Shifting Boundaries: Music and Society

11 November 2022 | 14:15 - 15:15Kleine Zaal

Situating Contemporary Music Practices

Panel text in Dutch

Contemporary music practice is in a state of flux and is increasingly becoming a hybrid praxis in which music becomes connected to other domains. Not only do musicians, composers and sound artists work beyond the boundaries of their own discipline, their work and research also explicitly relate to social themes such as care, the ecological crisis, inclusivity, or the functioning of modern technology and media. Moreover, contemporary makers are not only active in the concert or music theatre hall, but also enter the public space with performances: from music-borne initiatives in care and educational institutions, to site-specific installations and community-art projects. Artistic research is increasingly the rationale of these hybrid making practices.

The examples mentioned above show a common dynamic in which the boundaries between music, other art disciplines and societal matters become fluid / permeable. Instead of focusing activities exclusively on the musical domain, today’s creators increasingly connect with other locales. This is a fascinating development, which at the same time raises questions: what are the implications of this repositioning of contemporary musical practice? Where does the 21st-century musician find himself in this undistricting playing field? How is contemporary music practice connected to its social environment? Where is music practice on the spectrum between artistic autonomy and instrumentalisation? How does music interact with and within other practices? And what consequences does all this have for concert and festival practice?

During Shifting Boundaries – Situating Contemporary Music Practices, seven Dutch music-related professorships reflect on these questions with various guests. The programme on 11 November comprises four thematic blocks.

Professorships: Artistic Connective Practices (Fontys), Valuable Entrepreneurship in and through the Arts (HKU)
Social work is now a core part of many artistic practices: in the visual arts, even this year’s documenta in Kassel, as one of the main artistic benchmarks, was dedicated to social engagement and rethinking basic economic principles. But what role does society play in contemporary music practices? In the music sector, there is still often a relatively strict distinction between artistic and social activities. On the one hand, musicians engage in social contexts, think of the hospital or the neighbourhood; on the other hand, there are concerts that are artistically valued at festivals such as November Music and understood less in a socially engaged context. Where do practices exist that intertwine the two domains? And what tensions do these lead to? In this session, we will meet musicians and composers who organise their daily work in a way that makes it both artistically and socially challenging. Together, we will explore how these practices are organised, where they are located and what they mean for the musician as an artist and as an ‘engaged citizen’.


Sanne Bijker. Sanne Bijker is a cellist and artistic director of Cello Octet. Cello Octet Amsterdam is a unique and multifaceted ensemble that has become a household name both nationally and internationally.

Veerle Spronck. Veerle Spronck works as associate professor Valuable Entrepreneurship in and through the Arts at HKU (University of the Arts Utrecht). She investigates the societal value(s) of the arts, and teaches artistic research and philosophy of technology. In July 2022, Veerle obtained her PhD at the Maastricht Centre for the Innovation of Classical Music where she examined how Dutch orchestras experiment with artistically and societally relevant audience particiaption. Furthermore, together with Rosa Wevers, Veerle produces and hosts Kunstmatig, an independent podcast about arts and technology.

Maite van der Marel. As a musician, artistic director and trainer Maite has experience with different target groups in an artistic, educational, cultural and social context. Based on the philosophy of ‘creative collaborative music making’ she looks for ways to connect people, art and society. She sees music as a powerful tool to bring about social change. To break down barriers between people, explore new perspectives, and enhance imagination and authenticity. In this she thinks it is important that the ‘Self’ is not cut off, but rather remains connected to the changing world around us.

Over the past ten years, her work has taken place in the Netherlands in the cultural sector, education, care and business. Between 2017-2020 Maite also worked in the Middle East (from Sounds of Change). Recently she started a collaboration with Cuban violinist Mariana Hutchinson Siemers, to set up music projects and training in Cuba.

Bart van Dongen. Bart van Dongen (1959) is a composer, musician and conceptual artist. He won the Brouwerij Cultuurprijs for ’s-Hertogenbosch. He is an initiator of several projects that all have one thing in common: a search for new music or new sounds. He excludes and rejects nothing;  he knows how to connect and encourage opposing forces.

