pair clear thinking to a deep understanding of music and sound.'

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