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Musicology in the Age of Post-Truth

Musicology in the Age of Post-Truth

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  • Date 27 Oct 2020
  • Time 4.00pm - 5.30pm
  • Category Seminar

Music Research Seminar: Wolfgang Marx (University College, Dublin)

Event abstract

The term post-truth shot to fame in 2016 when Oxford Dictionaries declared it their “word of the year”. It describes a phenomenon whose perceptual and moral relativism paired with an a priori rejection of expertise represents a fundamental challenge to all academic pursuits – a challenge so serious that it needs to be addressed by musicology as much as by all other humanities, social sciences and sciences. As teachers addressing students, as administrators engaging with higher-education managers, and as public intellectuals engaging with society at large musicologists now have to address a new and amoral relativism that has arisen in part through how postmodern anti-objectivity has been perceived and is utilised by our societies.

This talk will first attempt a definition of the phenomenon of post-truth and how it affects both music and musicology before engaging with the juxtaposition of critical musicology and what many call ‘the music itself’ as a prime example of how post-truth related discourses unfold in musicology. Recent critical approaches to post-modern thinking (Maurizio Ferraris, Manifesto of New Realism, 2015) as well as to critical theory (Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique, 2015) question whether the focus that the humanities (here new/critical musicology) have placed on self-reflectivity and the subjective element of perception may have gone too far, and whether in an age of a perceived post-factual relativity it is possible (and useful) to expand the frame again beyond the “hermeneutics of suspicion”.

About Wolfgang Marx

Wolfgang Marx is Associate Professor in Musicology at University College Dublin and a member of the UCD Humanities Institute where he leads the Research Strand “Death, Burial and the Afterlife”. His main research interests are post-truth and music, the representation of death in music, György Ligeti, and the theory of musical genres. Recent publications include essays on Ligeti’s writings, Irish operatic history, the influence of cultural trauma on Ligeti’s musical style, and the Berliner Requiem by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. He is editor of the Dublin Death Studies series.


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