Imagining Democracy in Music: Lessons from the Past

Robert Adlington

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


If democracy may be understood as a set of rules and principles governing associational life, then music lends itself to ‘embodying democracy’ in a variety of ways: for instance, through the relationship of constituent elements within a compositional structure; through the relationships between individual musicians forged by a musical work or genre; through the working relationships of particular performers as they plan, rehearse and perform; through the relationships that music constructs between performers and other parties, such as the composer, audience, employer and patron; and so on. These potentialities have attracted the attention of many musicians, who have seen in music the possibility of modelling new or ideal kinds of democratic social arrangement. In this article I briefly assess a number of these attempts, drawn from diverse musical genres. I will suggest how the models of democracy thus developed inevitably entail constraints, alongside their promises of emancipation and mutual benefit.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDarmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik
EditorsMichael Rebhahn, Thomas Schaefer
PublisherSchott Music GmbH & Co
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9783795719982
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020
EventDefragmentation: Four-Day Convention on Curating Contemporary Music - Darmstadt, Germany
Duration: 17 Jul 201820 Jul 2018

Publication series

NameContributions of New Music from Darmstadt
PublisherSchott Music GmbH & Co
ISSN (Print)0418-3878


Internet address


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