The Infinite Varieties of Feelings – Conductors as Producers of Musical Meaning

executed by PD Dr. Sven Oliver Müller

The Infinite Varieties of Feelings –

Conductors as Producers of Musical Meaning

Conductors have to advise the members of an orchestra by testing the technical abilities of the musician’s on the one hand and by demonstrating the cultural meaning of a composition for a wider public on the other. Therefore, conductors are interested in emotions as a cultural practice. We are now starting a new project with a focus on the conveyance of music via emotions incorporated in the work of conductors. The aim is to find out how conductors are familiar with employing feelings in order to share their visions with the musicians through emotional imagery, gestures and anecdotes. We believe that conductors especially make emotions visible and tangible through music. But what exactly are emotions from the perspective of a conductor, and where do they become vital? We are asking, for instance, how conductors translate music into emotional language during practices. It is interesting to discover the metaphors, gestures and jokes through which they manage to captivate not only the musicians, but also their audience.

Our aim is to compare highly controlled forms of behaviors with highly expressive facial gestures and body movements. It will be interesting for the impact of emotions in musical life to analyze how conductors try to model feelings during a rehearsal to produce an e.g. "ugly" sound in a certain passage in which he believed it suited the expressive meaning of the music. We hope to find out how emotionally charged art-pieces acquire meaning among musicians, entrepreneurs and audiences. We finished the first interviews with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Christian Thielemann, several others will follow soon. It is our goal to use some of these interviews as source material for our publications and try to reach a broader audience in public discussions.

Musical Education in the British Empire – Feeling Rules for the Colonies around 1900

executed by PD Dr. Sven Oliver Müller

Musical Education in the British Empire – Feeling Rules for the Colonies around 1900

The triumphal procession of European music and western aesthetic ideals since the late 19th century coincided with a growing interests of politicians, entrepreneurs and the middle-classes in foreign cultures. The elites in Britain were eager to detect the cultural and habitualized differences between the civilized rulers and the noble savages in the colonies. This very recent project of mine shall investigate how political and social elites intended to change the “pre-modern” musical culture in the colonies by establishing a “proper” western repertoire and “good” emotions among the local listeners. I will try to find out how certain emotional habits served as cultural strategies of communication, integration and domination. The mission of civilizing the colonies was by no means in direct relation to political power. But it could develop as an uneven political exchange with the imperial establishment and the British canons, habits and tastes. The proverbial “burden” of the white man was indeed a venture which featured its own soundscape. It is important to discover the aesthetic ideals and cultural practices of white, educated men that went into the making of a colonialist society.

What was the impact of the protocols of the colonial offices, articles in musical magazines, missionary’s initiatives and instructions for military bands? It will be interesting not only to analyze the rare performances of classical music, but even more the concert reports of military bands and the songs during church service. The goal is to discover how the communication about appropriate emotional tastes and habits in musical life within the British elite became the blueprints of an educational program intended to civilize  “ignorant” native people in the colonies. The talk about “good” emotions in musical life and the invention of new repertoires and tastes were a superficially humanistic but nonetheless imperial strategy. The focus lies on the concepts and values of the rulers, artists and the consumers in London, and on the ways they perceived the reception of the population in the colonies. The “emotional imperialism” around 1900 was probably less brutal but more coercive than former cultural strategies. One might ask if an embourgeoisement of imperialism, if the domestication of the exotic stood forth as a model, not only for the people in a certain colony, but for Britain itself.

Tuning Polities

executed by Dr. Sarah Zalfen

Tuning Polities

While visual and spatial strategies of political representation and display were well scrutinized in recent year’s research, their sounds remain rather inexplicit. Thisresearch project focuses on the importance of music for the consolidation of political communities, showing how these processes are associated with emotions.It examines party conferences and their role in music throughout the 20th century and throughout all parts of the political spectrum. The study questions, how joint music production and reception are becoming features of emotional communities in the political sphere. Musical elements in party rallies range from the classical concert overture over Anthems and Working Songs to Brass music and Pop Stars. In their variation and variability they reflect also the different meanings and emotions related to the music in different political contexts.

Emotions especially in musical contexts have been frequently seen as individual and strictly internal, whereas new research encourages focusing more on the collective factors of emotions. Therefore, in my approach, music is not seen as a language of emotions, but as a social and emotional practice. Through the practical engagement with each other through music, shared emotionsthat mark the belonging of the subject to a community can develop into collective emotions that are created by a group or crowd.

