The American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) promotes better understanding of all aspects of the history, design, construction, restoration, and usage of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods. In June 2022, their annual meeting was held at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.
Arching Post-1960 Musics: Four Experiences of Engagement (Roundtable Presentation)
Valentina Bertolani, You Nakai, Luisa Santacesaria, and Gayle Young
You Nakai fabricates music(ians), dance(rs), haunted musical houses, nursery rhymes, and other forms of performances as a member of No Collective (nocollective. com) and publishes experimental children’s books and other literary oddities as a member of Already Not Yet (alreadynotyet.org). His extensive research on David Tudor’s music has been published as Reminded by the Instruments: David Tudor’s Music (Oxford University Press, 2021, remindedbytheinstruments.info). He is currently affiliated with the University of Tokyo.
Luisa Santacesaria is a musician, musicologist, and curator. She works with Amici della Musica di Firenze concert season, Centro Studi Luciano Berio, and with the research center Tempo Reale. She is adjunct Professor of Music and Production at the University of Florence. She is a member of the collective of experimental music Blutwurst. Since 2009, together with Valentina Bertolani she has been studying and documenting Mario Bertoncini’s work, both from a performative and musicological perspective.
Valentina Bertolani is a musicologist interested in experimental and electronic music and collective improvisation. Her postdoctoral project “ARPOEXMUS – Archiving post-1960s Experimental Music: Exploring the Ontology of Music Beyond the Score-Performance Dichotomy” (Carleton University/University of Birmingham) addresses the theoretical, ontological, methodological, and ethical issues that arise from archiving the heterogeneous instruments, objects, electronic devices, software, and custom-built materials that have been at the heart of sonic arts for the past sixty years.
Gayle Young documented instruments invented by Hugh Le Caine at the National Research Council in Ottawa, then expanded her research, publishing The Sackbut Blues in 1989. Young has continued composing, building instruments, and writing about music and instruments, particularly as the editor of Musicworks magazine for over two decades.
Post-1960s experimental musics created heterogeneous materials and traces: scores, preparations, electronic instruments, custom-made devices, recordings. The Romantic work concept on which traditional musical archives are based is unsuitable to preserve this expanded apparatus of objects and concepts. Rethinking the musical archive is becoming urgent. This roundtable compares four experiences engaging with the preservation of objects and documents (and how they need to be put in relation) at various institutions. The issues presented are eerily similar. Presenter 1, You Nakai: Materials by David Tudor (1926–1996) are at the Getty Research Institute (paper) and Wesleyan University (custom-made electronic instruments). The very fact that Tudor’s materials have been separated in two radically different institutions prompts a discussion on how non-textual materials can be handled at institutional archives which have heretofore focused primarily on textual materials. Presenter 2, Luisa Santacesaria: Materials by Mario Bertoncini (1932–2019) are at the Akademie der Künste, Berlin (paper) and at the Fondazione Isabella Scelsi, Rome (physical objects). This presentation addresses the issue of preservation of performance kits—which Bertoncini used for many of his works— for new generations of performers from the point of view of a musicologist and performer. Speaker 3, Valentina Bertolani: Gayle Young (b. 1950) uses custom-made instruments and objects. This presentation reports on the work done with Young to devise conservation strategies that fit the specificities of her work. Speaker 4, Gayle Young: Hugh Le Caine (1914–1977) created more than twenty instruments for electronic music studios. In 1978 an inventory with descriptions of the instruments was written. This research was followed by a biography based largely on interviews with Le Caine’s associates and colleagues. This presentation contributes a reflection on the importance of decompartmentalizing musicological and archival/preservation practices, the acknowledgment of intellectual property beyond traditional authorship, and the ethical responsibilities of musicologists in supporting preservation of heterogeneous materials and practices.