Royal Society for Music History of The Netherlands

Announcement: Belle van Zuylen Prize

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The Royal Society for Music History of the Netherlands (KVNM) announces the establishment of a new award, the Belle van Zuylen Prize. The prize will be awarded bi-annually to an outstanding artistic research thesis completed at Master’s or Bachelor’s level at higher education institutions in the Netherlands and Flanders. The new prize complements the existing annual prize for an outstanding academic Master’s thesis, the Hélène Nolthenius Prize.

This prize seeks to value and promote the interaction between music research and performance. As part of the KVNM’s commitment to honouring various research methodologies, the Belle van Zuylen Prize offers students of Dutch and Flemish Conservatories the opportunity to distinguish themselves and to be supported in their continuing artistic research endeavours.


This prize seeks to value and promote the interaction between music research and performance.

Artistic research is a broad and ever-growing field encompassing a variety of methodologies, theoretical perspectives, and topics. The KVNM invites submissions for the Belle van Zuylen Prize that explore any artistic research approach that pertains to any musics, including, but not limited to Western art music, popular music, experimental music, and traditional musics. The principal requirement is that the research project integrates a research and a performance component, in its broadest sense. The first competition will take place at the end of 2023 for theses finished in the academic years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. Submissions must include both a project description and a recording (audio or video) that demonstrate the research with its performative element. A specialist jury of three artistic researchers (selected anew for every instalment of the competition) will select a small number of students who will be invited to present their project. Based on these presentations, the jury will select the winning project. Submission guidelines will be published in due course on the website of the KVNM.

We have chosen to name this new award after Belle van Zuylen. Born in 1740 in Slot Zuylen (close to Utrecht), she lived in a period where intellectual conversation, and musical performance were continuously intermingled, especially within the space of the eighteenth-century salon. This co-existence is evident in van Zuylen’s life: her oeuvre includes novels, plays, opera libretti, songs, and chamber music. Besides maintaining an extensive correspondence with prominent writers, artists, and composers – more than 2,500 letter have survived of which many are digitally available – she admitted to spending many hours a day at her harpsichord. Her work attests to her inquiring, critical attitude, and she did not shy away from satirizing the aristocratic milieu in which she dwelled nor from joining her contemporaries in requesting more and better education for women. She famously claimed “je n’ai pas les talents subalterns”, freely translated “I do not have a talent for subservience”.