Learning to be a Good Idiot: Not-Knowing in Collaborative Classical Music Experiments

Activity: Talk or presentation / Performance / SpeechesTalk or presentation - at conferenceAcademic


In the interdisciplinary Maastricht Centre of the Innovation of Classical Music (MCICM), academic and artistic researchers collaborate with the South Netherlands Philharmonic to innovate classical music in artistically relevant ways. This research includes (interventionist) participant observations and the organisation of collaborative experiments in the orchestra’s practice. In STS, many studies have emphasised the benefits and problems of knowing differently in interdisciplinary interventionist research projects, thereby asking how to successfully combine these different knowledges. Our collaboration results in situations in which all present sometimes feel like laymen, strangers, amateurs, or fools. However, we see this experience not as something that should be overcome, but welcomed, expected and pursued. We wonder: How to make our mutual not-knowing productive?

Drawing on Stengers’ figure of the idiot (2005), we explore how agnosticism can stimulate fundamental and uncomfortable learning both on the practices studied and on the research approach. In this paper, we present collaborative work in which we experimented methodologically with the idiot position. What does it take to become (and remain) an idiot? What kind of embodied skills are involved? How to stage and perform idiocy? What is the value of not-knowing? How does learning happen? We will focus on a conference session we organised in the MCICM in which both researchers and classical music professionals participated. In this session we aimed to produce, stage and collaboratively articulate the position of the idiot. We will reflect on what these explorations taught us about music, methodology, and idiocy.
Period21 Aug 2020
Event titleEASST/4S 2020 Conference: Located and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds
Event typeConference
LocationPrague, Czech RepublicShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational