Spronck, V, MSc.

Symphonic Orchestras and their Audiences: Contemporary Participation in Practice

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences,  Maastricht University, [email protected]

Supervisor: Prof. Sally Wyatt, Dr. Peter Peters,  and Dr. Ruth Benschop


Veerle Spronck has obtained a BA in Art History (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and graduated from the Research MSc Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology (Maastricht University, with a research-internship at McGill). Her thesis was an ethnographic study of artistic research practices in the Netherlands and Flanders. After her graduation and before starting her PhD research, Veerle worked for the Maastricht Centre for Arts and Culture, Conservation and Heritage and as researcher at the Research Centre for Arts, Autonomy and the Public Sphere, Hogeschool Zuyd.


In the twenty-first century, symphonic music institutions are experiencing problems: the number of visits is declining and audiences are ageing. A lack of possibilities for ‘participation’ by the audience is often put forward as reason for the declines. Recently, in attempts to solve this problem, orchestras and research institutes have started to develop innovative presentation formats to better engage both new and existing audiences. However, it remains unclear what the problem exactly is and how the decline in audience numbers is related to the ways in which audiences participate (or don’t participate) in classical concerts. The aim of my project is, through ethnographic fieldwork, to figure out how the meanings given to symphonic music are related to participation in the everyday practices of orchestras.

In this research, I will empirically investigate how participation varies across actors and activities in symphonic practices, how the materiality of these practices shapes the possibilities for participation, and what meanings and values are given to symphonic music in practice. By means of participant observations and qualitative interviews, I will map the interrelations between orchestras and their audiences in the daily practices of symphonic orchestras in the Netherlands. In researching these practices, I draw upon both science and technology studies and cultural studies to develop a focus on the socio-material contexts of symphonic music as well as the aesthetic experiences that are central to them.

This PhD research is part of the NWO/SIA-funded project ‘Artful Participation: Doing Artistic Research with Symphonic Music Audiences’ led by Peter Peters (Maastricht University) and Ruth Benschop (Hogeschool Zuyd) in collaboration with the South Netherlands Philharmonic (project number: 314-99-204).


Spronck, V. & Petzold, D. (forthcoming 2017). For the Sake of Experiencing: Technological Mediation between Installation Artworks and their Visitors. Kunstlicht, 38(3-4).

Spronck, V. (2017). Testing the Parameters of Music: The Halberstadt Performance of John Cage’s ORGAN2/ASLSP as Experimental System. Junctions: Graduate Journal of the Humanities, 2(1), 37-52.

Spronck, V. & Ploegman, H. (eds.). (2015). Betwixt & Between: The Artist’s Book and Materiality. Kunstlicht, 36(1-2).
Spronck, V. (2014). “Let sounds just be themselves”, Timbres, 8(autumn), 30-35.


Image credit: Photo by Jean Pierre Geussens (2016), Spicy Classics concert of Philharmonie Zuid-Nederland