Music and Democracy: Beyond Metaphors and Idealisation

20-21 June 2019

Phipps Hall

University of Huddersfield

Democracy has been and ideal for musicians throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Musicians working in fields including modern composition, jazz, improvisation, orchestral social inclusion projects, and online networked performance have been drawn to democracy as a metaphor and ideal for legitimising their practice. How are we to understand such appeals to the concept of democracy, in the musical field? Although the concept of democracy tends spontaneously to arouse approval and adherence, consideration should be given to the great diversity of uses that have been made of it (and continue to be made nowadays), the multiplicity of forms of democracy, and the historicity of democratic systems. These complex facets of democracy became especially apparent in the political context of transition to democracy after an authoritarian regime, leading to a struggle between different ‘ideas’ of democracy. Therefore, a careful scrutiny of what ‘democratic’ means and a close analysis of the relations being produced, for whom, and why, seem necessary in each particular case.

Building upon the conference ‘Finding Democracy in Music’, held at the University of Huddersfield in September 2017, these study days aim to interrogate what Georgina Born has termed ‘the experimental and novel socialities, imagined communities and social and institutional conditions summoned into being’ by ‘democratic’ forms of music-making. What is the nature of a ‘democratic ideal’ in music (or art-making more widely)? What is achieved, politically, by rethinking the way in which music is made? When does such rethinking affect the wider domain of social relations, and when does it not? If democratic music-making can help with the wider democratisation of social life, how does it do so? When and how is ‘democratic’ music more than just a metaphor?


Thursday, 20 June

10h30-11h00 Coffee and welcome

Chair: Rachel Cowgill (University of Huddersfield)

11h00-11h45 Virginia Whealton (Texas Tech University), “Aristocratic Democracy, Capitalist Democracy, and National Identity: Finding a New Musical World Order in Post-1848 France”

11h45-12h30 Özge Derman (EHESS, Paris), “The Piano Man: An Aural Occupation”

Lunch Break

Chair: Robert Adlington (University of Huddersfield)

13h30-15h00 Keynote lecture: Esteban Buch (EHESS, Paris), “Looking (Again) for Democracy in Music”

20 min. break

Chair: Philip Thomas (University of Huddersfield)

15h20-16h05 Maurizio Farina (Independent researcher), “Enacting and Experimenting Forms of Democracy: The Example of Nuova Consonanza in the Sixties and Seventies”

16h05-16h50 Valentina Bertolani (Independent researcher), “The Rituals of Socialities: How to Analyze Musica Elettronica Viva’s Improvisations Based on Decision-making?”

10 min. break

Chair: Ben Spatz (University of Huddersfield)

17h00-17h45 Moss Freed (Universities of Hull and Huddersfield), “Between Practice and Piece: Real-time, Collaborative Composition in Large Ensembles”

17h45-18h30 Pia Palme and Christina Lessiak (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Graz), “Performing a Feminist Utopia: Music Theatre as Democratic Practice”

Friday, 21 June

Chair: Juliana M. Pistorius (University of Huddersfield)

9h00-9h45 Lena Dražić (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien), “Musical Liberation between Egalitarianism and Elitism: Helmut Lachenmann’s Aesthetic Thought”

9h45-10h30 Victoria Aschheim (Dartmouth College), “The Democratic Soundscape of David Lang’s the public domain

20 min. break

Chair: Igor Contreras Zubillaga (University of Huddersfield)

10h50-11h35 Patrick Valiquet (The University of Edinburgh), “Music Education for a Knowledge Economy: Arguments and Approaches Circa 1973”

11h35-12h00 Final discussion

To download the programme with abstracts, click HERE