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Finding Democracy in Music
One-Day Conference by Robert Adlington and Liza Lim

Sun 22 July 2018, 10.00 – 16.30
Lichtenbergschule (Mensa)

Free admission.

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Finding Democracy in Music: Past Practices, Present Traumas, Possible Futures

Traditionally seen as a mechanism for the consensual negotiation of disagreement, democracy has itself become the subject of increasingly polarised debate. On the one hand, it dominates political discourse as an absolute value – a proxy for ‘the voice of the people’ – intended to provide unanswerable justification for a particular platform or policy. On the other, it is vigorously critiqued as a bulwark for hegemonic global capitalism, affording no effective means of dissent from an economic system that fosters growing inequality and exclusion. Democracy’s own fundamental conditions are being placed under unprecedented pressure: from migration and the refugee crisis, which pose profound questions about enfranchisement and citizenship; and from the polemics over real and fake news, which throw doubt on the idea of evidence as a basis for debate.

What can contemporary musical practice have to offer in response to the current traumas of democracy? Answering this question involves surveying the recent histories of attempts to think music ‘democratically’, and opening new areas of enquiry that relate very much to the present. What comprises ‘truth-telling’ in music? What are the borders of a musical ‘citizenry’, and in what ways do the actions of this citizenry affect others? What stance should music take in relation to different kinds of participatory process, with their variables regarding uniformity and differentiation, liberty and co-option, hierarchy and group intelligence? How can music-making move beyond creating models of democratic process that remain confined to the rehearsal or performance space, to contribute to new futures for democracy itself?

10:30 Welcome / Lecture 1, Robert Adlington: “Imagining democracy in music: lessons from the past”
11:00 Lecture 2, Cathy Milliken: “Are democratic processes in musical practice realistic? Successes and pitfalls from the field”
11:30 Two respondents: David Helbich, Barbara Lüneburg
11:50 General discussion

12:30 Break

13:30 Lecture 3, Noriko Manabe: “We Gon’ Be Alright? The Sounds of Street Protests in Japan and the U.S.”
14:00 Respondent: Liza Lim
14:10 General discussion

14:45 Break

15:00 Lecture 4, Georgina Born: “Imagining New Musical Democracies – Renewing Audiencing”
15:30 Short interventions and responses arising from an Open Call to all Summer Course participants, or from the previous days
16:00 General discussion and wrap

This symposium is co-produced by CeReNeM, the Centre for Research in New Music at the University of Huddersfield.


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