About this exposition
“Empowerment through artistic practice: finding my own voice”
In this project, I aim to rediscover the piano music by the forgotten Italian composer Gilda Ruta (1853-1932) and draw inspiration from her experience to find my own path as a researcher-performer.
The choice to focus on Gilda Ruta, is significant as it sheds light on the voice of a marginalized member of the music world, whose relevance has been long denied within the discipline. As I learn about her experiences, particularly her need to leave Italy and move to New York in order to overcome the stereotypes imposed on her as working woman and pursue a more independent life, I find connections to my own goals and desires. In addition, our shared admiration for Mendelssohn and Liszt, who was her teacher, connects my personal taste and way of experiencing piano music with hers.
By giving voice to forgotten musicians, such as Gilda Ruta, this project will promote the adoption of a different point of view in the classical music world, reversing traditional power structures and overcoming stereotypes. One of the aspects that will be explored is her approach to virtuosity, characterized by the adoption of a writing that highlighted her piano skills instead of imitating the traditional model promoted by the music industry and associated with male power and dominance. Ruta imposed herself in an industry that accepted women only as singers (“prime donne”), or performers, whereas she, other than a pianist, saw herself principally as a composer. Moreover, her very personal compositional style distances itself from the new experimental tendencies appearing in the 20th century. Ruta's courage in deviating from convention, and in striving to define herself beyond the traditional boundaries of her time, serves as an inspiration for me to find my own space in the music world and pursue my own artistic vision with the same determination, overcoming the traditional boundary between artistic practice and musicology and embracing my identity as both a performer and a researcher.
By challenging traditional hierarchies and embracing my perspective as a researcher-pianist, I aim to explore how artistic practice can influence the music business, developing strategies to empower groups previously subordinated, in particular performers. Performers, especially in the twentieth and twenty-first century, are still often trained to regard themselves as passive executors of the composer’s instructions, whereas developments in artistic research are raising awareness on the performer’s fundamental role as an active participant in the process of creating an art work. Conducting artistic research with the perspective of a performer, has made me more aware of my responsibilities as a pianist in the process of realizing a music performance and has enhanced the conception of myself as an artist. Through this process, I have learned to trust the knowledge that emerges from my fingers, physical sensations, and emotional experiences when learning and performing a piece, developing a special relationship with the music I perform and increasing my confidence in making strong, autonomous interpretative decisions.
Following the ideas expressed Dahl’s ”Music and Knowledge – A Performer’s Perspective” and Cook’s “Beyond the Score: Music as Performance”, this project adopts an approach that favours the performer’s point of view, revaluating artistic practice as fundamental tool to explore and understand a piece and, more broadly, the inner world and the point of view of a composer. To gain a better understanding of empowerment and of the role of feminism in musicology, this research incorporates contributions from "Reshaping a Discipline - Musicology and Feminism in the 1990s" by McClary and “Music, Power, and Practice” by Mahon), while the information about Gilda’s life and career are based on the book “Gilda Ruta. Le due vite di una musicista napoletana” by Vigilar.
This project explores Ruta’s piano compositions with an approach based on the interaction between artistic practice and musicological research, combining the study of literature about Ruta with the performance of her piano pieces. To further promote Ruta’s music, the performance of her piano compositions will be combined with the reading of articles and letters related to her life. This will allow the audience to gain a deeper understanding of Ruta's perspective and how it differs from the perspectives that others had of her in the music industry. This approach will enable the public to gain a different perspective in the music panorama, while also enabling me to express other aspects of my artistic personality, not solely as a performer, but also as a researcher. Through this, I hope to demonstrate how the rediscovery of Ruta’s piano works not only contributes to musicological knowledge, but through a process of identification, allows me to empower myself as an Italian female musician.
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