The Show Must Go On: The Future of Performance

Harvard University

Thomas Kelly is a Morton B. Knafel Research Professor of Music at Harvard University. He was named a Harvard College Professor in recognition of his teaching and won the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society for “The Beneventan Chant.” His books include First Nights: Five Performance PremieresFirst Nights at the Opera, and Capturing Music: The Story of Notation. Professor Kelly is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an Honorary Citizen of the city of Benevento, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres of the French Republic.



Join renowned Harvard music professor, Thomas Forrest Kelly, in this new class that will explore what we mean by “performance” and endeavor to answer the following questions: What was it like in the past? How has performance changed over time? How has technology affected the way people perform? And what will the future bring? Join Professor Kelly as he touches upon theater, opera, and movies, considers a few famous performances and places, and explores modern media, such as animated cartoons, television, and music videos.


Discussion Questions:

  1. What is performance? One possible definition: “People doing things in real time in the presence of other people, and for their entertainment or edification.” But that definition also goes for school, college, One Day University lectures, and religious services. Try to come up with a better definition.
  1. To what extent does the medium restrict performance, and to what extent does it define it?
  1. Think of some works that have been transferred from one medium to another: a novel to a TV series, a play to a movie, etc. Then consider the differences that the new medium requires. Does the “work” gain or lose in the transfer?




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