top of page


the social and professional condition of musicians in Lisbon (1750-1985)


Much of the study of Portuguese music history of the past three centuries has been traditionally centred on biographical research on individual significant composers, as well as on analytical approaches to their works. More recently, efforts have been made to deal with wider contextual topics, such as the evolution of specific music institutions, the cultural policies of a given period affecting musical life or the music publishing output.
The study of the actual material conditions of the daily activity of professional musicians in Portugal beyond the case studies of individual careers, however, is yet to be attempted.

The major changes that occurred in Portuguese musical life from the late Ancien Régime to the end of the 20th century cannot be understood without a more precise notion of the social and professional conditions that structured Portuguese musical life during this period. Unlike previous studies, centered either on isolated individual careers or on institutions and other musical organizations, this project will focus on the community of professional practitioners who made the music themselves, as well as on the dense network of their lives and careers.

Another innovative approach is the choice of a broad chronological scope. In fact, despite the social and cultural transformations associated with changes of political regimes and other historical events and their significant impact on musical activity, some long-lasting issues are transversal to different periods. We have identified a longer time frame for the project, in a perspective of "longue durée", of almost two and a half centuries, ranging from 1750 to 1985. The starting date corresponds to the beginning of the reign of José I (1750), associated with an intense rise of the hiring of foreign musicians by Portuguese institutions, the latter to the integration of Portugal in the then EEC, and thus to the free circulation of music professionals within the unified European labour market.

For this purpose, the project will survey systematically for the first time the wealth of extant documentary sources concerning the successive professional associations of musicians active in Lisbon since the mid-eighteenth century:  the archives of the Irmandade de Santa Cecília (ISC) and of its successor, the Montepio Filarmónico (MF), and the very rich archives of the Sindicato dos Músicos (SM). The latter collection includes all documentation pertaining to the Associação de Classe dos Músicos Portugueses (ACMP), established in 1909, the Sindicato Nacional dos Músicos (SNM), the official Musicians? Union that replaced it 1933 in the framework of the extinction of free labour unions by the dictatorship, and the Sindicato dos Músicos (SM) founded after the 1974 democratic revolution.

The main outputs of this project will be a knowledge database, a "geography" of musical professions in Lisbon, articles in scientific journals, a monograph, an international conference and a documental exhibition.




Music professions; Artistic labour; Musicians' training; Associativism

Project funded by FCT (PTDC/ART-PER/32624/2017)

bottom of page