Falk Hübner. Falk Hübner is professor of Artistic Connective Practices at Fontys University of the Arts in Tilburg, The Netherlands. With a background as composer, theatre maker, researcher and educator, he is active in a huge diversity of collaborations within and outside of the arts. His research focuses on the social-societal potential of artistic research, research methodologies, and the relation of the arts and art education in relation to society. In 2019-2021 Falk has conducted a post doctoral research at HKU University of the Arts on artistic research methodology and ethics. He is member of the board of Forum+, journal for research and arts, based in Antwerp. Next to his professional life Falk is a marathon runner. He lives in Rotterdam with his partner and their 5 children.

Shifting Boundaries – Situating Contemporary Music Practices is an initiative of November Music in collaboration with Buma Cultuur (New Music Conference). Over a three-year period (2022-24), seven music-related professorships will present their research results concerning the theme of rapidly shifting boundaries in contemporary music practice. Participating in Shifting Boundaries – Situating Contemporary Music Practices are:

A professorship conducts practice-based research on an academic basis to improve the quality of education.


De hedendaagse-muziekpraktijk is volop in beweging en wordt steeds meer een hybride praxis waarin muziek verbonden raakt met andere domeinen. Niet alleen werken musici, componisten en geluidskunstenaars over de grenzen van de eigen discipline heen, ook verhouden zij zich in hun werk en onderzoek nadrukkelijk tot maatschappelijke thema’s als zorg, de ecologische crisis, inclusiviteit, of de werking van moderne technologie en media. De hedendaagse maker is bovendien niet alleen actief in de concert- of muziektheaterzaal, maar begeeft zich ook met performances in de publieke ruimte: van muziek-gedragen initiatieven in zorg- en onderwijsinstellingen, tot site-specifieke installaties en community-art projecten. Artistiek onderzoek is steeds vaker de rationale van deze hybride maakpraktijken.

Bovenstaande voorbeelden vertonen een gemeenschappelijke dynamiek van ontgrenzing. In plaats van activiteiten uitsluitend te richten op het muzikale domein, verbindt de huidige maker zich in toenemende mate met andere lokaliteiten. Dit is een fascinerende ontwikkeling, die tegelijkertijd vragen oproept: wat zijn de implicaties van deze herpositionering van de hedendaagse muziekpraktijk? Waar bevindt de 21e-eeuwse musicus zich in dit ontgrenzende speelveld? Hoe is de hedendaagse muziekpraktijk verbonden met haar maatschappelijke omgeving? Waar bevindt de muziekpraktijk zich in het spectrum tussen artistieke autonomie en instrumentalisering? Hoe werkt muziek samen met en in andere praktijken? En welke consequenties heeft dit voor de concert- en festivalpraktijk? Tijdens Shifting Boundaries – Situating Contemporary Music Practices reflecteren zeven Nederlandse muzieklectoraten met diverse gasten op deze vragen. Het programma op 11 november omvat vier thematische blokken.

Lectoraten: Artistic Connective Practices (Fontys), Waarde(n)vol ondernemen in de kunsten (HKU)
Sociaal-maatschappelijk werken is inmiddels een kernonderdeel van veel kunstpraktijken: in de beeldende kunst stond dit jaar zelfs de documenta in Kassel, als een van de belangrijkste artistieke ijkpunten, in het teken van maatschappelijk engagement en het herdenken van basale economische uitgangspunten. Maar welke rol speelt de samenleving in hedendaagse muziekpraktijken? In de muzieksector is er nog vaak een relatief strikt onderscheid tussen artistieke en sociaal-maatschappelijke activiteiten. Aan de ene kant begeven musici zich in sociale contexten, denk aan het ziekenhuis of de wijk; aan de andere kant zijn er concerten die artistiek gewaardeerd worden op festivals zoals November Music en die minder in een sociaal-geëngageerde context begrepen worden. Waar bestaan er praktijken die beide domeinen met elkaar verweven? En tot wat voor spanningen leiden deze? In deze sessie maken we kennis met musici en componisten die hun dagelijks werk op zo’n manier inrichten dat het zowel artistiek als sociaal-maatschappelijk uitdagend is. Samen onderzoeken we hoe deze praktijken georganiseerd zijn, waar ze zich bevinden en wat ze betekenen voor de musicus als artiest en als “geëngageerde burger”.