Precarious Academic Jobs

You know that something went definitely wrong when you advertise a 4-hour adjunct teaching assignment for minor subjects and get more than 20 applications from three countries, half of them from distinguished artists and scholars with PhDs or other merits. The fact that there are legions of qualified people striving for underpaid jobs at an advanced age is indicative of the system of higher education having developed to a desolate state. For university administrations as employers, it must be highly frustrating to witness their own graduates being subjected to an oversaturated academic job market—and all the more so in times of a pandemic. This system desperately needs to change.

The Myth of Being Cancelled

I am astonished at the recent trend in science and journalism to form public coalitions in favour of open debate, namely the Netzwerk Wissenschaftsfreiheit and Intellectual Deep Web Europe (aka Appell für freie Debattenräume). Regardless of the different background of these initiatives, a common stimulus seems to be that certain tendencies in the humanities, such as political correctness and perspectives from gender studies and critical race theory, are perceived as threats to the independency of teaching and research, or even to the freedom of opinion. How is it that some of the most influential figures in academia believe that their essential right to express themselves is being curtailed by illiberal ›cancel culture‹ or ›censorship‹? Do professors and renowned authors really face the risk of being silenced, stigmatised, or morally restricted? I wonder why people who are invited to talkshows or receive awards for scientific communication cannot acknowledge that they belong to one of the most privileged groups in public discourse. They better had a look at countries like Hungary or Turkey where academic and press freedom are truly endangered by oppressive governments, and then judge again if it is appropriate to keep on purporting those tearful scenarios of imaginary menace.

Perspectives on Rihm and Reimann

Some of you may remember the festschrift for Siegfried Mauser‘s 65th birthday, the publication of which conicided with the dedicatee’s criminal conviction finally becoming effective in late 2019. At present, Mauser is still on the loose and keeps evading the prison sentence with the help of his attorneys and supporters. In the meantime, the pianist Shoko Kuroe has recorded two of the musical contributions to the volume, Wolfgang Rihm‘s piano piece Solitudo and Aribert Reimann‘s Albumblatt für Sigi. In her remarkable comments on these miniatures, which can be found below the videos, Shoko Kuroe discusses the music in the psychological context of victim-perpetrator relationship associated with the dedicatee. This is noteworthy both for the performances and their superordinate perspective, and that’s why I am sharing these videos—along with my own review of the festschrift which appeared one year ago.

Abuse of Power at Music Universities

Institutionalised professional music education originates in the nineteenth century and has, in some respects, failed to move beyond the antiquated principles and authoritarian mechanisms of master-pupil instruction. Due to a long-established system of artistic and personal obedience of students toward their professors, music universities in Germany are prone to abuse of power. A recent article by the Harfenduo Laura Oetzel & Daniel Mattelé discloses some alarming cases of misconduct which, on a large scale, appear symptomatic of the entire classical music business. I contemplated over what could be done to identify and eliminate structures in music education that set the stage for abusive or intrusive behaviour of professors, and ended up with a series of measures to be taken by rectorates and university administrations:

  • Establish guidance and supervision for new faculty members and a human resources development scheme
  • Make regular trainings in music education, teaching methodology, and psychology of learning compulsory
  • Install obligatory teaching evaluations on the basis of anonymous surveys, conducted by external staff not affiliated with the university
  • Enforcement of regulatory sanctions such as disciplinary proceedings, salary cuts, or legal consequences

More questions that should be addressed when applying further measures in the course of supervision and personnel development schemes are: In what way are university administrations supposed to take action, once they have learned of cases of misconduct, in order to prevent recurrence and call the responsible persons to account for their behaviour? How can an independent point of contact be established to which affected students can reach out for counsel and help without facing negative consequences? How can students be encouraged to report experiences of abusive behaviour, and how can they meet the widespread fear that teachers might exert adverse influence on their further career?

Night Wind Paper Published

As the lovely tradition of vinyl albums and subsequent single releases would have it, an excerpt from my dissertation on Nikolai Medtner‘s piano sonatas has now been published as a separate paper in German language—coinciding with the composer’s 141th birthday. I invite you to have a look at my discussion of Medtner’s largest and structurally most enigmatic piano composition, the epic E minor Sonata, Op. 25 No. 2, which is inspired by Fyodor Tyutchev’s poem Night Wind. The article is available in open access as part of the GMTH Proceedings, a new publication series of the Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, the current issue of which summarises the contributions of a 2017 conference at Graz University of the Arts.