Variations on a Theme: Modernism in Art and Music


Dr Charlotte de Mille and Benedict Collins Rice

5 pre-recorded lectures and 3 live Zoom seminars on Monday 21, Tuesday 22 and Thursday 24 March

Course description

To continue in one path is to go backward”– Igor Stravinsky

What is ‘modernism’ and how does it manifest itself in art and music? An art historian and a musician join forces to gain a more varied perspective of the cultural transformations produced during the turbulent period from the European revolutions of 1848-1849 to the aftermath of the Second World War. This course looks outward at the plurality of ways in which artists and composers responded to and reflected this shared context of artistic and socio-political upheaval.  What was Wagner’s musical ‘revolution’ and how did it draw on, and affect, the visual arts?  What ‘subjective’ novel forms of art and music did Vienna and its new psychology produce around the turn of the 20th century?  Are there musical equivalents to Cubist and Abstract art?  What role do spontaneity and chance play in the paintings of Piet Mondrian and in John Cage’s musical compositions?

Over the course of five pre-recorded lectures and two live seminars, we shall encounter exciting and challenging images and sounds from this dynamic period.  Our live discussions will address the relationships between creator and audience, the role of the artist in a post-patronage society, and the perceived austerity and elitism of modern art and music. The course will feature contributions from The Facade Ensemble – a group founded to perform the repertoire of musical modernism, challenge its reputation as ‘difficult’, delight in its thrilling soundworlds, and promote it to a wider audience.

Lecturers’ biographies

Dr Charlotte de Mille curates The Courtauld Gallery’s music programme. With them she co–authored Animating Art History, a joint initiative with Central St. Martin’s and the University for the Creative Arts, which was long-listed for a Clore Award in Museum Learning. She was Visiting Scholar at Lingnan University, Hong Kong in 2018, and Mid-Career Fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art 2019-20. She is currently Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld. She edited Music and Modernism (2011) and is co-editor of The Bloomsbury Handbook to Music and Art (2022). Bergson in Britain: Modern Art and Philosophy is in press with EUP.

Benedict Collins Rice has performed throughout Europe and America (from The Royal Albert Hall to Carnegie Hall); recorded for several record labels, for BBC and NBC Television, the BFI, and broadcast on Radio 3.  He follows Holst and Tippett as Lecturer at Morley College. Recent conducting highlights include working with the Berlin Sinfonietta, CBSO Chorus, BBC Concert Orchestra, Southbank Sinfonia and British Youth Opera.

The Facade Ensemble is a dynamic collective of young professionals comprising ‘rising stars’ of institutions like the BBC and The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and fellows with groups such as The Sixteen and Tenebrae.