Nicholas Cook, University of Cambridge, UK: Between art and science: Studying music as performance


One of the attractions of performance analysis is its interdisciplinary nature. Interdisciplinarity always creates potential for misunderstanding, but in this lecture, which is illustrated by work I carried out at CHARM (the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music), I focus on ways in which complementary disciplinary approaches can be brought to bear productively upon one another. Interdisciplinary work can, for example, open up aspects which established disciplines have foreclosed: an obvious example is the historical dimension that is sidelined in both music-theoretical and psychological approaches to performance. But while such work can bring empirical and computational analysis within the purview of historical musicology, it has been criticized for failing to engage with the complex issues of socially constructed and culturally elaborated meaning that interest musicologists. I aim to counter such criticisms by illustrating how computationally based analysis can contribute to enhanced understanding both of the visual and kinaesthetic dimensions of performance stressed by ethnographically-based performance theorists, and of the issues of aesthetic, social, and ideological meaning addressed by cultural musicologists. 


Nicholas Cook took up the 1684 Professorship of Music at the University of Cambridge in 2009, having previously directed the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music at Royal Holloway, University of London. His books include A Guide to Musical Analysis (1987); Music, Imagination, and Culture (1990); Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (1993); Analysis Through Composition (1996); Analysing Musical Multimedia (1998); and Music: A Very Short Introduction (1998), which is published or forthcoming in thirteen different languages. His most recent book, The Schenker Project: Culture, Race, and Music Theory in Fin-de-siècle Vienna (2007), won the SMT's Wallace Berry Award, and he is now completing a book on performance analysis. A former editor of Journal of the Royal Musical Association, he is a Fellow of the British Academy and of Academia Europaea. 



APA video citation: 

Cook, N. (2012, October 22). Between art and science: Studying music as performance -
CIRMMT Distinguished Lectures in the Science and Technology of Music. [Video file].
Retrieved from