Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The case of Germany

Amongst the prolific and consistently high-quality output of Arnold Jacobshagen, Professor of Musicology and dean of the department of Musicology and Music Pedagogy at the Hoschschule für Musik und Tanz Köln, is an edited volume Perspektiven musikalischer Interpretation from 2016, in which his own chapter deals with Musikalische Interpretation als künstlerische Forschung? Konzepte und internationale Kontexte. The value of this contribution lies primarily in the fact that it displays Germany's lagging behind the international AR developments, and argues for breaking with this situation.

Arnold Jacobshagen, article on artistic research in Germany,
Arnold Jacobshagen 

Whilst Jacobshagen confounds some of the concepts, e.g. considering Practice as Research to be merely a more precise term than Artistic Research (rather than identifying them to be distinctly different concepts in their own right), and trusts definitions offered by single authors over searching for consensus (or pointing to the lack thereof), such as the odd distinction between Practice as Research and Practice-led research made here, he offers a handy overview of exactly how confused the international terminological usages still are. It remains a pity that the source material for the chapter consists of the theoretical literature on AR, and not a single case of AR, Practice-as-Research, Practice-based Research, etc. is selected to support either the reported arguments or Jacobshagen’s own insights. This points to what is still a serious problem in AR: the discourse is heavily dominated by abstracting syntheses, with an ever-increasing absence of the relevant researchers and their projects, which is remarkable indeed. (Cf. also the lack of musical researcher-practitioners among those referred to in e.g. the Wikipedia page on Künstlerische Forschung.)

The chapter's international contextualization offers a handy overview of most of the global developments (Asia is notably missing) and zooms in on the German situation and its German-speaking neighbors, Austria and Switzerland. Of interest is Jacobshagen’s detailing of the issues pertaining to Germany’s position, e.g. how establishing “Wissenschaftliche Forschung” to be a pleonasm led to the compromise of considering “künstlerische Entwicklungsvorhaben” as both (legally) equivalent to and (otherwise) distinctive from “Forschung” (see also here).

With regards to the third cycle, it is clear how much of a problem is presented by the need to reconcile the demands for the highest artistic standard as well as “eine geisteswissenschaftlich fundierte Ausbildung, die zum Schreiben einer höchsten akademischen Ansprüchen genügenden Dissertation befähigen würde” (p. 75), and that this is not or hardly ever the case. At the time of the publication, an “artistic-scientific” promotion (Dr. Phil.) is still only possible in the Hochschulen in Freiburg, Hamburg, and Karlsruhe. Whilst Hamburg has a large number of artistic-scientific doctorandi (mostly in composition), and the first applications have been submitted in Freiburg, no completed doctoral trajectory was announced yet. In all three cases, the scientific research is primordial, with the artistic project “lediglich eine Ergänzung bzw. Verdeutlichung”; in Hamburg, the dissertation is valued as twice the weight of the artistic component. (Interestingly, in the Medical School Hamburg, the department Kunst, Gesellschaft und Gesundheit has been focussing on AR, having devoted a conference to Artistic Research in Applied Arts in 2013, which resulted in a 2015 book publication.) In the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln, a doctorate can be obtained in musicology, in music pedagogy, “dance science”, art management, and music medicine – not in artistic-scientific matters. There is nevertheless a masters course in “artistic development and reflection”, aimed at enabling the function of a bridge towards artistic research, and offering Hochschule students to embark on a musicological doctoral trajectory.

Jacobshagen's chapter certainly relates to the 2011 article, Die Verleihung des dr. Art und dr. Mus, by his Cologne Hochschule colleague Prof. Dr. iur. Dr. h.c. Peter M. Lynen, who, at the time, was director of the Zentrum für Internationales Kunstmanagement, and vice-president of the Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Künste. In such relevant functions, Lynen established an elaborate but purely negative view on AR in the context of the "hochschul- und bildungspolitischen Raum", noting issues of financing and legal status, as well as putting forth the said pleonasm and what he sees as the consequent softening of the research concept. All the while, Lynen apparently considers AR at its most limited, i.e. as Practice-As-Research with the simplistic "man nehme dies und das" methodology. In his view, neither the cultural sector nor academia is waiting for the research "hermaphrodites" that would be created by mixing completely different standards of quality.

Philipp Spitta, artistic research,
Philipp Spitta

Lynen's notion of the research-wise incompatibility of art and art-science can be traced back to Julius August Philipp Spitta's 1892 Kunstwissenschaft und Kunst essay (in his Zur Musik - I thank Karin Gastell for pointing me to the Spitta and Lynen texts.) Spitta revealingly claimed "It is conceivable a state in which [art and science] live peacefully side by side, each one of his work, the one of the work of beauty, the other the struggle for truth" (p. 14) but that "[t]he paths of arts-science and art must never interrelate" (p. 13).

Indeed, with gaps between pro and con running so deep, there is still much to do in Germany. For the upcoming Darmstadt Summer Course 2018, a Call for Applications was issued by the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, offering a workshop Artistic Research as Compositional or Performance Practice. Tutors are violinist Barbara Lüneburg from the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Trossingen (Germany) and composer Marko Ciciliani (Graz, Austria). Both list their involvement in AR through Austrian Science Fund projects (TransCoding, resp. GAPPP) at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, however. The Musikhochschule in Trossingen does not (yet) seem to offer anything related to AR.

Jacobshagen's 2016 text concludes that “[i]n view of the excellence and dynamic of these international developments, it is to be hoped that Germany, as a country with a particularly dense landscape of Musikhoschulen and international student body, will be able to catch up in the field of artistic research in the near future”. Perhaps his contribution will help ignite the further efforts necessary to enable musicians to develop their AR ambitions in German higher education.