Klaas Hoek, PhD in the Arts

In the second half of the 19th century a making of music was developed in Germany in which sounds are related to each other through gradually changing intensity, both in terms of loudness and tempo. In this music-making the melody is not formed on and against a pulse with fixed metrical accents. Music develops rather from attention to sound into motives and then into larger units. After the First World War, clarity, simplicity and objectivity are considered increasingly important. Making music based on transitional dynamics and tempo fluctuations (with the accompanying sound palette) is increasingly considered as subjective and therefore outdated. On this basis, the development of performance practice in the second half of the 20th century is largely based on pulse and meter; this concerns the performance of early music (music from before 1800) as well as music composed after 1800.
It is interesting that listening is considered most important in 19th-century music-making: music is formed and exists primarily in the imagination of the listener. My listening – also as a musician – reflects this. It is not so much determined by interest in pulse and meter, but rather by sound differentiation, transitional dynamics and tempo fluctuations. Phenomena and concepts such as pulse, motorial movement, meter and rhythm are for me derivatives of sound handling; not vice versa. I call this: formative use of sound and dynamics. This includes not only music from the 19th century but also from the period before and after, such as music by Varèse and Xenakis.
The research, of which my edition of the St. John Passion by J.S. Bach is the result, was initially focused on the question: what impact does this method have on performing music of composers such as Mahler, Sweelinck, Frescobaldi, Bach? To prevent diffusing the research, the St. John Passion has been chosen as a specific research topic during the course of it.  The study showed particularly strong interactions between music aesthetics (thinking about conditions under which sounds can be related to each other, leading to an impressive collection of literature on the philosophy of music in the 19th century) and performance practice (practical realization). In the study of the 19th-century philosophy of music in relation to my music-making and verification thereof by making this edition of the St. John Passion, these two areas are distinguished separately but at the same time related. The process of performance is central; this is the way in which the sounding realization of the composition to be performed is made. This process is described with reference to a performance model. The formative use of sound and dynamics is a main subject in this model.


  • Prof. dr. Joris Verdin (supervisor, KU Leuven)
  • Luk Bastiaens (co-supervisor, LUCA)
  • Prof. dr. Hans Fidom (co-supervisor, VU Amsterdam)

Research Unit: Music & Drama

Duration: 2013 - 2019