Performing Antiquity (Oxford University Press, 2019)

book coverPerforming Antiquity: Ancient Greek Music and Dance from Paris to Delphi, 1890-1930  focuses on several representative examples of the modern revival of ancient Greek music and dance culture: public performances at the Paris Opéra, public festivals staged in ancient amphitheaters, and private performances at the Parisian home of the Lesbian-American writer and patron Natalie Clifford Barney, whose salon became a site for archaeologists, classicists, musicians and dancers to embody, perform, and observe ancient Greece in modern France. These musical and dance collaborations were built on reciprocity: the performers gained new insight into their craft while learning new techniques or repertoire, and the scholars gained an opportunity to bring theory into experimental practice; that is, they had a chance to see/hear/experience what they had studied and imagined. The performers received the imprimatur of scholarship, the stamp of authenticity, and validation for their creative activities. One of the most valuable aspects of my book is the re-examination of century-old collaborations between scholars from across the humanities and artists that will enrich our understanding of the complex symbiosis of theory and practice in embodied knowledge, experimental methods in the humanities, and living history projects.

This project is historiographic in that it examines the ways history has been performed in the past and how it might be performed in the future. While it may seem self-evident to today’s scholars that reconstructions are inherently revisions, this was not always the case. Examining the nexus of performance and history at the birth of Modernism also allows for a deeper investigation into the ways the performance of antiquity shaped the Modernist project in the first decades of the twentieth century. Building on theoretical and historical studies on music and dance performance practice, as well as research on historical reenactment, and performance studies, this book will explain how scholarly methods (new empirical approaches to music history) and technologies (mainly photography) altered the performance, and, ultimately, the reception of music and dance of the past. Today, as scholars from a variety of disciplines join together to reconstruct the past anew, I would like to find out what lessons we can learn from the relationships between scholars, performers, and their objects of study.

My book takes as its premise that “performing” is another form of scholarship. While the academy has established the value and position of performance as post-modern scholarship since at least the 1960s, I set out in this project to unearth the collaborative, creative and performative aspects of historical study (namely reconstructions) that took place at the birth of Modernism. Building on Vanessa Agnew’s scholarship on experimental historical reenactment and Rebecca Schneider’s theories of reenactment, this project applies these theories to the performance of musical and choreographic works from the past. Diana Taylor’s introduction to the archive and the repertoire as analogue sites of knowledge, and ultimately performance, also informs my understanding of the performance of ancient Greece in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. While I focus on issues of authenticity and fealty to archival sources in some chapters of this book (the traditional interests of musicology), I offer alternative studies that draw from embodied practice, or what Taylor may call “the repertoire” in others.


Campbell Shiflett, in Notes 76, no. 3 (March 2020): 433-436. [read it here]

Chantal Frankenbach, in Notes 77, no. 2 (December 2020): 299-302. [read it here]

Christophe Corbier, in Revue de Musicologie 106, no. 2 (September 2020): 501-503.

Alexander K. Rothe, in his blog [read it here]

Rachana Vajjhala, in Journal of the American Musicological Society 73, no. 3 (Fall 2020): 785-790.

Sylvain Perrot, in Bryn Mawr Classical Review BMCR 2020.11.42 [read it here]

George Sampatakakis, in Dance Research 39, no. 1 (2021): 140-141.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Musicology, Archaeology, Performance: Models and Methods
Chapter 2. Gabriel Fauré and Théodore Reinach: Hidden Pianos and L’Hymne à Apollon
Chapter 3. Performing Sappho’s Fractured Archive, or Listening for the Queer Sounds in the Life and Works of Natalie Clifford Barney
Chapter 4. Performing Scholarship for the Paris Opéra: Maurice Emmanuel’s Salamine (1929)
Chapter 5. “To Give Greece Back to the Greeks:” Archaeology, Ethnography and Eva Palmer Sikelianos’ Prometheus Bound
Chapter 6. Scholars and Their Objects of Study; or, Loving Your Subject