The Protean Musician: Joint Research Centres Conference

What does the future look like for the musician in society?

  • Wednesday 1. November 2017
  • Norges musikkhøgskole
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Event Details


Musicians need competences that are dynamic and adaptable. Students and staff within conservatoires and university music departments must understand that what they are going to do as musicians will change over time. They also need to be equipped to help others in this realisation.

This conference aims to explore aspects of the micro-experience of students in the conservatoire, and how these might relate, at the macro-level, to what the artistic/professional career experiences of these people may be in future.

We are aware that there are numerous human frailties involved in the music ‘profession’, and the idea that obstacles must be overcome in life through some form of self-realisation is as true for the musician as for any individual.

In contrast, the music profession has trained people through a perfectionist frame, despite the fact that we know that life is full of imperfections. Issues of inequality, lack of opportunity and exploitation remain problematic in the music world, but are largely ignored, at best, marginalised and, at worst, covertly echoed in the single-minded discipline of the teaching studio and practice room. 

How might we go about resolving this situation? How might we establish a paradigm, within the conservatoire and beyond, of the previously posited but largely unrealised ‘Protean Musician’, an individual responsive to change and able not only to thrive personally but also to make a difference to others? 

Issues addressed

Issues which may be addressed under this topic area include:

  • Identity: Questions around identity are very important because when they encounter the ‘real’ labour market, students are having to do things other than they had previously expected. So, what do musicians say at various stages of their careers when they are asked about identity? 
  • Courage:  Do we really have the courage to ask questions of our work in the studio?  Have we really embedded the critical views around music training systems in such a way that challenging questions can be posed, and received, constructively? 
  • Power Relations: Are we dealing properly with the problematics of the power relations that conservatoires include and create? 
  • Actions: If, through this conference and by other means, we gain a better understanding of the actions that could elicit changes, how might we apply this knowledge in the world of our conservatoire, and in the ‘real’ world’?