Richard Barrett: ‘To me, music is a way of understanding the world’
28 January 2021. Text: Myrthe Timmers.
A new chair has been added to the partnership between Leiden University and the Royal Conservatoire The Hague. Richard Barrett has been appointed Professor of Research in Creative Music (ACPA) as of 1 December 2020. ‘For me it is important that music and academia are not placed in an ivory tower.’
Barrett’s career is atypical for someone at the humanities. After studying Genetics and Microbiology, he made the switch to music at the age of 20. He became a composer and performing musician, but did not forget about science. ‘When I write about music, I always do so with scientific precision. It helps me to think in details.’
A long track record
This approach is useful to him at the Royal Conservatoire, where he has a long track record as a teacher at the Institute of Sonology. According to him, his new appointment ensures that he and his students can develop themselves further. ‘At the conservatoire, I sometimes mentor people who, after their two-year master’s, feel that their research has only just begun. As a professor, I can start building a community, giving them the opportunity to develop themselves further and to add more depth to their subject.’
Community and collaboration
The word ‘community’ comes up more often during the conversation. According to Barrett, music and academia are disciplines that are preferably practiced together. ‘The past year I have been researching improvisation in various disciplines, from dance to technology. I translated the results into music. The coming year I want to test these ideas with a group of improvising musicians from the conservatoire. This way we can arrive at new insights together.’
Academia as a bridge
The exchange between music and academia is useful to a position that includes the goal of strengthening the collaboration between the university and the conservatoire, but for Barrett it is more than a mandatory part of his job. Barrett: ‘To me, music is a way of understanding the world, but this is probably an unfamiliar idea to a lot of people. One of the reasons for “research in creative music” is to find ways to express and explain things like this to a wider audience, so I see the university as a platform from which to build bridges between the music and the public.’
The Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) provides artistic research and education in the arts. ACPA is a research institute of the Faculty of Humanities and part of a partnership between the University of the Arts The Hague and Leiden University. This ensures, among other things, that students can combine an academic study with art courses at a university of applied sciences.