Research projects

ONTOMUSIC provides an innovative and interdisciplinary theoretical framework to analyse the political and ethical dimensions of contemporary art music in the twenty-first century. It explores the relationship between composers’ ontological assumptions, political thought and ethical concerns. Ontological assumptions are defined as personal or collective assertions about the nature and means of music, which reveal our beliefs on what music is as well as what music can do or accomplish. ONTOMUSIC argues that integrating composers’ ontological assumptions into the exploration of their political or ethical commitments makes possible the study of a broader range of living composers and their views about ethical issues such as social justice, human rights and the environment.

How do composers make their ethical concerns audible through their compositional and performance practices? Which concepts, discourses and imaginaries do they mobilise when talking about the relationships between music, ethics and politics? How can music create new ways of making sense of the common world?

ONTOMUSIC examines composers’ ontological assumptions in relation to four key approaches to music, ethics and politics:
1. The politics of musical material: compositional techniques, musical gestures and political metaphors
2. Sound activism: musical practices and environmental concerns
3. Music and political identities: cosmopolitanism and political engagements with the past
4. Ecological approaches: sound, music technology and the politics of musical interactions

This research project is rooted in an interdisciplinary approach to music and performance practices, which seeks to bridge historical musicology, ethnomusicology, music theory and philosophy. ONTOMUSIC aims to advance our understanding of how composers engage critically with the major ethical and political challenges facing our societies.

 

Project objectives

The three main research objectives are: 1) to understand how composers’ ontological assumptions shape the political possibilities of their music within a specific symbolic and social order; 2) to examine how composers have embedded their ethical concerns in specific compositional processes, performance settings and musical works; 3) to produce new sources and record first-hand views from composers, in particular women composers, where they develop their ontological assumptions connected to their ethical and political concerns.

Forschende

Betreuung

Between grandeur and derision: the evolution of musical dramaturgy in unified Italy.

The landscape of Italian opera changed drastically over the last third of the 19th century. The political upheavals of the first decades of unified Italy had a profound impact on the cultural spheres and production systems of the peninsula. While ‘foreign’ – notably french and german language – operas increasingly permeated the repertoire, Italian composers attempted to affirm the genre’s identity by adhering to aesthetic-dramatic principles typically associated with national traditions. Comic opera played an important role in this process of affirmation. On the one hand, the rise of imported comic opera genres in the smaller theatres of unified Italy testify to the gradual transformation of Italian opera goers’ dramatic sensibilities. On the other hand, opera buffa, paradoxically considered both as a vestige of a dramaturgical national ideal and as the crumbling ruins of a historical genre, features centrally in the philosophical and moral identity discourse.

This research project aims to question the transformations of opera repertoire in a heterogeneous Italian society influenced by shifting commercial, political and ideological interests. A geographical and analytical study of opera in Italy will illuminate the major dramaturgical changes in Italian musical theatre before the advent of the Giovane Scuola. Taking into consideration the local activity of the authors and theatres, the critical debates of the vociferous press, as well as the editorial practices and commercial endeavours of the operatic world, multiple social parameters enable a historiographical reconsideration of a musical era still considered a ‘period of decadence’ in Italian opera, preyed upon by the perceived colonisation of foreign repertoire. With its transnational approach, this project aims to transcend established cultural frameworks to understand the opera repertoire of early unified Italy in its social and artistic complexity.

 

Financing and Duration

This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF). It started in September 2020 and will last for three years. 

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Betreuung

The choral life in the cities of Bern and Fribourg in the long nineteenth century

During the 19th century, a great number of music and choral societies were founded all over Europe, giving rise to a choral movement that fostered not only communal singing, but also patriotic feelings. In Switzerland, this movement involved numerous men’s choirs that had a strong liberal and patriotic character. This patriotism, however, could not be based on cultural, linguistic or ethnic unity, but called for the integration of the four cultures that make up Switzerland. With its songs and festivals, the Swiss choral movement became a crucial element in this integration process. Yet despite its significance, this movement remains largely ignored by recent scholarship. There is a lack of research on the movement as a whole and principally of specific knowledge about the choral life in different places. The cities of Bern and Fribourg for example have different languages, religions, and traditions. To what extent did their choral life differ from or resemble one another?

By answering this question, CLEFNI aims to understand how choral activities influenced the social and political life in these cities and contributed to the integration of the Swiss peoples. The objective is to better understand the historical circumstances and the specific conditions that allowed integration and multicultural understanding. CLEFNI will critically analyse sources in archives of 19th-century choral societies in terms of their musical, social, and political contexts, and of their gender dimensions. Findings will be discussed in view of existing research on the 19th-century choral movement, on musicology, and on related disciplines like sociology and history.

Website: http://clefni.unibe.ch

Finanzierung und Projektdauer

CLEFNI wird vom Programm der Europäischen Union für Forschung und Innovation „Horizont 2020“ im Rahmen der Marie-Skłodowska-Curie-Finanzhilfevereinbarung Nr. 833366 gefördert.
Die Forschung beginnt im September 2019 und dauert drei Jahre.