“Can You Feel It, Too?”: Music, Affect, and Intimacy in Contemporary Urban Electronic Dance Music Scenes

executed by Luis-Manuel Garcia

“Can You Feel It, Too?”: Music, Affect, and Intimacy in Contemporary Urban Electronic Dance Music Scenes

In 1988, as Chicago’s post-disco “house music” was just beginning to reach European audiences, Larry Heard released a track under the moniker Fingers Inc. entitled, “Can You Feel It?” (Jack Trax JTX-20, vinyl EP). This track featured a vocal performance by Robert Owens, using the declamatory style of an African-American preacher to describe house music and its corresponding dance floors as a utopia of universal belonging, mediated through the corporeal, affective experience of the music itself. Interspersed with this speech is a sample taken from a concert performance of the soul group The Jacksons, where a performer yells, “Can you feel it?” and the crowd answers in roaring, euphoric cheering. Repeatedly and through multiple channels, this house-music anthem staged a utopian fantasy of affective belonging for an emergent, international audience of listener-dancers in the late 1980s. These utopian fantasies have also been briefly but repeatedly lived out at electronic dance music (EDM) events—both in the past and in the present—where crowds of strangers come together and get on in un-strangerly ways, participating in euphoric performances of utopian togetherness that emerge through gestures of social warmth, moments of candor, and the sharing of intense musical experiences. On the dance floors of nightclubs, loft parties, and raves, partygoers engage in forms of stranger-intimacy that short-circuit conventional narratives of intimacy and transgress normal, “daylight” decorum. But how does such intense stranger-intimacy arise and endure? In what registers is it felt and articulated?

This project addresses these questions through an intertwining of: ethnographic research in the electronic dance music scenes of Paris, Chicago, and Berlin; the analysis of these scenes’ musical aesthetics; and an engagement with current scholarship on themes of affect, touch, and intimacy. This multi-sited project is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted across three cities and between the years of 2006 and 2010. By focusing on contemporary dance events, this project also brings spatiality and corporeal co-presence to the fore, reconceptualizing stranger-intimacy through relays between space, affect, and music. It engages with current research in urban studies and critical geography that theorize the connections between stranger-sociability, affect, and built environment.

Between Sense and Sensibility: Emotional Aspects of Religious Chants in the 19th Century

executed by Dr. Marie Louise Herzfeld-Schild

Between Sense and Sensibility: Emotional Aspects of Religious Chants in the 19th Century

The age-long discussions between the church authorities on the right way of plainchant singing have always been concerned with the question of how much emotionality could religion tolerate. Because music, as a “language of emotions,” touches people more directly than words, its appropriate form and content have been of greatest importance. Therefore, church music, allowed during various periods of time, can be understood as a mirror for the theoretical emotional Do’s and Don’ts of each period, while the preferences and wishes of the faithful with their particular musical-emotional religiosity often form a practical counter pole to it.

The project focuses on the emotional dimensions of church singing in the 19th century, considering both theory and practice. On the basis of the then discussions about the “true” way of plainchant singing, a new sacralization and thereby re-emotionalization of religiosity can be traced that emerged in the course of the 19th century in both Christian denominations as a backlash to the rationalism of the Enlightenment theology.

The following questions go along with the considerations: Which social, political, or theological motivations form the basis for these emotional concepts and practices? Can devotional differences be found in the musical-religious emotionality of that time? And finally: Is it possible to construe information about the understanding of music as a “language of emotions” in the 19th century from the interplay of the theological-theoretical discussions and the musical-religious practices?

Religious Scenes and Prayers in the Opera of the 19th Century. Religious Feelings in the Context of Production and Reception.

executed by Lena van der Hoven

Religious Scenes and Prayers in the Opera of the 19th Century. Religious Feelings in the Context of Production and Reception.

The use of religiosity and religion as themes on the opera stage became an aesthetic and emotional paradigm in the 19th century. While the performance of scenes set in churches on the opera stage was largely taboo before 1800, religious scenes became almost omnipresent in operas from the 1820s onwards. This stemmed from a growing social interest in negotiating religious themes outside of the church. Opera not only reflected socially established emotional practices and social and cultural interests, but was also a medium for their creation.

