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CHARM was conceived as a collaborative initiative involving three institutional partners and focusing on a defined research area. Launched in April 2004, CHARM had three main strands: research projects, symposia and the creation of accessible resources (including an online discography and library of sound files) to support research on recordings.

Its Phase 2 successor – the AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice (CMPCP) – built on CHARM’s research achievements and collaborative relationships, but it had different aims within wider musical and intellectual contexts. Whereas CHARM’s aim was to ‘promote the study of music as performance through a specific focus on recordings’, CMPCP aspired towards a new understanding of musical performance’s creative dimension as manifested in live music-making. In this way it took further the reassessment of musicology to which CHARM was committed, engaging directly with solo and ensemble performers and teachers, as well as more diverse repertoires from various musical traditions.

Performance studies in music

Scholarly research on musical performance has gained momentum over the past two to three decades to the point that ‘performance studies’ can claim the central role in musicology that it has had for some time in other disciplines such as theatre and dance. Evidence for this exists in the burgeoning books and articles on musical performance from recent years, and in the remarkable number of musicological conferences devoted at least in part to performance issues. More and more universities and conservatoires offer programmes of study encouraging the interaction of theory and practice, rather than their traditional separation, while professional musicians increasingly present themselves as both ‘doers’ and ‘talkers’ (Joseph Kerman’s terms – Musicology, 1985, p. 196).

This healthy state of affairs partly reflects changes within musicology at large – among others, challenges to the ‘work concept’ and the presumed identity between score and music; thus, a renewed emphasis on music as sound and event, an ontological status lost in the mid nineteenth century, when music’s notation gained the upper hand. Of course, the study of musical performance has a long tradition within musicology, mostly in the fields of historical performance practice and the psychology of performance. The chief differences today are a broader remit, a simultaneous dismantling of boundaries between performance-related research domains, an understanding of music as a socially enacted and culturally embedded practice, and much greater engagement with performers themselves, whose work was the very focus of CMPCP’s own research agenda.

The fact that we can speak of performance studies as an integral part of today’s musicology is attributable to the development of a sizable international community of scholars, institutions to support their work, a large body of research, established modes of dissemination, shared beliefs and values, a common discourse, and a perceived identity. Notwithstanding the last of these, performance studies embraces a wide range of intellectual traditions and methodological approaches across such fields as music history, psychology, analysis, computational musicology, aesthetics, ethnomusicology, anthropology, cultural studies and sociology, while also rubbing shoulders with other art forms including drama, dance and the visual arts. This diversity is to be celebrated: it has led to considerable richness and vitality in much of the performance studies literature to date, while also providing the potential for virtually limitless engagement and exploration in the future.

The AHRC Research Centres scheme

When the first AHRC Research Centres were founded in 1999, it was on the understanding that funding was for a maximum of five years, after which the Council’s grant would cease and the strategy for continued activity after the AHRC’s period of funding built into each Centre’s strategic plan would come into effect. However, following its evaluation of the Research Centres scheme in 2003/4, the Council agreed to consider further selective investment in Research Centres by means of ‘Phase 2 funding’. This was not intended simply to continue or further an existing Centre’s prospectus and profile of activities; instead, it aimed to encourage Centres to develop different, more ambitious and coherent programmes and objectives. Central to the objectives of Phase 2 funding was the achievement of world-class research and the fulfilment of a leadership role at national and international levels.

Initially, the Arts and Humanities Research Council invited applications for Phase 2 funding from the ten AHRC Research Centres established as a result of the 1999 competition, and a further round of bidding allowed the remaining nine AHRC Research Centres established as a result of the 2001 and 2002 competition to apply for funding. Two AHRC Research Centres were awarded Phase 2 funding from each round; in each case Phase 2 was made available for up to five years, from the end of the original AHRC Research Centre’s funding period.

CMPCP’s own budget was approximately £2.1 million, with an AHRC grant of over £1.7 million and contributions of c. £430,000 from the lead participating institutions – the University of Cambridge, King’s College London, the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, University of London. A supplementary budget was provided to support the work of two project PhD students, in addition to which King’s College London offered a doctoral studentship to one CMPCP student.