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What Is the Word When Musicians Speak

Invited Paper Presentation
26 August 2021
14:30 - 17:00 hrs (GMT+7)

Kathryn Cok
Head of Master Research
Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Renee Jonker


“What is the word”, this is the title of a text Irish writer Samuel Beckett wrote after having suffered from aphasia. In fact, it is the last text he prepared for publishing. Interesting is the absence of a question mark in the title. This text inspired composer György Kurtág to write a pivotal work in his oeuvre: Samuel Beckett: What is the word Op. 30b. Kurtág wrote the piece for Hungarian actress Ildiko Monyók, who suffered from aphasia and regained her ability to speak after a long period of stammering. The question whether music can be referential and be the carrier of meaning stands at the core of this study. Most people know moments in which they have experienced music as very meaningful. 

This research is asking fifteen musicians (including György Kurtág) that create such meaningful moments as composer, improviser or interpreter what they have to say about the moments in which their music 'does the talking'. What is the word when musicians speak. Is that a question or a statement? What can they say about their intentions when composing or playing? And if intentions are projected in a musical performance, who is projecting?

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