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 Elective Affinities
“Affinities are only interesting in so far as they effect divisions” (J. W. v. Goethe, Elective Affinities)

An Interdisciplinary Inquiry into Music, Philosophy and Aesthetics
Goetz Richter, University of Sydney/Sydney Conservatorium

The metaphor of Elective Affinities has been compellingly articulated in 1809 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in a novella with this title (Wahlverwandtschaften). The author describes processes of attraction and separation which transform human relationships and challenge the truth of its participants. Originating in 18th century chemistry (and earlier alchemy) where it describes the capacity to establish the identity and truth of physical substances through processes of combination or division it has been extended to the realms of morality and society in the early 20th century by the founding father of modern sociology, Max Weber. Weber suggests that elective affinities may not only explain social relationships but provide us with a logic of the social sciences. More recently, the American philosopher of music, Lydia Goehr has used the idea of elective affinities to describe the relationship between philosophy and music and to argue (with Adorno) that philosophy and music stand “in a mutually informing relationship”.

The concept of elective affinities thus has covered extensive ground in the search to explain natural, moral, social and intellectual essence and relationships. Its methodological characteristics are defined by attempts to expose substance through experimental arrangement or separation. Promoting affinities deliberately may advance or refute claims of ontological relativity and substantial reliability. These experimentations suggest that we can increase our knowledge of a phenomenon, of its being and appearance significantly by understanding a tendency to attract or repel a complement.

Elective Affinities is a research project at the University of Sydney's Conservatorium of Music which investigates musical, aesthetic and philosophical phenomena in their relation to different subject matters and explores the affinity between music and other disciplines.


In search of Alma Moodie

About Music (Research Talk, Kay Dreyfus):  Monday August 17 2015, 5 pm – Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium

Free Entry
Please register https://scm150817.eventbrite.com.au for catering purposes.

Prominent Australian-born violinist Alma Moodie played throughout the tumultuous years of the First World War, the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, but left no recordings and has slipped into obscurity. Kay Dreyfus reclaims Moodie’s reputation as one of the outstanding violinists of her generation and a leading exponent of the contemporary music of her day.
Kay Drefus is an Adjunct Research Fellow in the School of Historical, Philosophical and International Studies (SOPHIS) at Monash University and Dean’s Research Fellow in the School of Graduate Research, RMIT University. She holds doctorates in musicology and history and is particularly interested in everyday musical experience in Australia, especially that of women and immigrants. Her biography of Alma Moodie (Bluebeard’s Bride) was published by Lyrebird Press in 2013.

Chamber Works: Bluebeard's Bride

Goetz Richter, violin | Jeanell Carrigan, piano

Tuesday 18 August 2015 - 6:30pm Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium (Tickets: $ 20/ $10)
Australian violinist Alma Moodie (1898 – 1943) inspired many composers and compositions of the early twentieth century including Reger, Pfitzner, Max von Schillings, Erdmann, Krenek and others. Born in Mount Morgan, Queensland, Moodie lived most of her life in Germany and died under somewhat tragic circumstances in 1943 in Frankfurt. The composer Max Reger described her as the biggest talent he had ever encountered when he heard the 15-year old violinist perform Bach Solo Sonatas in 1913.
This concert features works closely associated with Moodie, her performance collaborations with performer-composers such as Hans Pfitzner and Max Reger and her longtime association with the pianist-composer Eduard Erdmann, with whom she formed – what the English critic Walter Turner described in 1934 as the “best violin piano duo I have ever heard.”

Max Reger, Suite im alten Stil, op 93
Eduard Erdmann, Solo Sonata op 12
Hans Pfitzner, Sonata for violin & piano e minor, op 21
Bookings, Details:

March 31 2015 - 6.30 pm
Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Recital Hall West.
Elective Affinity: Schubertiade- Schubert's Meditatio Mortis.

An all-Schubert program is introduced with reflections on the philosophy of music and listening by Dr. Goetz Richter who argues for a conception of Schubert’s music as a meditation on transience completing a historical definition of music itself as meditatio mortis. The works in this program variously lead our contemplation and perplexity about time and transience in life, nature and society. In the context of romantic art and thought, Schubert’s works are seen as musical narratives of contemplation on time and as reflections on listening itself.

