GOING VIRAL. Music and Emotions during Pandemics (1679–1919)

Principal Investigator: Marie Louise Herzfeld-Schild
Team members: Mark Seow (since 01/2024), 1 Postdoc (N.N.), Emma Cäcilia Schrott (since 03/2024), Aria Esmaeili Torkanbouri (since 04/2024)
Project Management Assistance: Leonie Huber
Term: 09/2022-08/2027
Funding: European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant, funded by the European Union

Project details:

Within day of Covid-19 reaching Europe in early 2020, music had emerged as one of the most prominent media for emotional engagement with the effects of lockdown, sickness and grief. Its remarkable primacy for expressing, navigating and shaping emotional pandemic experiences was quickly picked up by researchers and journalists who showed an immediate interest in finding evidence both for the role of music in past pandemics and for continuities across time. It quickly transpired, though, that they lacked established categories, shared methodologies and sufficient historical knowledge to describe and to compare the phenomenon adequately.

The study of music in pandemics, and especially of its emotional significance, is both underdeveloped and urgently needed - and has the potential to constitute a major new field of research on music, emotions and pandemics alike.

GOING VIRAL will be the first study to provide a comparative history of the imbrication of music in the emotional experiences of pandemics. Its major research aims are

  • to develop an innovative conceptualisation and methodology for studying music and emotions across history, building on the equally well-regarded approaches "musicking as social practice" and "emotions as embodied practices";
  • to generate ground-breaking historical knowledge about music's emotional dimensions in three major pandemics – the Plague, Cholera and Spanish Flu – in Vienna and beyond, beginning in the 17th century, highlighting both difference and continuity;
  • to provide a solid conceptual, methodological and historical foundation for comparative studies on music, emotions and pandemics across a vast range of disciplines.

GOING VIRAL's results will not only be applicable in related historical settings but also enable a meaningful interdisciplinary discourse with the social and natural sciences about music end emotions in pandemics, including Covid-19.

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