Upcoming Talk at EASST/4S: Ethics of Intervening in a Symphony Orchestra

Upcoming Talk at EASST/4S: Ethics of Intervening in a Symphony Orchestra

I should have been in Prague right now. Moving from room to room to see presentations of fellow-researchers in the broad field of Science & Technology Studies, present my own work, meet people and enjoy delicious beers. But this year the EASST/4S conference is held online. With over 800 presentations to choose from, I can literally binge watch knowledge in my living room. Though the best thing is lost: meeting new people…

I present some thoughts about ethics of intervening-as-method, in the panel Careful Engagements, Wednesday August 19, 8h. See my abstract below.


Artful Participation: ethics of intervening in a symphony orchestra
Ties van de Werff

Maastricht Centre for the Innovation of Classical Music (MCICM), a collaboration between Maastricht University, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, and South Netherlands Philharmonic (the Netherlands).

Facing budget cuts, ageing audiences, and stagnating visits, contemporary symphony orchestras are currently trying to innovate and improve the quality of audience participation. Following public participation projects in domains such as urban planning, public health or environmental management, many symphony orchestras have adopted the discourse of innovation and experimentation to shape new forms of audience participation (Idema 2012; Topgaard 2014; Hamel 2016). In these experiments, lay or amateur audiences engage with artistic matters in ways that challenge traditional expert approaches of creating artistic performances (Lezaun, Marres and Tironi 2017).

As a particularly codified and normatively charged practice, the field of classical symphonic music offers an interesting case for understanding the value-laden dynamics of experiments in public participation. In the project Artful Participation – a collaboration between Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, Maastricht University, and the South Netherlands Philharmonic (the Netherlands) – we intervene in the orchestra by designing experiments where audiences are given an artistic voice. Based on our empirical fieldwork, I reflect on the shifting roles and clashing virtues of a (un)successful interventionist in practice. Balancing between provocative containment (Lezaun et al., 2013) and artful contamination (Zuiderent-Jerak, 2015), I show how in the collaborative process, artistic and academic responsibilities get entangled, and how concerns converge.