Musical Identities and European Perspective

An Interdisciplinary Approach

by Ivana Perković (Volume editor) Franco Fabbri (Volume editor)
©2017 Edited Collection 298 Pages


This book focuses on the relationship between identity and music in Europe from different angles. It takes two basic categories into account: identities in music and music in identities. The authors provide studies on identity construction in different historical and geographical contexts. They also evaluate the discourse of popular music in Europe and analyze various topics related to complex and changing concepts of identity, whether it is about an individual composer, issues of style or musical work itself.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Music and Identity: Defining ‘Self’ and ‘Other’
  • The Velvet Curtain. European Identities and Lithuanian Musical Imagination in the Post-Communist Era (Rūta Stanevičiūtė)
  • Karol Szymanowski and His Concept of Modern Music Culture (Małgorzata Janicka-Słysz)
  • From ‘Good Other’ to ‘Ideal Self’: Images of Russian Otherness in France and the Iberian Peninsula at the Turn of the 20th Century (Paulo F. de Castro)
  • Ambiguity, Mimicry and War: Alla Turca in Contredanse K 535 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Ivana Perković)
  • Defining Identity: In Quest of ‘Lithuanianness’ in Piano Performance Art (Lina Navickaitė-Martinelli)
  • Unity in Diversity
  • Influence, imitation, and the reshaping of identities in European popular music (Franco Fabbri)
  • Rock me Lane moje – European Identifications of Transitory Yugoslav/West Balkans’ Identities at the Eurovision Song Contest (Vesna Mikić)
  • Memory, Spectacle, and the Image of Songs (Saskia Jaszoltowski)
  • The Estonian Singing Revolution: Musematic Insights (Kaire Maimets)
  • (Re)Conceptualizing Approaches to Music and ‘Europness’
  • Short Correspondence between Edgard Varèse and John Cage: Around, about and above ‘organized sound’ (Dragana Stojanović-Novičić)
  • The Facets of the Decline of Avant-Garde Exclusivity as the Cause of Specific Stylistic Connotations of the Musical Avant-Garde Today (Mirjana Veselinović-Hofman)
  • Types of Transtextuality in Selected Works of Serbian Musical Postmodernism (Marija Masnikosa)
  • The Musical Text and the Ontology of the Musical Work (Tijana Popović Mladjenović)
  • List of Contributors
  • Series index

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The publication of this book is part of the project “Musical Identities and European Perspective: an Interdisciplinary Approach” conducted by the Department of Musicology of the Faculty of Music, University of Arts in Belgrade, and led by Professor Dr. Mirjana Veselinović-Hofman. This project, the Jean Monnet module, is supported by Erasmus+ and includes teaching on EU matters in the field of arts, especially music and musicology, as well as research, conducted in order to support teaching activities. The aims of our project are to raise awareness about the importance of crossing cultural and musical boundaries in the European context, to promote understanding of each individual European musical culture as a product of the intercultural dialogue and part of the greater European culture and to identify and contextualize dynamic issues of musical identities, both from pedagogical and research perspectives. “Europeanization” of the curricula at the Department of Musicology focuses Europe-related identity of the chosen topics aiming to encourage the future professional activities of students and their academic dialogue with their European colleagues.

This volume focuses on relationships between identity and music in Europe from different angles, taking into account two basic categories: identities in music and music in identities. The diversity of issues and approaches may seem heterogeneous at the first sight, but there are similarities, on different levels, that unite the chapters together. As a whole, this book contains three sections, each divided into multiple chapters. The first section, “Music and Identity: Defining ‘Self’ and ‘Other’”, provides chapters on identity construction in different historical and geographical contexts, from the Enlightenment to the present, and from the East to the West of Europe. The second section “Unity in Diversity” deals with the discourse of popular music in Europe, while the third section “(Re)conceptualizing Approaches to Music and ‘Europness’” encompases chapters on various topics related to complex and changing concepts of identity, whether about individual composers, issues of style or musical work itself.

