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Sophie Zehetmayer studied Creative Writing at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and Musicology at the University of Vienna, where she completed her master’s degree in 2020 with a thesis on musical references in current German-language philosophy of music. Since 2016 she has been working at the Department of Musicology and Performance Studies at mdw. Main research interests include philosophy of music and aesthetics (esp. from the 20th/21st century), aspects of corporeality, (inter)textuality, and translation in music, postcolonial theory and philosophy of science.

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Rhythmic Relations. Transitions of musical and social rhythm

Discourses on contemporary social configurations engage increasingly with the concept of rhythm for dealing with societal transitions and new forms of collective experience. Although the notion of rhythm underwent a far-reaching disciplinary extension already at the beginning of the 20th century, its present-day conceptual transgressions appear to function differently. Rhythm no longer constitutes a mere metaphor in social contexts, implying a fundamental rift between social and musical practices. Instead, scholars in sociology and cultural studies draw specifically on auditory concepts to articulate contemporary modes of sense-making and temporality outside of musical contexts. This PhD thesis examines how musical and social rhythms are intertwined, aiming for a theoretical reflection of the contemporary relevance of rhythm’s discursivization. The thesis proposes to conceptualize rhythm as a relational phenomenon that both articulates the specific interlinkage of elements within rhythmic processes and itself constitutes a radically situated, intermediary space, weaving together music, aesthetics and society as they mediate one another.

Focusing on discourses from the 1980s until today, this thesis draws on an interdisciplinary set of theories and combines approaches from musicology, philosophy, social and cultural theory, and affect studies. Building on poststructuralist thought that emphasizes an anti-essentialist and processual ontology, it engages especially with the work of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. The theoretical focus of this thesis is complemented by analyses of musical material, comprising mostly popular and contemporary composed music. The selection of examples is oriented towards the theme of the synthesizer, featuring both as a material reference point and as a figure of interference, transposition and oscillation of mutually constitutive elements.