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Faculty of Music


Professor Robert Adlington
University of Nottingham

What can democracy mean for music?

Democracy has been an ideal for musicians throughout the
twentieth century and into the twenty-first. As democracy has become what
David Beetham has described as ‘the most general term of approval in the
political lexicon’, so have more musicians wished to identify their
practices with democratic values and processes. Less common is careful
scrutiny of what ‘democratic’ means. It often suffices to identify a
compositional style, performance practice or musical organisation as ‘more’
(or ‘less’) democratic than some other. Yet throughout history democracy
has been envisaged in differing ways. Each ‘model of democracy’ (to borrow
David Held’s term) brings with it a particular balance sheet of gains and
costs, reflecting the competing motivations and aspirations that drive the
effort to achieve ‘rule by the people’. It has even been argued (by
theorists including Chantal Mouffe and Alan Keenan) that no one model of
democracy, in aiming to balance egalitarianism with individual freedom, can
be considered ‘truly democratic’. My paper aims to bring these insights to
bear upon two contrasting examples: the music of Elliott Carter, and the
jazz-educational programme of Wynton Marsalis.

The Colloquium series is the main opportunity for members of the Faculty, researchers from other departments, and the general public to come together and hear papers on all aspects of music research, given by distinguished speakers from the UK and abroad. Colloquia are held on Wednesday afternoons in the Recital Room of the Faculty of Music, West Road. Admission is free and all are welcome. Please arrive at 4:50pm for a 5:00pm start. Papers are followed by a discussion and a drinks reception with the speaker.


Wednesday, 26 October, 2016 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
5:00pm, Recital Room, Faculty of Music