Loes van Schaijk
Loes van Schaijk
Erasmus University Rotterdam & Codarts, Netherlands
Bio: Loes van Schaijk holds a BA in Music in Education and an MA in Cultural Studies. She is an all-round music teacher at the Circus department of Codarts in Rotterdam. She is conducting a study on how circus artists (learn to) work with music. She wrote and published the book High Lonesome Below Sea Level (2015) and she sings and plays double bass in the band Red Herring.
Title: Contemporary Circus Music and the Conundrum of the Popular
Abstract: Historical research into music used in traditional circus has shown that orchestra repertoires consisted mostly of whatever was popular at a given time, i.e. potpourris containing excerpts of hits by contemporary popular composers and evergreens (Becker 2008, Baston 2010). Musical stereotype and cliché were applied for the sake of audience framing. Its function was mostly structural – consider the archetypical dynamic build up, followed by an abrupt silence, finished with a drum roll to signify “the big trick” – but it also offered social and cultural reassurance. The cultural “other” was constructed by way of exoticism.
This paper explores musical repertoires and their applications in contemporary circus based on observations and interviews conducted at circus festivals and (student) performances in Europe between 2016 and 2018. To what extent do the aforementioned observations still apply to music used in contemporary circus? Is contemporary circus’s supposed concern with authenticity and otherness reflected in its music? Does contemporary circus avoid the use of popular music and cliché, in other words: has mainstream music become contemporary circus’s new other? If this is the case, and the mainstream has shifted to the margin, what then has taken its place at the center?