Guiding Principles

Situated in the Department Music and Media at the University of Surrey, the Institute of Austrian and German Music Research (IAGMR) provides opportunities to revise, rethink, and renew understanding of musical repertoire and cultural histories that have attained largely unquestioned canonic status in music studies, as well as those that have been overlooked or suppressed.

The IAGMR recognizes that the time is ripe not only for re-evaluating this core status, scholarly routes to canonization, and the power relations that have shaped musicological thinking over a long period, but also concomitantly for redressing historical biases and omissions. ‘Austrian’ and ‘German’ musical creativity and sonic praxis reach in many directions beyond those historically pursued by music scholars operating within, for example, ‘work-centric’ intellectual frameworks, and a nationally or ethnically defined geopolitics of knowledge. The Institute thus seeks to explore resonances across genres, borders, concepts, chronologies, and their constructions; to enable new interpretations, contextualizations, and post/decolonial forms of engagement; and to deepen understanding of both ‘central’ and disregarded or forgotten musical repertoire, practices, ideas, and themes of all types and from all periods of music history, that have emanated from the fertile cultural environments of German-speaking lands, and dispersed globally through diaspora, migration, appropriation or other means. 

We actively encourage involvement from individuals or groups working beyond the perceived disciplinary frames of (Western) musicology, those working with alternative methodological approaches to investigating historical or contemporary musics in Austrian and German contexts​​​​, and those who identify as being from backgrounds that have been historically under-represented in academia. We seek to provide ​welcoming spaces for interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration with individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines, and strive to use our platform to showcase the wealth of perspectives that can be employed for investigating ​German and Austrian music​al creativity. We encourage critical historiographies of Austrian and German music and culture that consider the role and representation of people of colour (and, relatedly, the erasure from the canon of those from minority backgrounds).

Central to our philosophy is the need for an expansion of current thinking to incorporate new methodological approaches and perspectives from a variety of disciplines and contexts. By engaging with practitioners from fields such as African​a studies, gender and queer studies, migration, diaspora and postcolonial studies, psychology, politics of the mind and body, and new media studies, among others, we intend to broaden the current field of knowledge and create opportunities for new interpretations and approaches to Austrian and German music. 

Historical Scope

Expanding outwards from central historical periods of intense cultural and political turbulence stretching from the ‘Spring of Nations’, the 1848 revolutions, and the growth of empire, to world conflict, the Cold War, and German reunification, the IAGMR extends its chronological remit to encompass antiquity to the present day, recognizing also that historical boundaries are porous, sometimes artificially constructed, and multivalent.

Geographical Scope

In geopolitical terms, the IAGMR critically explores the music and culture of Germanophone peoples and lands, and their global diaspora, dissemination, reception, and scholarly (re)construction. In addition to the latter-day defined national entities of Austria and Germany, these may include earlier, (sub-)national regions with a strong — and sometimes politically troubled and controversial  —  historical association with Austria and Germany: the (pre-)federated German states, the former Prussia, Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia; borderlands or lands with at least partial German cultural identities such as Alsace, Tirol, Switzerland, Danish Holstein/Schleswig-Holstein, Silesia, and Galicia; lands formerly under the political control of the Austro-Hungarian and German Empires; and former colonial and political affiliates (Africa, South America). At the same time we fully acknowledge that the very idea and nature of what may be understood as ‘Austrian’ or ‘German’ are not necessarily fixed, but open to exploration, debate, and reformulation in pre-, post, and multi-national contexts.

Objectives, approaches, and topics

The IAGMR seeks new understandings by interrogating the widespread practice of yoking Austrian and German culture together, and by treating Germanophone musical and intellectual culture as ‘marked’ via a process of defamiliarization and recasting of notions of historical and cultural centre and periphery. In a radical but historically aware spirit of exploration, the Institute encourages scholarship that rethinks accepted canons, explores new methodologies for reconceiving such repertoire, and opens up new avenues of research in neglected areas.

Alongside close scrutiny of specific works, figures, and issues, we encourage focus on:

  • moments, areas, and concepts of transition, crossings, hybridity, bordering, exchange, dissolution, coalescence, plurality, uncertainty, ambiguity, and constructedness
  • connecting researchers from different scholarly disciplines and traditions, and bringing musicologists into productive interdisciplinary conversation with, for example, cultural historians, philosophers, media scholars, literary and critical theorists, human geographers, Austrianists, and Germanists.
  • traversing linguistic barriers, promoting research from multiple cultural contexts, and making non-English-language scholarship available to a wide global readership

The IAGMR aims to advance the scholarship of historical, cultural, and technical dimensions of music through methodologies, and/or in topic areas (and any combination thereof), such as:

(the list is not exhaustive) 

  • Aesthetics (expression, representation, meaning, significance)
  • Analysis
  • Critical and cultural theory
  • Ethics (and ideas of truth)
  • Historiography and historical constructs
  • Pedagogy
  • Performance and recordings
  • Reception history (criticism and journalism)
  • The archive (and empiricism)
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Psychology
  • Politics and society (empire, nation, region, ethnos; propaganda, suppression, liberal humanism, democracy, authoritarianism, populism, nationalism; colonialism, migration, diaspora, displacement)
  • Politics of the individual (identity, relation with technology, human rights, liberty, difference)
  • Systemic prejudice and the work of the marginalized and suppressed
  • African​a studies
  • Gender and queer studies
  • Industrialization and nature
  • Notions of Heimat
  • Other arts and media: literature, theatre, dance, visual arts, film, architecture

Activities

  • Conferences, symposia, and study days
  • Research seminars
  • Panels and roundtables
  • Themed conference sessions
  • Collaborative projects and research funding
  • Publications: book series contracted by Routledge: ‘Rethinking Austrian and German Music’ (series editors: Erik Levi and Jeremy Barham); themed journal issues, blogs, online discussion fora