Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Research Network (IPN)

Associated Fellows

Dr. Luis Velasco-Pufleau

Political Ontologies of Music: Rethinking the Relationship between Music and Politics in the XXth and XXIst Centuries

Postal Address
Universität Bern
Phil.-hist. Fakultät
Walter Benjamin Kolleg
CH-3012 Bern

Luis Velasco-Pufleau

SNSF Spark project 

In recent years, the study of the political dimension of music of the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries has been a topic of increasing importance in musicology and ethnomusicology. However, within analyses of the relationship between music and politics, no comprehensive approach has been developed for the inclusion of composers’ ethical concerns and ontological assumptions as part of their political thought. This has resulted in a concentration of research on composers with clearly defined political activism and on their relationship with state institutions or political organisations. This research project aims to fill this gap, examining with a new perspective the intersection between the ontological assumptions of fifteen composers from the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries, their political thought and ethical concerns within their compositional practices and musical works. Ontological assumptions are defined here as personal or collective assertions about the nature and means of music, which reveal our values and beliefs on what music is as well as what music can do or accomplish. This research argues that integrating composers’ ontological assumptions in the exploration of their political or ethical commitments makes possible the study of a broader range of composers and their views about, for example, social justice and environmental issues. The first objective of this research is to understand how composers’ ontological assumptions shape the political possibilities of their music within a specific symbolic order; how musical works and practices can invent new ways of making sense of the common world. The first hypothesis put forward in this research argues that composers’ ontological assumptions structure the initial possibilities of musical works and practices to provoke ruptures in the political order and create new forms of collective enunciation. The second objective is to examine how composers embedded their music in singular processes within ethical concerns, such as human rights and equality, common good and social justice. The second hypothesis explored is that political possibilities of music result from both composers’ ontological assumptions and the engagement of musical works in particular ethical situations. The significance of this research project lies in providing an unconventional and comprehensive approach to exploring the relationship between music and politics through the plurality of composers’ ontological assumptions and ethical concerns. It will be the first time that this issue has been explored within such a broad sample of composers of the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries. This project aims to have a high scientific and social impact, allowing new research avenues and comparative approaches on the relationship between music and political orders, and advancing our understanding on how composers engage themselves critically with the major current challenges facing our societies.

Research blog Music, sound and conflict

Dr. Luis Velasco-Pufleau
SNFS Spark project "Political Ontologies of Music"
Walter Benjamin Kolleg / Institute of Musicology, University of Bern
Editor Transposition. Musique et sciences sociales
Research blog Music, sound and conflict / @music_conflict