Throughout the year 2021, as part of the lectorate project “Look Again” we researched the performance practice of music written in Italy between 1675 and 1760. Our project was to look again at the well-known Italian sources but also discover new sources of information for this period, being open to what the sources might say that could be in shock with what we usually do. We collected more than 150 documents, in situ at Italian libraries or through online resources, and presented a preliminary summary of our findings.1 Our overarching realization was that one cannot speak of one “performance practice of music written in Italy between 1675 and 1760”. Standardization, which has had a strong impact in the current early music practice, is a concept that, we proposed, should be forgotten.
However, we realized also that this was the start of a process with different stages, which would require more time: in order to start to absorb our findings in practical terms, we would need to try things out in a variety of ways, over time deconstructing much of what we normally do. Therefore, during the second phase of this research project in 2022 ("Look and listen again: practical application of an in-depth study of the performance practice of music written in Italy in the early 18th century"), we focused on the application of what we have found. In this phase, we aimed to approach the sources from a more practical, musical angle. Previously, experimentation was mostly limited to the practical understanding of the information we found in the sources, as a tool to understanding meaning and implications. This year, our plan was to focus more on experimenting in our artistic practice with the knowledge we acquired through the research in 2021, and then to apply what was observed to a broader, relevant repertoire. This included also experimenting with contradictory ways of realizing certain aspects of performance practice, as we have observed in the sources studied. By embodying these findings, we expected to understand better how the results could be applied to actual performances.
So, what changes in our performance practice of this repertoire by looking again and applying our findings? We decided to divide our work into a few case studies directly applicable to our musical practice. For each, we offer here a record of our steps and some observations along the way, as illustrations of methods and processes, as well as a brief documentation of our experiments, which are complemented by a few recordings.