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“Learning About Early Music Research in Lisbon” by Aleksandra Pister (Lithuania)

Within the framework of the EarlyMuse COST Action, I went on a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) to discover the musicology of early music in several Portuguese institutions – the research center Centro de Estudos de Sociologia e Estética Musical (CESEM), Lisbon, and NOVA University Lisbon. Both establishments are among the leading institutions in Portugal pursuing research and education in the field of early music.  

This scientific mission served several goals. First, to get acquainted with the formal structure and operation systems of both institutions, paying particular attention to the extent of early music in the field of musicology in Portugal. Second, to gather data on current research activities and educational pathways. Third, to identify the current strengths, and weaknesses of early music research and education and the importance of musicology as a discipline for early music.

Photos by Alexandra Pister

The interest in early music among students of the musicology department at the NOVA university is rather impressive. Around 50 % of the master’s students chose a topic from historical musicology for their master’s thesis. Due to the expertise of the faculty being weighted towards Mediaeval music, this period was a popular historical area among the students of the musicological department. The department closely cooperates with the research unit – CESEM. Students can choose the institute’s senior researchers as supervisors of their master’s thesis and there are opportunities for students to be involved in CESEM-led research projects. 

Despite this positive engagement from students in early music, both NOVA and CESEM face several important challenges. Most researchers at CESEM are working on fixed-term contracts, making the career pathway less attractive and presenting hurdles to long-term planning for personal and professional development. Also, there are significant differences between researcher salaries across the project teams. The musicology department of the NOVA University Lisbon operates in spaces that are shared with other departments and has relatively limited budgetary resources. It also has to navigate some of the differences in educational pathways at universities and music academies in the conceptualisation and understanding of early music, both in theory and practice.

In subsequent research, I hope to explore the state of affairs in other European institutions and research labs and compare these with my experiences in Lisbon. This process will help EarlyMuse to develop and refine its vision of the wider early music landscape.

Photo by Alexandra Pister