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Faculty of Music


Dániel Péter Biró

Title: On Sounding Philosophy

In 2017, I began a Guggenheim Fellowship project, working on a series of works based on philosophical texts by Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). The ongoing Ethica composition cycle has explored Spinoza’s philosophy of the mind while simultaneously considering the historical dilemma of a 17th century Jewish immigrant in the Netherlands from the perspective of modern-day globalized existence. Following this historical trajectory, the composition cycle integrates phonetic aspects of Spinoza’s text with melodic material derived from Portuguese plainchant from the time of the Jewish expulsion and Torah trope from the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. Integrating elements of these chant traditions from Dutch immigrant communities of the past and present into the composition cycle, I explore the continuing relevancy and complexity of Spinoza's Enlightenment project. While Spinoza dealt with problems of persecution, immigration, assimilation and tradition in a society dominated by Calvinist thought, these very issues become creatively engaged in the Ethica composition cycle, as the work integrates, via musical material and form, Jewish concepts of nature and the divine with Spinoza’s philosophy of the mind. Spinoza’s concept that intuition, rationality and a larger concept of mind – connecting to nature and the divine – can also be perceived in recent attempts to define intellect and its relationship to the physical world. Such correlations connect to recent theories of emergence in physics, as examined by philosopher Grit Schwarzkopf. Integrating historical and contemporary theories of spirit and mind, the composition cycle not only responds to these theories but also transports historical realities of sound into new contemporary artistic frameworks. In this talk, I will discuss aspects of parametrical translation and transformation within the cycle and how these techniques respond to the philosophical text of Spinoza’s Ethics and how these techniques are currently being further developed within the Sounding Philosophy project of the Norwegian Artistic Research Program.


Dániel Péter Biró studied in Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Israel before receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2004. From 2004-2009 he was Assistant Professor and from 2009-2018 Associate Professor for Composition and Music Theory at the University of Victoria. In 2011 he was Visiting Professor, Utrecht University and in 2014-2015 Research Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. In 2017 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Dániel Péter Biró is Professor for Composition at the Grieg Academy in Bergen, Norway and directs the project Sounding Philosophy as part of the Norwegian Artistic Research Program (2021-2024). Website:


Tuesday, 30 January, 2024 - 14:00 to 16:00
Event location: 
Recital Room, Faculty of Music