The Social Formation and Cultural Variation of Musical Aesthetics

The anthropological foundations of musical aesthetics are socially and culturally constituted; historically they take consistently different form: the aesthetic relationship between receiving subjects and musical objects or processes (performances, works, media) is always bound up in social and cultural contexts. Musical-aesthetic categories are formed, mediated, handed down, and altered in the framework of cultural processes.
This research area thus examines the question of the extent to which the evident diversity of musical-cultural and socio-musical environments — the interplay of musical objects, processes, practices, and institutions — also influences variation in the musical-aesthetic formation of categories and judgments.
This work is undertaken with methods from the humanities (sociology, social/cultural anthropology, cultural studies, philology, and history) but also by drawing on the empirical methods of psychology and neuroscience.
We lay special emphasis on the development of empirical culturally and socially comparative research perspectives, hence on the systematic integration of non-European/non-Western musical forms into our empirical research. Contemporary empirical experiment-based theories of musical perception and aesthetics will here be examined in respect to their broad social and cultural scope and generalizability, and appropriate modifications made—for example by introducing experimental paradigms from psychology into the research field of musical ethnology.

Current projects

Knowledge matters – The Role of Framing Information for Music Appreciation Processes

We are familiar with them from every concert and encounter them as material included with every CD—program texts and CD booklets. They offer information about a work, its composer, or its interpretation and offer listening help. In this project we will study the influence these texts have on evaluating a concert or CD and ask how they alter perception of various aspects of music. [more]

Listening to Music as Both Experience and Evaluation in Late Seventeenth-century Urban England

In order to gain greater understanding of the phenomenon of urban music listening in seventeenth-century England, contemporary ego documents will be empirically assessed using qualitative analysis of the texts’ contents. [more]

Rhythm across cultures

This project investigates the perception and performance of musical rhythm in different cultures. It compares them in terms of their degree of cross-cultural similarity or diversity and thus will enhance an empirically founded discussion of anthropological universals and cultural diversity. [more]

Aesthetic Effects of Liturgy (WæL)

The “Aesthetic Effects of Liturgy” project (WæL) addresses the effects and shapes of aesthetic practices, performances and objects in the sociocultural framing of religious ritualization taking therefore by way of example Roman Catholic church services.[more]

"Sweet Sounds" – Verbalization / Conceptualization of Music, Sound and Aesthetic Experience

This project is focused on the form and function of language in the verbalization of the aesthetic experience of music, the qualities and characteristics manifest in that process. Using a body of texts from the field of musical aesthetics, the press, and online forums, I will explore the question of which verbal concepts, categories, and discursive factors are here effective. [more]

MyAesthetics. The Preface in Early 17th-Century Music Prints

On the surface prefaces to printed collections of music promote or explicate singing and compositional style. This project inquires into aspects of the conceptualization of the early seventeenth century solo song embedded in these texts: the verbal mediation of the genre’s (ideal) effects, and the experience and appreciation of the performance. [more]

Musical motion: the experience and aesthetics of movement in South Indian raga performance

The interconnection between music and movement can be observed in everyday life: for example, in the tendency for people to move along with music, and to use motion terms and gestures when teaching non-dance styles. [more]

Music as Instrument: European Narratives of 'Missionization Through Music' in Early Modern Latin America

This research project focuses on the narrative of ‘missionization through music’ – how did Early Modern missionaries in Latin America (1523–1767) employ European music and sounds; how did they report on their actions; and what were the consequences on European discourses and practices? [more]