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The Ondes Martenot: Constructing Narratives of Obsolescence

Schampaert, Dorien (2016) The Ondes Martenot: Constructing Narratives of Obsolescence. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

This paper will examine the ways in which we construct narratives of obsolescence around the Ondes Martenot regardless of the instrument's actual status, and how this influences its current position. The Ondes Martenot is, in its physical form, an instrument, but it can also be seen as a concept in its broader sense. If we consider the Ondes Martenot through the lens of Actor-Network Theory, we can imagine a network of human and non-human actors which exert a certain influence on the concept of the instrument, constructing or ‘performing’ it at any given moment in time. Sometimes this influence helps the Ondes Martenot to keep existing, and sometimes it pushes it towards obsolescence. The instrument’s position on this axis has shifted in both directions over the past century, but it is clear that the Ondes Martenot has been steadily gaining momentum in the past fifteen years. It is, for now, not in immediate danger of disappearing and becoming a thing of the past. However, many academic and other sources portray the Ondes Martenot as just that – a thing of the past. By placing the Ondes Martenot in a linear history of electronic instruments, using anachronistic and reductive language, portraying the instrument as an unfinished idea, but also by equating value with commercial success and using a dated instrument classification system, it becomes easier to ignore the later decades of activity surrounding the instrument. The main reason for this reductive narrative is the lack of documentation on the instrument. The only published book, Jean Laurendeau’s Maurice Martenot, Luthier de l’électronique (1990), has yet to be translated to English. However, narratives of obsolescence are also found in other areas of electronic music history. This case study brings some of the mechanisms behind this construction to light.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:21



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