Music, performance and preservation: current perspectives for the documentation of works involving performance

Filipa Magalhães

CESEM / FCSH – NOVA University, Portugal


This paper is designed to encourage the discussion of the main concepts and themes in contextualizing and reflecting on the creative work of the composer Constança Capdeville, taking into account the time and context in which her works were composed. Her work is surrounded by a certain hybridism, as it juxtaposes several artistic expressions. By the seventies, in the context of the Portuguese music scene, the concept of performance as it is understood today was not yet fully recognized, either by composers, or by the artists who collaborated with Capdeville. In this regard, the composer António de Sousa Dias considers that this was possibly due to the tendency to connect the term with performance art and with certain positions more linked to the happening or free improvisation, which was not Capdeville’s goal. The composer’s works correspond to artistic manifestations that include music, visual elements, movement, among others, and are therefore, according to Sousa Dias, a communion of several arts that aim to instill in the public a reflective spirit about aspects of her culture and her relationship with this. In that sense, these works are considered performances. Given the difficulty in classifying Capdeville’s musical works, some etymological issues around the concepts of performance and re-performance will be discussed. The idea of repeating a performance is called into question by some authors, who question whether the performance, initially considered as a single act, can be delivered again. In order to answer this doubt, the idea of re-performance will be debated by introducing a retrospective of Marina Abramovic’s work. This approach is considered pertinent in the context of Capdeville’s creations to point out authors’ sights about re-performances. Abramovic began her artistic career in the early 1970s, in parallel with Capdeville’s own blossoming career as a composer. During that time, Abramovic did not seem concerned with the repetition of her performances; moreover, the question was not even raised. This interest arises from the year 2000. Similarly, Capdeville, especially in the way she organizes her materials, revealed that she was not concerned with the future of her performances and it is not known if she intended or not to have them repeated. João Natividade, the dancer who followed practically the entire trajectory of the composer, believes that Capdeville would repeat her works today. However, in an interview for the Revista Flama, concerning a work conception, Capdeville stated: “I leave it without the least effort. The problem of its survival is no longer mine or, at least, not just mine anymore.” The fact that Capdeville’s works unite different artistic expressions leads us to reflect on documentation issues within other artistic areas such as dance, or other forms of art involving performance, presenting some perspectives and practices currently in force.

Keywords: Performance, Contemporary Music, Documentation


Filipa Magalhães holds a PhD in Musicology. She specifically worked on a set of music theatre compositions by Constança Capdeville, with the purpose of recovering them through a documentation method. This approach also led her to important institutions such as the INA — Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, in Paris, and the CSC—Sound and Music Computing Group, in Italy, with the purpose of acquiring new knowledge in the field of audiovisual preservation. Her research focuses on an interdisciplinary framework that included preservation, computer sciences, digital philology and musical analysis studies, enabling her to expand her technical skills in the field of musicology. She is currently a researcher at CESEM — Centre for the Study of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music, FCSH, NOVA University of Lisbon, and also member of the Research Group on Contemporary Music (GIMC).