The first section begins with Rūta Stanevičiūtė’s chapter “The Velvet Curtain. European Identities and Lithuanian Musical Imagination in the Post-Communist Era”. Inspired by many works composed by Lithuanian authors dedicated to the theme of Europe, she explores the Post-Cold War period and the “formation of the images of Europe in the… Lithuanian cultural tradition and their transformation in the music works of Lithuanian composers at the turn of the 21st century.” Małgorzata Janicka-Słysz in her chapter “Karol Szymanowski and His Concept of ← 7 | 8 → Modern Music Culture” analyses Karol Szymanowski’s texts and his attitudes to culture, “modern music”, with attention to his opinions on relationships between Polish and European music. Paulo F. de Castro, in “From ‘Good Other’ to ‘Ideal Self’: Images of Russian Otherness in France and the Iberian Peninsula at the Turn of the 20th Century” deals with representations of Russian otherness in France and the Iberian Peninsula at the turn of the 20th century in order to show that the “identity one adopts as one’s own is not always, or not necessarily, identical with the identity one chooses to present to the outside world; and that both identities – designed for internal and external consumption, as it were – may fail to agree with the outsider’s perception of one’s identity.” The next chapter, Ivana Perković’s “Ambiguity, Mimicry and War: Alla Turca in Contredanse K 535 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” explores Mozart’s Contredanse K 535 La Battaille, known also as The Siege of Belgrade, from the perspective of postcolonial and Balkan studies. Along with theories of Bhabha and Todorova, Mozart’s work is analyzed through the prism of the Austro-Turkish War and Viennese balls during carnival season. The last chapter in this section, Lina Navickaitė-Martinelli’s “Defining Identity: In Quest of ‘Lithuanianness’ in Piano Performance Art”, focuses on the concept and the practice of a ‘school’, as applied to the art of music performance, with a particular focus on the idea of a national school. She defines the common features valued in performance practice of Lithuanian pianists, such as philosophical insights, meditation and the importance of profound reflections.

Popular music, as music not belonging to the ‘classical’ or ‘folk’ concepts, appeared in Europe since the early decades of the Nineteenth century, and interrelations among local styles and genres (chanson, fado, canzone, flamenco, music hall, Schlager, etc.) have been operating since then, forming the basic layers of a European popular culture, which has accompanied the history of our continent, quite often going across political barriers. This is the main subject of Franco Fabbri’s “Influence, imitation, and the reshaping of identities in European popular music”, which opens a section focused on popular music, from different methodological perspectives. Vesna Mikić, for her “Rock me Lane moje – European Identifications of Transitory Yugoslav/West Balkans’ Identities at the Eurovision Song Contest”, claims an approach based on “cultural theory (Hall), as well as Gerard Delanty’s critical combination of historical sociology and political theory, here appropriated by (cultural) musicology”. Saskia Jaszoltowski, in “Memory, Spectacle, and the Image of Songs”, follows a socio-musicological approach, integrating elements of (above all) harmonic analysis into a ‘classic’ sociological and media studies framework. Kaire Maimets, in “The Estonian Singing Revolution: Musematic Insights”, bases her analysis on the semio-musicological method developed by Philip Tagg ← 8 | 9 → and his followers, in the effort (defined as ‘heroic’ by some commentators) to re-build musicology from its very theoretical foundations, in order to understand and study music not belonging to the Western classical canon.

Even if the chapters’ subjects and methods are different, there are overlaps among them, at various levels. Maimet’s detailed analysis of a single piece, one of the songs emerging in the Estonian “Singing Revolution”, inevitably resonates with parts of Mikić’s account on Yugoslav and – especially – post-Yugoslav participation in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), as both essays highlight the functions of popular music in the changes that anticipated and followed the fall of the Berlin wall. Jaszoltowski’s comparison of a number of more or less ‘official’ hymns (a comparison that could have easily included the song analysed by Maimets), also deals with the ESC, and with its evolution (also examined by Mikić) in the recent past. It is also true that after a pioneering essay by Alf Björnberg in 1989 (published in 1992), critical interest in the ESC emerged only in the 2000s, paralleling the Eastern expansion of the EU. However, it can be seen from these chapters (all of them) that there is more to Europe and popular music than just the ESC, even if a genre label like ‘Europop’ emerged in Anglophone countries to designate the dominating style in that contest.

