Alfred Hook Lecture: Brigid Cohen - Testimony, Facticity, and Musical Truth-Telling

Thursday 10 August 2017

Recital Hall West

Level 1, Sydney Conservatorium of Music

You are invited to an Alfred Hook Lecture given by Assistant Professor Brigid Cohen (New York University)

Please RSVP here

Testimony, Facticity, and Musical Truth-Telling

The central paradox of Holocaust testimony lies in the impossibility of any full narration of genocide, because, as Primo Levi wrote, those who did “touch bottom. . . have not returned to tell about it.” Genocide operates through the systematic destruction of its witnesses. By excluding its victims from the dignity of community, citizenship, and law, it also seeks to extinguish the memory of their very existence. In Nazism, this destruction of public space and memory worked in tandem with the erection of an ideology that “denied the importance of facts in general,” as Hannah Arendt put it, setting the foundation for generations of Holocaust denialism.

Framed as an open-ended inquiry, this talk ranges across repertories and performances of works by Jewish composers and musicians in refugee flight and in the concentration camps, bringing them into dialogue with philosophical interventions that address questions of responsibility, reality, facticity, and truth-telling in the wake of genocide.

Brigid Cohen is an Assistant Professor of Music at New York University. Her research centers on twentieth-century avant-gardes, migration and diaspora, and intersections of music, the visual arts, and literature. Her book Stefan Wolpe and the Avant-Garde Diaspora (2012) won the Lewis Lockwood Award from the American Musicological Society. She is currently writing Musical Migration and the Global City: New York, 1947-1965. Her research appears in such journals as Musical Quarterly, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, and Journal of the American Musicological Society. It has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Academy in Berlin, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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