SAVE THE "MONUMENTA MUSICAE BYZANTINAE"

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A PETITION TO SAVE THE "MONUMENTA MUSICAE BYZANTINAE"

To the Rector of the University of Copenhagen (prof. Henrik C. Wegener: rektor@adm.ku.dk)

To the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Copenhagen (prof. Jesper Kallestrup: dekan@hum.ku.dk)

To the Head of the Saxo Institute of the University of Copenhagen (prof. Stuart James Ward: stuart@hum.ku.dk)

 

Dear Sirs,

We are writing to you as the Editorial Board of the Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, to express our alarm at your proposal to dismiss Prof. Christian Troelsgård from his position as Associate Professor in the Saxo Institute.

The Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae (MMB) was established in Copenhagen in 1935 under the direction of Prof. Carsten Høeg, and quickly became a world-renowned scientific enterprise devoted to the study and publication of Byzantine musical and liturgical sources. The University of Copenhagen has been central to the activities of the MMB ever since. As you are doubtless aware, it houses a comprehensive library and archive which has supported a sustained and highly productive programme of research and publication by a very international body of scholars. Students of the successive directors of the MMB have gone on to secure prestigious positions around the world in the fields of Classics, Byzantine Studies and Musicology. The MMB volumes are published under the auspices of the Union Académique Internationale, with the support of the Carlsberg Foundation and several other funding bodies, and are universally admired for the quality of their research as well as for their high production standards.

In consideration of the worldwide recognised leading role of the MMB in research on Byzantine music and liturgy, we are deeply concerned by the unexpected news that the intense research activities conducted within the MMB project are in serious danger of coming to an abrupt end. We gather that, for reasons of ‘necessary cut-backs’, the University plans in a few weeks to dismiss – after 26 years of honoured service – the MMB Director Prof. Christian Troelsgård, a highly esteemed scholar and teacher, on the vague grounds that his position no longer ‘matches the future development of the Faculty’.

Since Prof. Troelsgård represents the one and only institutional affiliation of the MMB project in Denmark, this would lead to a sudden cessation of all of the MMB’s research activities, which have for more than 80 years been centred in the University of Copenhagen, and to the lamentable dispersal of a whole scholarly tradition that has represented a jewel in the crown of Danish (and European) research in the humanities thoughout this period. In fact, the consequences of this dismissal on research in the field of Byzantine music and chant would be really dramatic, not only in Denmark: the MMB has since its inception been designated as a ‘research enterprise’ under the auspices of the Union Académique Internationale, a status in which it was recently re-accredited, and the dismantling of its leading research unit in Denmark would condemn the whole international project (with partner-scholars in Austria, Italy, Germany, Greece, the United Kingdom, the United States, and many other countries) to a sudden and definitive closure. The MMB has attracted long-term research funding to the University of Copenhagen over many decades, flourishing successively under the leadership of its founder Prof. Carsten Høeg, then Prof. Jørgen Raasted, and especially now under Prof. Troelsgård’s careful and dedicated guidance. The hasty liquidation of a research school that is so well established in the University of Copenhagen would put at stake a unique and important European research tradition.

We are not party to the ‘future development of the Faculty’ on which grounds you propose to dismiss Prof. Troelsgård, but we respectfully remind you that he is universally regarded as a leading scholar in all branches of the study of Byzantine chant, known internationally through his many books and articles of consistently exceptional quality, and widely respected in the University through his co-ordination of several externally-funded research projects and as a member of the Academic Council of the Faculty of Humanities. In Demark he is honoured as a member of the Royal Danish Academy, and internationally he sits on many advisory panels for leading journals and research projects. His graduate students have taken the field of research into many new directions under his careful guidance, and have developed successful careers in many countries, widening interest in the field of Byzantine chant across the world.

Byzantine music should not be considered an exotic and sophisticated research field reserved for the happy few who are engaged in it: it has important repercussions on our understanding of many aspects of the different cultures of the world we live in. The Byzantine chant tradition is the real core of the Orthodox liturgy in Greece, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Balkans, Southern Italy, and the Middle East, and is therefore an important key to our understanding of the mentality of the different peoples living in this wide area. Language, rite and music constitute fundamental aspects of the cultural identity of the Eastern-Mediterranean Christian communities, many of which are now often under threat. Weakening the study of these traditions would lead to an impoverishment of our understanding of this part of world culture, and could also be seen as turning our backs on these populations on a cultural level. In the context of the study and research activities of the Saxo Institute, Prof. Troelsgård’s teaching and research have the potential to make one of the closest and most direct connections between the ancient world and the lives of many of the most marginalised communities of today. Far from being an arcane and obscurantist discipline, Byzantine chant is a field which can inspire students to embrace the study of Classical and Eastern languages, Theology, Music, History, Ethnography and Social Anthropology.

Perhaps it is not a consequence you intended in your proposal to dismiss Christian Troelsgård, but we fear that the result in the sudden annihilation of the research centre which has placed Copenhagen at the centre of this branch of historical enquiry for the best part of the last century would have serious consequences in terms of our understanding of global culture, and not only of European or global academic studies. Therefore we strongly encourage you to reconsider your decision to cut short a career in which we continue to foresee much promising contribution to the wider understanding of society.

 

ON BEHALF OF THE MMB EDITORIAL BOARD

 

Prof. Nicolas BELL (Trinity College, Cambridge)
Prof. Francesco D’AIUTO (University of Rome "Tor Vergata")
Prof. Sysse Gudrun ENGBERG (University of Copenhagen, emerita)
Prof. Christian HANNICK (Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, emeritus)
Prof. Christian THODBERG (University of Aarhus, emeritus)
Prof. Gerda WOLFRAM (University of Vienna, emerita)

and

Prof. John D. BERGSAGEL (former Director of MMB; University of Copenhagen, emeritus)
Prof. Tore Tvarnø LIND (secretary of MMB; University of Copenhagen)