Over the past century, many musicians have likened their practice to the principles of democracy. Music has been held to enact new kinds of freedom and equality for participants, and to offer a democratic symbol for other areas of social life. Despite this interest on the part of musicians, the conjunction of music and democracy has received little sustained academic attention, leaving important questions largely unexamined. How can different musical practices instantiate different ideas of democracy? What assumptions are made about democracy by ‘democratic’ musicians? Which elements of democratic musical practices are open to democratic decision-making, and which are placed beyond democratic debate? How does music contribute to the global circulation of contestable ideologies of democracy?  

This project, led by Professor Robert Adlington, undertakes a comprehensive investigation of such questions, questions that remain of very real present-day importance both to creative musicians and to organisations seeking to promote music as a tool for positive social change. In seeking to address this research gap, significant weight will be given to political theorists’ preoccupation with the contested nature of the idea of democracy, and the way in which any one model of democracy brings costs as well as benefits. Adopting this perspective brings into greater relief the shortcomings as well as the strengths of any particular musical-democratic practice, and helps to explain why sharply different opinions frequently exist over whether a given musical practice is democratic or not.

The Democracy in Music project is far reaching, involving collaborators at Oxford, Anton Bruckner Private University Linz, Sydney Conservatorium, partnerships with the Transit, Darmstadt, and Rainy Days festivals, and a series of international conferences and symposia, including the Peter Le Huray keynote lecture at the Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association. 

 

Project Leader

Prof Robert Adlington (Queen’s Anniversary Prize Chair in Contemporary Music, University of Huddersfield)

 

Project Collaborators

Prof Georgina Born (University of Oxford)
Prof Esteban Buch (L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris)
Dr Igor Contreras (University of Huddersfield)
Dr Elizabeth Dobson (University of Huddersfield)
Dr Bryn Harrison (University of Huddersfield)
David Helbich
Prof Liza Lim (University of Huddersfield/Sydney Conservatorium of Music)
Prof Barbara Lueneburg (Anton Bruckner Private University, Linz)
Prof Noriko Manabe (Temple University, Philadelphia)
Dr Toby Martin (University of Sydney)
Pieter Matthynssens (Nadar Ensemble)
Cathy Milliken
Prof James Saunders (Bath Spa University)
Fie Schouten (Lyrisch Laag)

 

Project Partner Institutions

Darmstadt International Summer Course, Germany
Rainy Days Festival, Luxembourg
Transit New Music Festival, Leuven, Belgium
De Tweede Adem, Ghent, Belgium
Kirklees Local Democracy Week

 

Publications

2020 Robert Adlington and Esteban Buch (eds), Finding Democracy in Music. Abingdon: Routledge.

2020 Robert Adlington, ‘Imagining democracy in music: lessons from the past’, in Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik, 25, 26-32 [alongside other lectures on democracy and music by Noriko Manabe, Cathy Milliken and Georgina Born].

2019 Robert Adlington, ‘Music together, music apart: on democratic communities’, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 144/1: 191-204.

 

Events

5/6 November 2020 (online): ‘Music and political democratisation in the late twentieth century’ (conference), University of Huddersfield

4 February 2020: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – ‘On the undemocratic – in music, and elsewhere’ (guest lecture)

28-29 November 2019: ‘Arts and Models of Democracy in the Post-Authoritarian Iberian Peninsula’ (conference), University of Huddersfield

20-21 June 2019: ‘Music and democracy: beyond metaphors and idealization’ (study days), University of Huddersfield

21 March 2019: Utrecht University – ‘Unequal equalities – group music-making as deliberative democracy’ (guest lecture)

4 February 2019: Guildhall School of Music and Drama – ‘Unequal equalities – group music-making as deliberative democracy’ (guest lecture)

23 November 2018: Rainy Days Festival, Luxembourg – ‘New music and the realities of democracy’ (paper for festival conference)

17 October 2018: Kirklees Local Democracy Week, Huddersfield – ‘Making Music Democratically: Equality, Difference, Participation’ (public talk, with Dr Elizabeth Dobson and Dr Toby Martin)

14-15 October 2018: Transit New Music Festival, Leuven, Belgium – ‘Democracy and composers’ and ‘Democracy and ensembles’ (two public talks), plus premiere of Bryn Harrison’s collaboratively-composed piece for De 2de Adem First Light.

13 September 2018: Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association, University of Bristol – ‘Democracy in action? Audience participation as community organising’ (Peter Le Huray keynote lecture)

22 July 2018: Finding Democracy in Music, Darmstadt International Summer Course, Darmstadt, Germany – conference organiser (with Liza Lim)

22 July 2018: Finding Democracy in Music, Darmstadt International Summer Course, Darmstadt, Germany – ‘Imagining democracy in music: lessons from the past’ (conference paper)

2 May 2018: University of Liverpool – ‘How democratic is indeterminate music?’ (guest lecture)

24 January 2018: University of York – ‘The most democratic of composers? Elliott Carter and the idea of democracy’ (guest lecture)

10 November 2017: Annual Meeting of the American Musicological Society, Rochester, New York – ‘What kind of democrat was Elliott Carter?’ (conference paper)

12 October 2017: University of Manchester – ‘The most democratic of composers? Elliott Carter and the idea of democracy’ (guest lecture)

13 September 2017: Tenth Biennial International Conference on Music since 1900, University of Surrey – ‘The most democratic of composers? Elliott Carter and the idea of democracy’ (conference paper)

4-5 September 2017: Finding Democracy in Music – a Symposium, University of Huddersfield – conference organiser

7-8 July 2017: Music and Socialism since 1917 (conference), University of Nottingham – member of programme committee and project team

1 July 2017: Performing Indeterminacy – An International Conference – ‘How democratic is indeterminate music?’ (conference paper)

7 June 2017: University of Warsaw – ‘What can democracy mean for music?’ (guest lecture)

26 October 2016: University of Cambridge – ‘What can democracy mean for music?’ (guest lecture)

5 November 2015: Musiques en démocratie : acteurs, institutions, pratiques, discours, Philharmonie de Paris – ‘Musical models of democracy’ (conference paper)

28 October 2015: University of Birmingham – ‘What can democracy mean for music?’ (guest lecture)

7 September 2015: FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD: Music and Politics (conference), Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Utrecht – ‘What can democracy mean for music?’ (keynote lecture) 

Adlington Darmstadt Journal