Music and the Crisis of Modernity

Victor Garcia Priego

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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In this dissertation I want to show how the crisis of the project of modernity – apparent in some challenges we face today such as climate change and rising inequality in developed countries – may provide a chance to redefine the ways we think about musical practice. For this purpose I develop a theoretical framework that allows us to link what is at stake with music – the often conflicting needs, hopes and even fears that articulate musical experience today at both the individual and collective level – with what is at stake with modernity. This framework is based mainly on Hannah Arendt’s phenomenology of human activities in The Human Condition and the implicit story of modernity it relies on. Arendt’s account, itself an attempt to provide an explanation to and a way out of the existential threat to the project of modernity posed by totalitarianisms, establishes crucial distinctions between labour and work, on the one side, and between work and action and speech, on the other side. By re-situating music in the broader context of human activities and the evolution of their paradigms in modernity I want to articulate a perspective from which I will discuss issues related to the distinction between the productive and non-productive aspects of musical practice; the different kinds of musical experience; the limits of the subject-object model implicit in most versions of modern aesthetics and the necessity to expand the model to include the intersubjective dimension; and the extent to which what Lydia Goehr calls the ‘work-concept’ may be a principle regulating musical practice in post-industrial society.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Bowie, Andrew, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Music
  • Modernity
  • Arendt
  • Adorno
  • Beethoven

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