The third section of the book begins with Dragana Stojanović’s “Short Correspondence Between Edgard Varèse and John Cage: Around, About and Above the Organized Sound” dedicated to Varèse’s protective attitude towards the concept of organized sound. The article reveals that the expression “organized sound” was so important to Varèse, that it “nearly jeopardized his professional relation with John Cage”. The following chapter, “The Facets of the Decline of Avant-Garde Exclusivity as the Cause of Specific Stylistic Connotations of the Musical Avant-Garde Today” by Mirjana Veselinović-Hofman is about “the sense and meaning of the determinant of the Avant-Garde we ascribe to music today”. Two different facets of the musical Avant-Garde are defined, one that characterizes early Postmodernism, and the other, relevant for mature and late Postmodernism. Postmodernism is the subject of the following chapter, Marija Masnikosa’s “Types of Transtextuality in the Selected Works of Serbian Musical Postmodernism”. In this article, Gerard Genette’s theory of transtextuality is applied to two postmodernist ‘concertante’ works composed by Serbian authors. The book ends with Tijana Popović Mladjenović’s chapter “The Musical Text and the Ontology of the Musical Work”, where issues of identity are addressed through the fundamental questions of modes of the appearance of music and different levels of the musical text. She concludes that “the inscription containing the composer’s idea and unique ← 9 | 10 → message, as an invariable member of the system of music, and sound interpretation, as its variable category, are the two sides of the same medal – a musical work.”

All the chapters published in this volume prove, once again, the relevance of Jean Monnet’s words regarding European integration: “If we were to start all over again, we would start with culture”. The “unity in diversity” of articles and opinions within this volume reflects the integrative potential of music, its potential to offer many ways of understanding and ordering, including self-understanding as well as understanding “the other”.

Ivana Perković and Franco Fabbri

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Music and Identity: Defining ‘Self’ and ‘Other’

← 11 | 12 →

← 12 | 13 →

Rūta Stanevičiūtė

The Velvet Curtain. European Identities and Lithuanian Musical Imagination in the Post-Communist Era

Abstract: This article aims to give a broader understanding of Lithuanian music’s contribution into the formation and transformation of historical and cultural images of and narratives about European identities after the end of the Cold War. Based on a new post-historical approach to the description of history and culture ‘in many different voices’, it is intended to explore post-communist musical imagination in Lithuania and its international reception through analysis of assembled case studies and musical criticism. In addition, it is aimed to discuss how individual artistic expressions of belonging to or exclusion from the European past and present were included or rejected into artistic discourses and cultural exchange on both sides of the ‘Velvet Curtain’, a metaphor for the post-communist state, that is, an invisible yet palpable divide, which separated “Old Europe” and “New Europe” in the period of eastern enlargement of the European Union at the turn of the 21st century.

Key words: identity, Europe’s images, eurointegration, Lithuanian music, Algirdas Martinaitis, Onutė Narbutaitė, Vykintas Baltakas, asymmetries of reception

In post-communist societies, the period of transition from a totalitarian state to the European political and economic space had a stimulating effect on cultural imagination, nourished by the idea of the European community.1 At the same time it challenged the established views on common European past and its geocultural boundaries. Between 1990 and 2004, the political processes of transition were reflected in diverse works of art and cultural events. In the context of conflicting images of European identity and solidarity – from assertive euro-euphoria to traumas created by the experience of otherness – Europe’s present and past have been intensely articulated in the artistic discourse. ← 13 | 14 →

