Minding Music, Making Sound

Score-based musicking, Improvisation, and Philosophy
Always wanted to know how music ‘works’? And never been satisfied by standard approaches, like becoming really good at making music or at philosophy? Then this summer course is for you, as it interconnects making music and thinking about it. During the first two weeks of August 2019, we will dedicate ourselves to music masterclasses with inspiring professors, as well as to workshops on 21st century ideas about music and art with ditto thinkers. The course is open to both artistic and academic students, i.e. artists and academics.
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 to 17 August 2019
Co-ordinating lecturerProf. J. Fidom
Other lecturersOther lecturers and teachers include improviser Zuzana Ferjencikova (Montpellier), philosopher Alicja Gescinska, improviser/researcher Franziska Schroeder (Belfast), live-electronic musician Franz Danksagmüller, Bach expert Hans-Ola Ericsson (Montreal), composer Trevor Grahl (Amsterdam), Soundtrackcity founder Michiel Huijsman, improviser Jacob Lekkerkerker (Amsterdam), artistic research experts Peter Peters and Michiel Schuijer, and VU University organist Henk Verhoef (Amsterdam).
Form(s) of tuitionThis course provides a platform for academic (humanities, science) and artistic students (schools of music, artschools) to meet one another in multi-layered sessions and thus get a deeper understanding of one anothers’ worlds, ways of thinking, and ways of being artistic active; one group follows the classes of the other. These classes include lectures, listening workshops, excursions, music masterclasses, concerts - and lots of discussions. The Summer School ‘laboratory’ and main location is the Orgelpark at Amsterdam (www.orgelpark.nl), a very well-equipped nice venue directly at the famous Vondelpark (one of the largest historic parks in Amsterdam, perfect to hang out during breaks). Next to the Orgelpark, the VU University and the magnificent large medieval city churches of Amsterdam (the Nieuwe Kerk and the Oude Kerk) house some of the activities as well.
Form(s) of assessmentAt the end of the course, the academic students are expected to do a poster presentation on how music and music education work, based on their experiences in the two weeks the course lasts; the artistic students give a concert together, in which they give short introductions to their musics. Both happenings take place at the Orgelpark.
ECTS3 credits
Contact hours45
Total tuition fee€1150
ACADEMIA STUDENTS: PhD/master/bachelor students interested in music and thinking/talking about it (humanities [history, philosophy, art, etc.], science [physics, medicine, math, etc.]).
ARTISTIC STUDENTS: School of Music students (organ/other keyboard instrument students, as well as composition students) and art school students (sound art) interested in getting a deeper understanding of what it is to make music.
Anyone interested in how music – or art in general – ‘works’ is warmly invited to join this SummerCourse. The dream is to provide a platform enabling artistic and academic students to really meet on several levels, sharing ideas, dreams, skills, concepts etc., and eventually understand each others’ ways of thinking and making music better.
This means that attending all classes is mandatory for both academic and artistic students. This way artistic students will have a critical audience during their masterclasses, whereas academic students can, during lectures and other workshops, expect their perspectives on music (art) being challenged by the artistic students.
The course focuses on music-making in relation to scores (i.e. composing and performing compositions), improvisation, listening, and philosophy.
If you have any doubts about whether this course is for you, please do not hesitate to email Hans Fidom: j.fidom@vu.nl.

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 of Johann Sebastian Bach and Olivier Messiaen, or a few improvisations. More information about this will be announced in due time, but please feel free to make suggestions. The Orgelpark offers a great variety of sound concepts: it 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. For more information, check www.orgelpark.nl.
Academia students will be asked to read and bring three texts on music and/or art that fascinate them, and prepare to explain to the group why these texts would be so important.

Incorporating artistic arguments into otherwise rational thinking - and vice versa! - is a basic condition for understanding ‘how art works’. As this SummerCourse is one of the first international platforms to get acquainted with the implications, options and probable results, it in fact is kind of a laboratory, breaking new grounds.

There are a few clear lines linking the classes. The classes by the internationally renown Bach/Messiaen-expert Hans-Ola Ericsson, improviser Jacob Lekkerkerker, composer Trevor Grahl represent the backbone of the artistic level of the course; the classes by Organ Studies professor Hans Fidom are the backbone of the academic level of the course. Half-day sessions are linked to these backbones as if ‘plug-ins’, including classes by philosopher Alicja Gescinska, sound studies specialist Michiel Huijsman, artistic research experts Michiel Schuijer en Peter Peters, improvisers Franziska Schroeder, Zuzana Ferjencikova and Franz Danksagmüller, and VU University organist Henk Verhoef. Following this program, you will practise making music, listening to music and discussing music.

At the end of this course you will:
•  have a better understanding of how music is made, how it ‘works’ and what to think of it
•  have a clearer idea of what extending your listening skills adds to your perception of music, art, and in fact the very world
•  know how enthusing people to get a better understanding of philosophy, history, technology, etc. can upgrade music-making skills as well as 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 the upcoming ‘dataïstic’ structures (read Harari’s dark book ‘Homo Deus’)
•  have acquired a sense of heritage values if only by having spent time with centuries old huge artefacts (organs) and sound concepts

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 classes in the magnificent medievak Oude Kerk and ditto Nieuwe Kerk, where world-famous instruments are located. Of course the course would not be complete without the highly interesting VU University 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.
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.
Further suggestions:
Bruce Ellis Benson, The Improvisation of Musical Dialogue, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Marcel Cobussen, The Field of Musical Improvisation, Leiden: LUP, 2017
Alicja Gescinska, Thuis in muziek / Een oefening in menselijkheid, Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2018.
Jacob Lekkerkerker, ‘To be a Dancer on the Organ’, in Hans Fidom (ed.), Orgelpark Research Report #3: Improvisation, Amsterdam: VU University Press/Orgelpark, 2017/2, §§ 587-620.
Franziska Schroeder, Soundweaving / Writings on Improvisation, Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.
Salomé Voegelin, Listening to Noise and Silence / Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art, New York: Continuum, 2010.
Check out as well Research Report #3 (on improvisation), and Report #5/2 (on the Utopa Baroque Organ, which will be at the center of our attention): https://www.orgelpark.nl/nl/Wetenschap/Research-Reports.


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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