This project places the main analytic focus on the representation, creation and reflection of religious feelings in German opera-houses between the Viennese Congress in 1814 and the end of the cultural war in 1887. It focuses on the physical-gestural representations and musical performance of emotional-religious practices and religious feelings on the opera stage. The potential interactions between society and aesthetic discourse are analysed. As prayers represent not only a basic act of religious practice, but – similar to the opera – as well a moment of a human interpretation of the self and the world, prayer scenes are looked at separately. Another subject of interest is the process of emotional community-building in the audience. The following questions consequently arise: can a social and cultural change be described with the help of a “religious feeling“? How is "inwardness" as a feeling-topology of the 19th century shown in prayers and religious scenes? Is religiosity presented through specific gender roles, for example by attributing devoutness to women? Might the performance of a “religious feeling“ in the opera be instrumentalised to found or strengthen national communities?

Musicreception in change of societies

executed by Tim Biermann

Emotion and Musicreception as indicators of change within societies. Germany and England from the 1950s to the 1970s

The goal of the project is to analyze the relations between conservative and rebellious music culture  in Germany and Great Britain, focused on popular music of the 1950s to 1970s. The specific strategies these groups utilize to interact with and influence each other grant a new perspective upon the societies social constellations as well as their changes. Therefore, this project will analyze music's trait of giving structure to societies via emotional connections of the recipients with their music.


executed by Anabelle Spallek

The Lisztomania in the musical life of 19th century Europe. Emotions and communities in the reception of Liszt as a genius

“Lisztomania”— the enthusiasm for the piano virtuoso Franz Liszt (1811–1886) was characterized in the 19th century. From 1838 until 1847, Liszt went on his famous concert tours throughout Europe performing in different towns and locations.The former wunderkind became a well-known star: The audiences adored him as a genius and thepress reported excessively about Liszt, his performances, and the behavior of his admirers.

The interest in this project is the connection between emotions, music, and subject formation in the historical context of prerevolutionary Europe before 1848. This period—called the age of the (piano) virtuoso in music history—was also a transitional phase for music culture. Musical life was transforming into a professionalized and differentiated musical market. The former wunderkind Liszt invented the romantic piano virtuoso and the piano recital in the 1830s and 1840s.

According to the aesthetics of feeling, developed in the age of sensibility and romanticism, music was understood as an expression of inner feelings, created and conveyed by the subjectivity of the musical genius. In the concert, the audience saw emotions, embodied in Liszt’s performing style and facial expressions, heard and felt emotions listening to him playing, and observed emotions expressed in the behavior of the other listeners.Emotions are thus the key for understanding the reception of Liszt’s virtuosity. This is analyzed in three levels informed by a cultural-historical and praxeological approach: emotional epistemologies, emotional spaces, and emotional practices

Angry Communities

executed by Henning Wellmann

Angry Communities – Emotions and community-building in recent music culture

With the emergence of punk music and the punk culture in the mid-1970s a new phenomenon can be observed in modern popular music culture: publicly displayed and intensively acted out anger. The advent of punk music marks a qualitative and quantitative turn in the performative expression and the musical presentation of emotions like anger, rage or wrath. From that point on, a whole variety of musical styles evolved, which established an aesthetic field centrally organized around the performance and the extroverted acting out of dismissive, accusatory or rebellious emotions. Following this, a variety of new communities came into existence, forming new music-centered scenes, subcultures and movements, e.g. the punk, hardcore punk, grunge and parts of the heavy metal scenes. The main task of this dissertation project is to examine these processes of community-building, the decisive characteristics of the different scenes and the role emotions, especially anger, and music played for their establishment and consistency. Geographically the main focus is on Germany and the UK, allowing a comparative approach.

By focusing on the interplay of music, emotions and communities in the context of an “angry music culture” the project pursues two strategies. The first one is to theoretically conceptualize the relation of music and emotion from a historical and cultural studies point of view: how can the interplay of music and emotions be theorized, considering its historicity and its position between subjective experience and the cultural context constituting and influencing this experience? Secondly the project aims at examining and describing the manifold ways in which angry emotions are enacted, displayed, negotiated and experienced in specific music scenes, like punk, hardcore punk, grunge or heavy metal.