Wendelin Bitzan

Wendelin Bitzan

Diversifying (the History of) Music Theory

Only now I read Alexander Rehding‘s blogpost series »Can the History of Music Theory Be Decentered« in full length (original version here). The text originally dates from 2020, but was recently translated into German and published on the musiconn.kontrovers blog (see here). The article leaves me intrigued, deeply inspired, and a bit perplexed. Questioning the canon of Western music and theory is one thing (which I think I started a while ago), but taking the next step and setting out to diversify curricula and course content still poses a remarkable challenge for someone rooted in an essentially non-diverse academic environment. Well, I guess the process needs to commence in the heads, and takes some time to materialise. I’m on my way.

Board Elections at DTKV Berlin

Happy to announce that I have been re-elected as vice president of Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband Berlin. I am looking forward to shaping the future of the association together with my fellow board members: Simon Borutzki, Liz Franzen, Alf Schulze, Agnes Stein von Kamienski, Jens Domeyer, and Anne Uerlichs. Many thanks to everybody who recently contributed to the new orientation and professionalisation of our work! New members are always welcome—please get in touch if interested.

A Capricious New Duo

Finally finished engraving my recent composition, Capriccio spirituoso for recorder (or flute) and piano, a piece that seeks to combine traditional harmony with a somewhat sophisticated approach to motivic work and form. The rather ambitious solo part was commissioned and supervised by my dear colleague Simon Borutzki, whose appealing virtuosity I will be fortunate enough to rely on for the forthcoming premiere. Everybody else is invited to access and check out the sheet music via IMSLP.

Apt Description, Vague Strategies

There is a recent article by Christian Höppner, chairman of Deutscher Kulturrat and Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband and general secretary of Deutscher Musikrat, providing a brief analysis of the state of freelance musicianship in Germany and its many structural problems—the first and foremost of which is the precarious income level of the protagonists. The article was published in the journal Kulturpolitische Mitteilungen and is available here in full text.

Höppner sketches some very general approaches to facing the current challenges, but he remains vague in offering specific recommendations for action. In particular, it is unclear how to achieve higher social recognition for working in the cultural sector, and how to avert the general danger of de-professionalisation as delineated by the author. Furthermore, Höppner claims that access to the Künstlersozialkasse should be facilitated and that the category of unemployment needs to be redefined with regard to freelance musicians, but these steps require political initiatives that are yet to be launched. The by far most important desideratum seems to be a general fee scale for freelance musicians and educators, which Höppner acknowledges but doesn’t elaborate on how to establish and enforce new regularia, and how to ensure that these cannot be evaded by both customers and contractors (which is a serious issue with the existing recommendations of minimum fees). In sum, the article provides little more than a problem description, while strategies and possible solutions remain to be found.

Copyright and the Russian Internet

I suppose that many musicians are familiar with Russian online sources from where you can obtain sheet music or writings that are not yet in the public domain. In fact, it would surprise me if somebody told me that, as a musician, they had never heard of ScorSer, the Tarakanov Archive and the likes. Yet there is one case that I find particularly striking: the website www.kholopov.ru, dedicated to the work of Yuri Nikolayevich Kholopov, includes an electronic library that offers scans of comparatively recent Russian, English, and German musicological and music-theoretical publications, and as such poses multiple copyright infringements under the name of one of the most prominent Russian music scholars of the twentieth century. I imagine it is very unlikely that this is going to change, given the current situation, but that doesn’t mean we needn’t be aware of this and similar cases. — NB: In 2004, the term of copyright protection in Russia has been extended from 50 to 70 years post mortem auctoris.