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Music and Clowning in Europe, 20th-21st centuries

Anna Stoll Knecht


This research project explores the interactions between music and clowning from two perspectives: first, by investigating the uses and functions of music and sound in European clowning traditions, and second, by revisiting the notion of musical humor and introducing the category of the ‘clownesque’ – taking Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony as a case study. Clowning practices can inform modern instrumental music, I suggest, because of the cross-fertilization of ‘cultivated’ and ‘popular’ genres characteristic of this era. My musicological perspective on clowning will throw new light on this tradition; and, in turn, interpreting musical humor in the 20th century through the lens of clowning practices will emphasize the physicality of musical gestures.


clowning; music; humor; Grock; Mahler.

Full Text:



Adorno, Theodor W. 1992. Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy. Transl. Edmund Jephcott. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Bergson, Henri. 1900/2013. Le Rire. Presented by Daniel Grojnowski and Henri Scepi, edited by Paul-Antoine Miquel. Paris: Flammarion.

Davison, Jon. 2013. Clown, Readings in Theater Practice. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Goudard, Philippe. 2013. “Le Clown, Poète du Désordre”. Revue Sens-Dessous (Editions de l’Association Paroles) 11, no 1: 129-138.

Lecoq, Jacques. 1997. Le Corps Poétique: Un enseignement de la création théâtrale. Arles: Actes Sud.

De Valck, Marijke. 2005. “The Sound Gag: the use of sound for comic effect in the films of Jacques Tati”. New Review of Film and Television Studies 3, no 2: 223-35.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/gn-2021-001-stol

Copyright (©) 2021 Anna Stoll Knecht – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie

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Geography Notebooks / Quaderni di Geografia / Cahiers de Géographie / Cuadernos de Geografía
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06.12.2017 - n. 342) 
Online ISSN 2611-7207 - Print ISSN 2611-7193

Editor in Chief: Dino Gavinelli
Editorial Board: Valerio Bini (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Alice Dal Borgo (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Carla Ferrario (Università del Piemonte Orientale) - Giuseppe Gambazza (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Sara Giovansana (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) - Marco Maggioli (IULM Milano) - Giampietro Mazza (Università degli Studi di Genova) - Giovanni Messina (Università degli Studi di Messina) - Monica Morazzoni (IULM Milano) - Marcello Tanca (Università degli Studi di Cagliari) - Giacomo Zanolin (Università degli Studi di Genova) - Giovanna Giulia Zavettieri (Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata).
Scientific Committee: Matteo Bolocan Goldstein (Politecnico di Milano) - Stefano De Rubertis (Università degli Studi del Salento) - Elena Dell'Agnese (Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca) - Philippe Duhamel (Université d'Angers) - Agustin Gamir Orueta (Universidad Carlo III de Madrid) - Fiona Haslam McKenzie (University of Western Australia) - Antoine Le Blanc (Université du littoral Côte d'Opale) - Guy Mercier (Université Laval, Quebec) - Paolo Molinari (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) - Valerià Paül Carril (Universidad de Santiago de Compostela) - Ana Pejdo (Sveučilište u Zadru) - Shenzhen Tian (Liaoning Normal University) - Jorge Virchez (Laurentian University of Sudbury)

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