 

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Betreuung

Case Studies from the Bernese Alps, Brazil’s Minas Gerais, and Hong Kong’s Sai Ying Pu Quarter

The project explores different soundscapes from a global perspective to analyze their sonic dimensions, predominant influence lines (of environmental sounds, technological soundscapes, human culture, music making and performance), and the resulting human interaction with the related environment. Employing a cluster of methods ranging from ethnographic fieldwork to sound recordings, qualitative interviews, music and text analysis, the project focuses on three extreme environments: The high Alpine region of the Bernese Oberland, the remote rural areas of Brazil's northern Minas Gerais, and Sai Ying Pun, a highly dense urban zone of Hong Kong. The project not only encourages a critical reflection on the prevailing dichotomies of urban, rural, and natural soundscapes. By addressing issues of acoustic ecology it also intends to develop solution strategies for the contrasting interests of the different interest groups (e.g. local population, tourist groups, politics).

The project is structured along three sub-projects, researching different areas:

Financing and Duration

This project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF). It started in April 2016 and will last for three years. 

Betreuung

Forschende

Between 7 May and 9 October 1892, Vienna witnessed the International Exhibition of Music and Theatre (Internationale Musik- und Theaterwesenausstellung), an event of unprecedented relevance for cultural history and musical historiography. It was the first and only themed music and theatre exhibition within the series of International Exhibitions and World’s Fairs held since 1851. Vienna 1892 represents the crystallisation point of a modern conception of music as aesthetic object and marketing product that shaped the “musical experience” of the 20th century. In the same way that Pierre de Coubertin developed the universalised and highly politicised experience of sport founding the Olympic Games in 1896, Vienna 1892 staged classical European music as the “universal language” that has been a powerful globalised cultural tool till today. This process had a lasting influence on all aspects of the “musical experience” in terms of 1. creation / production, 2. perception / consumption, and 3. management / marketing.
Since the beginning of the digital revolution and the advent of Internet the “musical experience” model of the 20th Century is in crisis. The results of this project will contribute to better understand and analyse the extent and the repercussion of this change to current music life through a reconstruction of the previous model that has been taken for granted and therefore neglected in research.

 

Financing and Duration

This interdisciplinary project is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF). It begins in May 2015 and lasts for three years.

Principal Investigators

Researchers

Collaborators

Klanglichkeit als intermediale Kategorie höfischer Festrituale in interkultureller Perspektive im 15.-17. Jahrhundert

Ob am osmanischen Hof oder den burgundisch-habsburgischen Residenzen, musikalisch-akustische Ereignisse bildeten über Kontinente hinweg einen wesentlichen Bestandteil bei der Inszenierung höfischer Feste und Rituale. Ihre spezifische Wirkung entfalteten klangliche Momente jedoch immer in Wechselwirkung mit anderen Medien, weshalb sie im Grunde genommen nicht als losgelöste Phänomene zu verstehen sind. An diesen zentralen Punkten greift das vom Schweizer Nationalfonds geförderte Projekt an.

Ausgehend davon, dass Herrscherdynastien allerorten die Macht der Musik bewusst einsetzten, werden unterschiedliche höfische Kulturen und ihre Festlichkeiten in den Blick genommen, verglichen und nach ihrer intermedialen Organisation, Wechselwirkung und Transferprozessen gefragt. Im Zentrum stehen vor allem die Hofkulturen der Sultane des Osmanischen Reiches, der Herzöge von Burgund und der Habsburgischen Kaiser, deren komplexe klanglich-musikalischen Inszenierungsstrategien in zwei Subprojekten untersucht werden.

Anhand ausgesuchter, besonders gut dokumentierter Festlichkeiten des 15. bis 17. Jahrhunderts wird exemplarisch erforscht, in welcher Weise Musik und Klang gemeinsam mit anderen medialen Ereignissen zur Inszenierung von Festen und Ritualen genutzt wurden. Musik wird dabei nicht als losgelöster Bestandteil im Sinne der traditionellen Werkgeschichte verstanden und untersucht, sondern als integrativ wirkende Größe, die nur im Verein mit anderen Medien die gedachte Wirkung entfalten konnte, um schließlich in der gewünschten Überwältigungsstrategie zu münden. Ziel ist es, die Funktion und Organisation von Klang und Musik in zeitlicher, räumlicher, sinnlicher und emotionaler Perspektive zu erfassen und daran anknüpfend allgemeingültige Modellhaftigkeiten der klanglichen Festorganisation herauszuarbeiten.

Durch eine internationale Tagung, die noch weitere Beispiele aus monarchisch strukturierten Kulturen in und fernab des europäischen Raumes vorstellt und deren musikalisch-akustische Festorganisation im Medienverbund erörtert, soll die Perspektive nochmals geweitet, Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede zwischen Kulturen herausgearbeitet, die Gültigkeit der in den Subprojekten erarbeiteten Entwürfe diskutiert werden. 

 

Finanzierung und Projektdauer

Das Forschungsprojekt wird vom Schweizerischen Nationalfonds unterstützt. Es startete im März 2019 und ist auf eine Dauer von vier Jahren ausgelegt.

Forschende

Betreuung