Re-enacting an eighteenth-century method for reinforcing musical expression

  • Tilman Skowroneck University of Gothenburg
  • Maria Bania
Keywords: re-enactment; music; affect; sensibility culture


This article demonstrates the artistic re-enactment of affective cultural practices in musical performance, with the goal of developing an increased understanding of the practices that we re-enacted, and the influence they can have on a performance. To re-enact a practice, an aesthetic mindset or conception means that they get embodied and experienced. In the research project explained here, we re-enacted the practice of evoking the music’s affections in oneself in order to arouse them in the listeners – a practice that formed a part of the eighteenth-century culture of sensibility. Through enacting the affective content of selected pieces of music, we wanted to explore how musicians and listeners interacted in a performance; the mutual influences between aesthetic mindsets and affective practices; and what difference these practices and mindsets make to the artistic effect in a musical performance. Our process included musical and emotional preparations, a video-taped re-enactment-in-performance with six participants (two players and four listeners), the writing of reflections, and analyzing them. The re-enactment highlighted how the various ways of viewing music and art in different cultures interact with how art is and was performed and experienced. The option to modify codes of performance, such as the behavior of everyone involved, the placement of people in the room, or the lighting, showed a potential to pinpoint and reflect upon aesthetic ideas about music and artistry. It opened up for choosing between ideas and conceptions we want to emphasize in a performance.


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