© Carl Holmgren
Peer-reviewed audio paper

Lost in interpretation

Re-mixing the master-apprentice relation in the music conservatoire
6. april 2021
Fokus: Sounds of Science
  DOI https://doi.org/10.48233/SEISMOGRAF2605

This polyphonic audio paper addresses the relation between master and apprentice in the music conservatoire, and gives voice to the central human and non-human agents in this context. We aim to explore the power structures that constitute a structural framework for these relations, with regard to the agency with which students shape their individual interpretations, and therefore also to the role of imitation in instrumental music teaching. Master classes have arguably been seen as the pinnacle of the master–apprentice tradition, and have had a central role within higher education in Western classical music. It has regularly been claimed that such classes are effective for student development (see Hanken, 2008; 2011; Hanken and Long, 2012; Hanken, 2015; 2016; 2017) although, until recently, research on master classes has been quite sparse (see Hanken, 2008; 2011).

Results from a qualitative study of teaching and learning of musical interpretation in a master class setting—first articulated in the form of an ethnodrama (Holmgren, 2018; 2020; Nguyễn and Östersjö, 2020; Saldaña, 1998; 2003; 2005; 2011; Salvatore, 2018), written by Holmgren—constitutes the point of departure for the audio paper. Our staging of Holmgren’s ethnodrama as a Hörspiel constitutes an artistic research process, through dramatical and musical composition (Olofsson, 2018). The research process originated in sound, as well as in questions related to musical performance; ultimately, through the many layers of analysis and artistic production, the final outcomes are again manifest in sound. Originating in music education research, the study seeks a better understanding of how the dynamics between teacher, student and music institution can be better utilised in curriculum development. Hence, the audio paper, and the Hörspiel that it contains, constitutes a central result of the study (see further Holmgren, 2020) in artistic form as a sonic and multivocal artefact. We ultimately propose that the future for instrumental teaching in the conservatoire lies in the creation of situations that allow for sharing experiences of performative knowledge. Hereby, teacher and student can work together towards the goal of fostering an individual musician’s voice (Gorton and Östersjö, 2019), highlighting the importance of personal autonomy, situatedness, and an analytical awareness of institutional and societal power structures. Hence, the study points to perspectives that may contribute to curriculum development in higher music education, specifically with regard to instrumental music teaching.



Marall Nasiri (Master)

Johan Forslund (Teacher)

Inez Micaella Amy Andersson (Students)

Helen Julia Minors (Narrator)

Carl Holmgren (autoethnographic recordings, and piano performance)


Ulf Friberg

Sound design and audio editing

Stefan Östersjö


Gorton, D. and Östersjö, S. (2019) Austerity Measures I: Performing the Discursive Voice. In: C. Laws, W. Brooks, D. Gorton, T.T. Nguyễn, S. Östersjö, and J.J. Wells (eds.) Voices, Bodies, Practices: Performing Musical Subjectivities, 1st ed. Leuven: Leuven University Press, pp. 29–79.

Hanken, I. M. (2008) Teaching and Learning Music Performance: The Master Class. The Finnish Journal of Music Education, 11(1–2), pp. 10–36.

Hanken, I. M. (2011) The Benefits of the Master Class: The masters’ Perspective. In: S.-E. Holgersen and S.G. Nielsen (eds.) Nordic Research in Music Education. Yearbook, vol. 12. Oslo: Norges musikkhøgskole, pp. 149–160.

Hanken, I. M. (2015) Listening and Learning in a Master Class. Music Education Research, 17(4), pp. 453–464.

Hanken, I.M. (2016) The Potential of the Masterclass: A Conversation between Isabelle Perrin and Ingrid Maria Hanken [online] Available at: https://nmh.no/resources/cempe/2016/01/the-potential-of-the-masterclasses.pdf [Accessed 8 May 2020].

Hanken, I. M. (2017) The Role and Significance of Masterclasses in Creative Learning. In: J. Rink, H. Gaunt and A. Williamon (eds.) Musicians in the Making: Pathways to Creative Performance, 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 75–92.

Hanken, I. M. and Long, M. (2012) Master Classes: What do they Offer? [online] Available at: https://nmh.brage.unit.no/nmh-xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/172653/Hanken_Long_2012.pdf [Accessed 18 Dec. 2020].

Holmgren, C. (2018) A Philosophic Poetic Inquiry of Three Aspects of Interpretation within Music Education Research: An Autoethnodrama in Four Acts. European Journal of Philosophy in Arts Education, 3(1), pp. 7–86.

Holmgren, C. (2020) The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s Apprentices: A Critical Analysis of Teaching and Learning of Musical Interpretation in a Piano Master Class. Swedish Journal of Music Research, [online] 102, pp. 1–29. Available at: http://musikforskning.se/stm-sjm/node/303 [Accessed 21 Dec. 2020].

Nguyễn, T.T. and Östersjö, S. (2020) Performative Ethnographies of Migration and Intercultural Collaboration in Arrival Cities: Hanoi. Journal of Embodied Research, [online] 3(1), 1 (25:10). DOI: 10.16995/jer.19.

Olofsson, K. (2018) Composing the Performance: An Exploration of Musical Composition as a Dramaturgical Strategy in Contemporary Intermedial Theatre. PhD. Lund University.

Saldaña, J. (1998) Ethical Issues in an Ethnographic Performance Text: The “Dramatic Impact” of “Juicy Stuff”. Research in Drama Education, 3(2), pp. 181–196.

Saldaña, J. (2003) Dramatizing Data: A Primer. Qualitative Inquiry, 9(2), pp. 218–236.

Saldaña, J. (2005) An Introduction to Ethnodrama. In: J. Saldaña, ed., Ethnodrama: An Anthology of Reality Theatre, 1st ed. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, pp. 1–36.

Saldaña, J. (2011) Writing Ethnodramatic Dialogue. In: J. Saldaña, ed., Ethnotheatre: Research from Page to Stage. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, pp. 99–124.

Salvatore, J. (2018) Ethnodrama and Ethnotheatre. In: P. Leavy, ed., Handbook of Arts-Based Research, 1st ed. New York: Guilford Press, pp. 267–287.


musical interpretation
master-apprentice relation
higher music education
power structures