I have drawn inspiration for this article from a number of memorable compositions by Lithuanian composers who dedicated their pieces to the theme of Europe and, in particular, Lithuania’s accession to the European Union. In fact, what represents the true symbolical meaning that provoked the occurrence of such compositions is the period in the country’s recent history from the reform movement of Lithuania (1988), leading up to the re-establishment of Lithuania’s independence in 1990, to gaining full membership of the EU in 2004. Among a substantial number of compositions that reflected political and cultural turning points, a cycle of compositions by Lithuanian composer Algirdas Martinaitis (b. 1950) stood out, starting with a declarative piece Serenade for Mistress Europe for string orchestra, written in 1999. In the composer’s words, the composition was provoked by “an increased attention to Europe – both in political and cultural terms. So much has been written and spoken about our accession to the EU. All this inspired me to leaf through some books and reconsider my ‘memories’ of Europe.”2 The Serenade commenced a series of compositions by Martinaitis dedicated to Europe as a theme, which later came to include compositions The Abduction of Europe from Lithuania for string quartet (2001), Le boef en Europe for string orchestra (2004), Viola Concerto Eurassic Park (version I, 2003; version II, 2010), and Europeana for string orchestra (2010), among others.

However, the period under consideration was markedly richer in works of Lithuanian composers where the processes of European integration were reflected as cultural inspiration for artistic changes and their geopolitical context rather than in a declarative way. In that group of compositions, I shall identify another three chosen for a more thorough analysis: they were commissioned by foreign institutions specifically for the presentation of Lithuanian music in contemporary music festivals in Poland, Germany, and Austria. Those included the composition of Onutė Narbutaitė (b. 1956) Melody in the Garden of Olives for trumpet and two string quartets (2000, premiered in the festival Aksamitna kurtyna, Kraków, 2000), the performance of Algirdas Martinaitis Bienenmensch for five folk singers, string quartet, and tape (2003, premiered in the MaerzMusik festival, Berlin, 2003), and Ouroboros for large ensemble (2004) by Vykintas Baltakas (b. 1972), in 2003, premiered as a commissioned composition at the Klangspuren Schwaz ← 14 | 15 → festival in Austria, which celebrated Lithuania as a new member of the EU that year. The political and socio-cultural context of the composing and reception of those works was conducive to the highlighting of rather diverse and conflicting reflections on the sense of belonging to and exclusion from Europe, whose interaction and interplay inevitably served as a basis for collective and individual identifications. Moreover, it has to be noted that the wave of interest in Lithuanian music in the late 20th – early 21st centuries marked already a second stage in the period of restored independence, which promoted the politically motivated intensification of cultural exchange between the Western and Eastern European states, previously separated by the Iron Curtain. When somewhat earlier, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, music from the former USSR had flooded into Western music scenes, Lithuanian music had been preferably represented by compositions which were believed to open the unique experience of resistance to the Soviet ideological regime. At that time, in the judgment on the scale of creative freedom in the USSR-composed music, a rather restrictive provision had prevailed that the indicator in that respect could be the dissemination of the aesthetic and technological means adopted from the West. On the eve of the accession to the European Union, those short-lived habits of interpretation lost their significance, however, in the international reception of Lithuanian music, a new “asymmetry of perception and interests”3 stood out: the curiosity to discover European “otherness” was opposed by new geopolitically-coloured images of the cultural differences between “Old Europe” and “New Europe”.4

The emerging asymmetry of perception and interests could be seen as a positive and logical Eurointegration-inspired phenomenon that made it possible to emphasise the diversity of the images and narratives of Europe, instead of a synthetic, or pan-European, narrative of the common past and the present.5 Based on such an interpretative perspective, I shall discuss the formation of the images of Europe in the 20th century Lithuanian cultural tradition and their transformation in the music works of Lithuanian composers at the turn of the 21st century by establishing the political, cultural, and musical dimensions of the author’s creative strategies and identifications. ← 15 | 16 →

