Music and sounds are standard elements of religious and political rituals and of the celebrations and representational presentations of the most diverse social groups. They can emphasise what is special about an event and strengthen feelings of community—thereby playing an important role in identity formation—and they can also be employed as vehicles for ideological messages. In the so-called “musical nation of Austria”, this all has a long historical and cultural tradition. The analysis and interpretation of music as a socio-politically relevant medium and as a mirror of societal attitudes is a research emphasis of the mdw’s Department of Musicology and Performance Studies. With an eye to Austria’s commemorative year of 2018 (marking 100 years of the Austrian Republic but also 80 years since its annexation by Nazi Germany as well as other historically significant anniversaries), the Department was entrusted by the Austrian Federal Chancellery with the project Wie klingt Österreich [What Does Austria Sound Like?] (to be conducted between December 2017 and February 2019), which deals with examples of identity construction on political occasions and at all manner of celebratory and festive events in Austria. This entails pursuing the question of how political identities are mobilised and reinforced on state days of remembrance as well as how Austria is musically presented and marketed via a specific referential system. Wie klingt Österreich researches music as an emotional management vehicle for political movements in the “musical nation of Austria”, in the process using newspaper reports, programme announcements, posters, and other media material to portray the complexity of identity and reality in the charged space between the political and musical realms.

Schubert Zentenarfeier
Procession Commemorating the 100-Year Anniversary of Schubert‘s Death, float of the Wiener Männergesangsverein [Vienna Men‘s Singing Association], Postcard
With an eye to the current commemorative year, special focuses have also been placed on 1928 and 1988 as significant dates of historical developments in the First and Second Austrian Republics. These years represented interfaces of ritualised but differing manifestations of celebratory and memorial culture. Both also stand for periods during which Austria dealt intensively with its musical identity under different premises: the establishment of the First Republic in the first case, and the beginnings of said “memorial culture” as an upshot of coming to terms with National Socialism in the second. Other pivotal moments, such as 1968 and 1995, will be added as this project progresses.

The source documents and the texts authored by the project team are stored on the platform of the mdw’s research data management system, and the documents are compiled and assessed in conformance with the standards formulated by the mdw when the platform and system were set up, thanks to which future work on contemporary music history—for example in the form of thematically structured study of the archival materials present at the Department—can be done with the desired measure of sustainability.

The outcomes of this project will be made accessible in the form of a web presentation in which the underlying scholarly work will be embedded within a graphically designed user interface that is geared to educational use. In this, the applicability of “researchguided teaching” will go beyond the field of academic training and in the process do justice to the socio-political relevance of conveying historicality.

Features by Austria’s national broadcaster ORF—as part of the Mittagsjournal radio programme on 2 May 2018 (on the occasion of the Memorial Day Against Violence and Racism in Memory of the Victims of National Socialism) and in the form of an interview (—attest to the public’s interest in such research.

An initial cooperative project with schools resulting from this educational aspiration is currently taking place together with the Bundesgymnasium, Realgymnasium, and Oberstufenrealgymnasium on Karajangasse in Vienna’s 20th district. This school’s own memorial (, as a memorial site relevant to contemporary history with a studentdesigned acoustic commentary on the topic, places this project in dialogue with the public and will also produce further findings and/or impulses relevant to the field of music-related contemporary and media history.


Project coordination: Anita Mayer-Hirzberger, Cornelia Szabó-Knotik
Project team: Chanda Vanderhart, David Scholl

Further information at

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