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isaScience 2018

Participatory Approaches to Music & Democracy

The conference isaSience is part of isa, the summer academy of mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria, and offers a platform for interdisciplinary research on music and performing arts on diverse themes since 2013. From 2013 to 2017 Ursula Hemetek and Cornelia Szabó-Knotik organised the conference program.

Organisers of isaScience 2018:
Dagmar Abfalter, Marko Kölbl, Rosa Reitsamer, Fritz Trümpi

Conference date: 10–14 August, 2018
Conference venue: Hotel Marienhof, Reichenau an der Rax, Austria


Marienhof Photo: Stephan Polzer

isaScience Team (l. to r.): Fritz Trümpi, Rosa Reitsamer, Marko Kölbl, Dagmar Abfalter Photo: isaScience Team


isaScience Team 2018, Dagmar Abfalter, Marko Kölbl, Rosa Reitsamer, Fritz Trümpi with Rector Ulrike Sych, Artistic Director of isa Johannes Meissl, and Therese Kaufmann (Research Support)


Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Opening by Rector Mag.a Ulrike Sych, isaScience 2018. Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Chair: ao.Univ.-Prof.in Dr.in phil. Ursula Hemetek Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Chair: ao. Univ.-Prof. Dr.in Cornelia Szabó-Knotik Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


In discussion (l. to r.): Marko Kölbl, Deborah Wong, Ursula Hemetek Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


In discussion Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Keynote: David Hesmondhalgh Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Keynote: Marsha Siefert Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Keynote: Deborah Wong Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Panel exil.arte, ao. Univ.-Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Gerold Gruber. Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Chair: Deborah Wong Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Panelists Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Last day at Schloss Reichenau Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


Our technician Robert Hofmann Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


View from Marienhof Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


View from the Loos Haus Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch


View from the Loos Haus Photo: Ferdinand Raditsch




Report on the isaScience Conference 2018

Democratic Participation and Music


How does democratic participation in music making and listening to music take place in different societies, historical eras and cultures, as well as in times of streaming platforms? How is such participation realized – with or despite digital music production and distribution? Does new media help to develop new public spheres and forms of participation, or does digitization only reinforce old colonial, hetero-normative, as well as corporate power structures which are referred to by the terms “class, race, gender” in contemporary intersectional theory? To what extent have authoritarian forms of government used, or still use, musical means to enforce anti-democratic policies? What significance do music and dance have for the empowerment and agency of marginalized communities?

These questions outlined the subject of “Participatory Approaches to Music & Democracy” at this year’s isaScience and were not only the subject of excellent keynote lectures by David Hesmondhalgh, Marsha Siefert, and Deborah Wong, but were dealt with throughout the entire conference and in discussion. From August 10th through 14th the scientific conference connected 49 speakers and 30 other participants from more than 20 countries in the scenic countryside of Reichenau an der Rax. The conference theme was presented, critically analyzed, and discussed with great mutual appreciation by speakers from a wide range of music-related disciplines. In times of worldwide anti-democratic developments and neoliberal, geopolitical instrumentalization of democracy as well as of music, it is of crucial importance to shed light on the concept of democracy and its entanglement with participatory approaches to resources, music-related activities, as well as political empowerment.

The debated topics ranged from community-building of marginalized groups such as Asian-American women through queer-feminist reappropriation of traditional Japanese Taiko music under the current Trump administration, to neo-fascist instrumentalization of electronic “Hardbass” music in countries of the former Eastern Bloc, to postcolonial, ethnomusicological archaeological analysis of organ pipes in Peru’s Andes, to a critical reading of the elitist, non-democratic National Society of Music in Spain in the 1920s. The ensuing discussions made clear that music as social fact of making music and listening to music cannot be researched while detached from its social, political, and economic contexts.

In order to realize music and democracy in an inclusive manner in society, it is not enough to reiterate hegemonic knowledge; the isaScience 2018 lectures rather highlighted the necessity to listen to the marginalized and underprivileged communities, as well as to give voice to their heterogeneous perspectives on music-related socio-political power relations.

A controversial, but nevertheless open and respectful form of communication, essential for such a democratic and thus participatory process, manifested itself amazingly throughout the entire conference. The contributions to isaScience 2018 made a clear statement for scientific commitment on the basis of self-reflexivity, striving to promote effective social participation in music and dance, its production, consumption, and distribution.

The isaScience Team

Keynote lectures
David Hesmondhalgh,
Professor for Media, Music and Culture, University of Leeds, UK
Milena Dragičević ŠešićUNESCO Chair Cultural Policy and Management, University of Arts, Belgrade, Serbia
Marsha Siefert, Associate Professor of History, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Deborah Wong, Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of California, USA



isaScience since 2013

isaScience17: Motion - Emotion - Movement, Report, PhD-Day

isaScience16: Drama - Ritual - Cultic Acts

isaScience15: JUBILEE! Music and Cultural Memory

isaScience14:  Zeitenwenden

isaScience13: Skandal!?

How to get to the isaScience 2018?


  • by train from Vienna Central Station (Hauptbahnhof Wien): Trains serve approx. every 30 minutes the destination of Payerbach-Reichenau, travelling time is approx. 1 hour; find your train and ticket here: ÖBB Austrian Railways
  • by car: Highway S6 (arriving from Vienna on the highway A2 or from Graz on the highway A9), take the exit n°17 - Gloggnitz, direction Gloggnitz, then on B27 to Reichenau/Rax
  • by airplane arriving at Vienna International Airport: Trains run from VIE airport to Vienna Central Station or Wiener Neustadt where you have to change the train for Payerbach-Reichenau

The train station for reaching Reichenau/Rax is in Payerbach, both villages are next to each other and our shuttle busses will connect Payerbach and Reichenau!


Participation in all events of isaScience is open and free of charge. For organisational reasons, registration is obligatory. 

Should you require complimentary funding for travel and accommodation, please consider the application box included in the registration form!

Please email your completed  registration form to isascience@mdw.ac.at.


Please download the hotel list here: List of recommended hotels

Don't hestitate to contact us for any questions or further information!



Cell phone: +43 664 88790872

E-mail: isascience@mdw.ac.at