Images of Europe in 20th Century Lithuanian Cultural Tradition

Slavoj Žižek has argued that modern nations usually consider their belonging to Europe by drawing borders between the European civilisation and other, antagonistic civilisations. The Slovenian philosopher has drawn up an ironic list of arguments by various Eastern and Southern European nations, which contend for being considered the last bastions of European identity. For example, Croatians see themselves as the southernmost Catholic country, at the boundary of Christian Orthodox belief. The Serbs, in turn, maintain the same by arguing that they are the last bastion of Christianity in Southeast Europe, against the Islamic confession of Albanians and Bosnians and Eastern tyrannies etc.6 In this respect the images of Europe in Lithuanian cultural tradition developed under the influence of other forces and geo-cultural tensions. According to philosopher Nerija Putinaitė who investigated the images of Europe in Lithuanian culture, “it is quite infrequent that we perceive Europe as a cultural and political space, to which we belong as an integral part.” In her opinion, the Lithuanian narratives about Europe formed between two opposing images of Europe as the Other: “The threat posed by Europe and its desirable achievements may be seen as extreme limits of Lithuanian imagination about Europe.”7

The idea of Europe became a subject of conceptual debate at the beginning of the 20th century, at the time when modern Lithuanian nationalism began to take shape and the aims to restore an independent modern state were openly voiced. Mainly due to Lithuania’s geopolitical situation, the country’s belonging to Europe was conceived as an issue in cultural and philosophical writings, while Lithuanian identity was formulated as a cultural construct or civilisational metaphor based on the rooted image of Lithuania as a crossroads of cultures and civilisations. To illustrate this claim, we may resort to the three most original and influential visions of Lithuania’s rebirth, which emerged in the first half of the 20th century in the writings Jonas Basanavičius (1851–1927), Stasys Šalkauskis (1886–1941) and Oskaras Milašius (1877–1939). Despite differences in their conceptual framework, all three intellectuals asserted non-identity of Lithuanian self-perception to European civilisation. Basanavičius, as a promoter of Lithuanian culture and ← 16 | 17 → prominent public figure, and Milašius, who was an émigré poet, reflected on the intersection of Lithuania and Europe in similar terms: they conceptualised Lithuania as a civilisational utopia that may not be identified with Europe, but may be restored as a result of cultural reconstruction. Similarly, philosopher Šalkauskis perceived Lithuania not as a geographical or historical reality, but as a metaphor and “metaphysical signpost”.8 At the same time he viewed it as an intermediary between Western and Eastern civilisations, whose identity is being continually constructed by synthesising two antagonistic nonidentities.

Šalkauskis defined the notion of “nonidentical identity” as a productive tension between irreconcilable opposites inherent in every construction of identity. Even though this concept was formulated to describe the unique features of Lithuanian culture, it astoundingly resonates with contemporary interpretations of European identity. For example, French philosopher Rémi Brague characterised ‘supra-historical’ European identity by formulating a similar structure of nonidentity and viewed the resulting transience and instability as a necessary condition for preservation of European civilisation: “Europe must remain or resume its position as a place where the transient would be distinguished from the spiritual.<…> It must remain or resume its position as a place where people unite not on ideological grounds, but because of relationships between persons and particular groups.”9


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
Music European studies Identity Interdisciplinarity
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 298 pp., 11 b/w ill., 6 tables

Biographical notes

Ivana Perković (Volume editor) Franco Fabbri (Volume editor)

Ivana Perković is a musicologist and Professor at the Department of Musicology, Faculty of Music, University of Arts, Belgrade. She is member of the International Musicological Society, Serbian Musicological Society and the International Society for Orthodox Church Music. She is vice dean for research and international cooperation at the Faculty of Music. Franco Fabbri teaches popular music history, analysis and economy at the Conservatory of Parma and the University of Milan. His main interests are genre theories and music typologies, the impact of media and technology across genres and musical cultures, and the history of popular music. He has served twice as chairman of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM).


Title: Musical Identities and European Perspective
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