Mark Evan Bonds, “Breaking Music’s Fourth Wall” | National Humanities Center
classical music performance in an auditorium


Mark Evan Bonds, “Breaking Music’s Fourth Wall”

September 28, 2022

Contemporary audiences may be familiar with the phenomenon of “breaking the fourth wall” in television, film, theater, and other forms of media. In these instances, creators and performers address the audience directly or draw attention to the conventions of a performance in a way that disrupts its immersive or continuous nature.

In this podcast, Mark Evan Bonds (NHC Fellow, 1995–96; 2021–22) examines what it means to break the fourth wall in classical music composition and performance. Exploring the way that composers like Franz Joseph Haydn used their compositions to subvert audience expectations can help us to understand the ways that styles of music appreciation have changed from the Enlightenment to the present day.

Mark Evan BondsMark Evan Bonds is the Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has taught since 1992. He holds degrees from Duke University (BA), Universität Kiel (MA), and Harvard University (PhD). A former editor-in-chief of Beethoven Forum, he has written widely on the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven and is particularly interested in the intersections of philosophy and music since the Enlightenment. His current project, Music’s Fourth Wall and the Rise of Modern Listening, examines the changing assumptions about listening since the middle of the eighteenth century, with a special focus on works that call attention to their artificiality.