Six Seminars on Music and Marxism (2017-2018)

This year the German Philosophy Seminar will be co-convened by Johan Siebers, Director of the Ernst Bloch Centre for German Thought, and Jeremy Coleman, who is at the Centre as a Visiting Fellow this year. Jeremy lectures in the Music Department at the University of Aberdeen. He read Music at Clare College, Cambridge, and received a PhD in Musicology from King’s College London for his thesis Wagner in Paris, supervised by Michael Fend and John Deathridge (2016). His various research interests centre on social and materialist approaches to 19th-century music history, and as part of his Fellowship at the Bloch Centre he is working on a re-evaluation of music history in relation to historical materialism. The German Philosophy Seminar will be followed by a symposium on this theme in 2018.

Seminar Series Outline

The seminar series explores critical encounters between music history and historical materialism in an interdisciplinary way. As such, it asks what musicology could still learn from the central insights of Marx and Marxism and to what extent music and historical materialism can even be ‘thought together’. The focus will be on Western music history of the 19th and 20th centuries with respect to its complex relations to industrial capitalism, bourgeois liberalism and modernity. Ernst Bloch said that music is the utopian art form par excellence; by considering what may be called the allegorical dream-images of Marxist criticism, the series aims to suggest and explore a latent tradition of radical music criticism as it were ‘from the ground up’ via a reading of theoretical and philosophical texts in new, sometimes provocative juxtaposition with music history sources and secondary musicological literature. This may allow us to re-evaluate the social and material significance of the music of the past and to explore new, vigorous approaches to music criticism and philosophy of music today. Each seminar will discuss at least two texts, usually one philosophy/theory and the other musicology. The themes, texts, musicological and philosophical debates will be introduced briefly, after which the focus of the seminars will be on discussion. Reading in the original German (where applicable) is encouraged; however, English translations will also be provided and knowledge of German is not required to participate fruitfully in the seminars.

There will be six seminars over two semesters. Seminars will take place in the Senate House on the following dates and times:

Friday, 20 October 2017, 17:00-19:00 (Room 243)
Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 16:00-18:00 (Room 234)
Wednesday, 13 December 2017, 16:00-18:00 (Room 234)
Monday, 5 February 2018, 16:00-18:00 (Room 234)
Monday, 5 March 2018, 16:00-18:00 (Room 234)
Monday, 9 April 2018, 16:00-18:00 (Room 234)

'Natural History' and Music History

Friday, 20 October 2017

Reading (where not indicated exact page numbers will be confirmed at the start of the series)

Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Schubert’, Moments musicaux (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1964), 18-36
- English translation: ‘Schubert (1928)’, translated [with introduction] by Jonathan Dunsby and Beate Perry, 19th-Century Music 29/1 (Summer, 2005), 3-14

Bob Hullot-Kentor, ‘Introduction to Theodor W. Adorno’s “Idea of Natural History”’, Telos 60 (Summer, 1984), 97-124

Eduard Hanslick, chapter 3, Vom Musikalisch-Schönen: ein Beitrag zur Revision der Ästhetik in der Tonkunst, Part 1 [first publ. 1854], ed. Dietmar Strauß (Mainz: Schott, 1990)
- English translation: ‘The Musically Beautiful’, On the Musically   Beautiful, ed. and trans. Geoffrey Payzant (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1986),   28-44.


Franz Schubert, ‘Fantasie’ in F Minor for Piano (Four Hands), D. 940

Hector Berlioz, ‘Scherzo. La Reine Mab’, Roméo et Juliette, symphonie dramatique Op.17


Form and Production in Bloch's Philosophy of Music

Wednesday, 15 November 2017


Ernst Bloch, excerpt from ‘Philosophie der Musik’, Geist der Utopie, 2nd version [1923], Ernst Bloch Gesamtausgabe Vol. 3 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1964), 49-124
- English translation: ‘The Philosophy of Music’, Spirit of Utopia, trans. Anthony A. Nassar (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2000), 34-94.

Benjamin Korstvedt, chapter (TBC) from Listening for Utopia in Ernst Bloch’s Musical Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Christopher Norris, ‘Utopian Deconstruction: Ernst Bloch, Paul de Man, and the Politics of Music’, Music and the Politics of Culture, ed. Christopher Norris (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1989), 305-47


Anton Bruckner, Symphony No. 3 in D Minor, 1st movement


Commodity Production and Musical Idealism

Wednesday, 13 December 2017


Karl Marx, excerpt from chapter 1 ‘Der Fetischcharakter der Waare und sein Geheimniß’, Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Vol. 1 (1867; 1890), available online e.g.

Excerpt from chapter 1 ‘The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret’, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes (Pelican Books and NLR, 1976; rpt. Penguin, 1990), 163-77.

Berlioz, ‘Sixteenth Evening (Paganini)’, from Evenings in the Orchestra, trans. C.R. Fortescue (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), 164-70

Guy Debord, Chapter 5 ‘Time and History’, Society of the Spectacle, trans. Ken Knabb (London: Rebel Press, [2004]), 72-85. No copyright


Franz Liszt, selected transcriptions for solo piano


Wagner among the Left Hegelians

Monday, 5 February 2018


Ludwig Feuerbach, excerpts (TBC) from Grundsätze der Philosophie der Zukunft (1843)

Wagner, excerpt (TBC) from Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (1849)


Wagner, scene from Das Rheingold


Historical Materialism and Models of Criticism

Monday, 5 March 2018


Marx, ‘Introduction to a Critique of Political Economy’ (written 1857), trans. C.J. Arthur, in Marx and Engels, The German Ideology et al. (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1970, rpt.), 124-51

Terry Eagleton, chapter 3 ‘Towards a Science of the Text’, from Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory (London: New Left Books, 1976, republ. Verso, 2006), 64-101

Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, ed., chapter (TBC) from Music and Marx: Ideas, Practice, Politics (New York and London: Routledge, 2002)


Musical Reproduction in Modernity

Monday, 9 April 2018


Adorno, excerpt from ‘Entwurf’, Zu einer Theorie der musikalischen Reproduktion: Aufzeichnungen, ein Entwurf und zwei Schemata (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2001)
- English translation: Adorno, excerpt from ‘Draft’, Towards a Theory of Musical Reproduction: Notes, a Draft and Two Schemata, ed. Henri Lonitz, trans. Wieland Hoban (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006), 195-249

Walter Benjamin, excerpts (TBC) from ‘Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit’ [English translation: ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’, trans. Harry Zohn, in Illuminations]

Michael Chanan, excerpt (TBC) from Repeated Takes: A Short History of Recording and Its Effect on Music (London: Verso, 1995)


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