Further details -> here

September 25 2014 - 6.30 pm Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Elective Affinity: Sounding, moving forms- Hanslick and the Consequences for Philosophy

W. A. Mozart,
Sonata Bflat major K 454
O. Schoeck, Sonata in D major op 16
J. Brahms, Sonata A major op 78

Jeanell Carrigan, piano | Goetz Richter, violin

May 6 2014 - 6.30  pm Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Elective Affinity: Inspiration, Fantasy and Madness

E. T. A Hoffmann
, Quintet for Harp and Strings
R. Schumann, Sonata a minor for Violin and Piano
J. Brahms, Sonata d minor op 108 for Violin and Piano

Alice Giles, harp | Jeanell Carrigan, piano | Goetz Richter, violin | Musicians from the Sydney Conservatorium

April 9 2014 - 5 pm Seminar Room 2174
MCSSCM Seminar Series, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
"Heidegger's Music- The Case of Heinrich Besseler"
(Goetz Richter)

Lecture Notes (Slides, pdf format)

March 27 2014 - 6.30 pm  
Elective Affinity: Musician or Philosopher? The case of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Following their first meeting in 1868, Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche embarked on an enthusiastic friendship culminating with Nietzsche’s frequent visits to Wagner in Tribschen while resident in Basle. Nietzsche, a self-taught and passionate musician saw in Wagner a capacity and charisma to transform and renew culture and determine the path of modernity. Wagner recognised in Nietzsche the intellectual and rhetorical power to further his vision and ambition for Bayreuth. Their relationship declined rapidly when Nietzsche’s philosophical intuition demanded a comprehensive articulation of the phenomenon of Wagner and a re-examination of the value of (his) music to modernity. This concert features music by Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner and the Nietzsche-friend Gustav Krug with a substantial introduction to Nietzsche and Music by the musician and philosopher Goetz Richter.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Songs: Ungewitter | Nachspiel | Staendchen | Aus der Jugendzeit | Verwelkt | Unendlich | Es winkt und neigt sich
Gustav Krug, Die Sonne sinkt
Friedrich Nietzsche, Eine Sylvesternacht
Richard Wagner, Siegfried Idyll

Michael Halliwell, baritone | Goetz Richter, violin | Jeanell Carrigan, piano |Grace Kim, violin, | Minah Choe, cello | Steven Adler, double bass| Oswaldo Junior, flute | Sarah Young, oboe | Katrina Todd, clarinet | Gillian Williams, horn | Arianne Rooney, horn | Long Nguyen, bassoon|

Introduction (pdf format)

March 13 2014 - 4 pm Reading Room, St Andrew’s College, University of Sydney Goetz Richter (violin) and Jeanell Carrigan (piano) (Sydney Conservatorium of Music), “Music as Philosophy: Beethoven’s Rhetoric of Romanticism”

Presented as part of the Conference: Nature and Culture in German Romanticism and Idealism (http://sydney.edu.au/arts/philosophy/about/ncgri_conference.shtml)

Seminar-Performances Semester 2 2012 

In Semester 2012 we present three seminar performances. Each seminar presents a scholarly exposition from a discipline outside, yet related to music. There will be a brief response extending the significance of the topic and exposing grounds for an attraction or division of this topic within music. The seminar-performance concludes with a live performance to clarify discussion in an intuitive and concrete way.

Initially, we expose a perspective under which we may consider a given subject matter and clarify how the topic may be important to it. Following this, the topic is separated from its original subject matter and approach and its affinities with music are explored- both theoretically and artistically. It is suggested that this method of combination and separation increases our insight into both realms of inquiry and exposes the understanding of the topic itself in a more profound manner.

August 30 - 6.30 pm
Recital Hall East, Sydney Conservatorium
A/Prof. Ann Elias, Sydney College of the Arts
Shostakovich, String Quartet No 8 (arr. String Orchestra)

Rich in history, aesthetic possibility, political suggestion, and metaphor, camouflage also expresses the nature of life. Strategies and acts of blending, assimilation, invisibility, disruption, mimicry, and masking proliferate today in art, society and war. Camouflage crosses boundaries of human and animal, traverses disciplines of military science, biology, anthropology and sociology. And at the intersections of discourse it provokes innovative thought and practice.

EliasDr Ann Elias gained a PhD from the University of Auckland. She is now Associate Professor of Theoretical Enquiry at Sydney College of the Arts, the University of Sydney. Since moving to Australia her research has focused on Australian art and visual culture and her publications place Australian material in the context of British and American histories. She has two specializations: camouflage, including the crossing of disciplines between art and science; and flowers, especially flowers as objects of camouflage. Her research is included in major international journals including Leonardo, and her book Camouflage Australia: art, nature, science and war was published by Sydney University Press in 2011.

October 11- 6.30 pm
Recital Hall East, Sydney Conservatorium

Myth, Music & Philosophy

Prof. Rick Benitez
Department of Philosophy and Classics & Ancient History, University of Sydney

F. Liszt (arr. C. Saint-Saens), "Orpheus"
R. Schumann, Maerchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures) op 113
Jeanell Carrigan, piano | Goetz Richter, violin | Mee Na Lojewski, 'cello |
Roger Benedict, viola | 

Music has often been associated with myth and mythmaking. But what is the relation of myth to philosophy? Aristotle said that "philosophy begins in wonder" and hence "even the myth-lover is, in a sense, a philosopher, since myths are composed of wonders". Are myths, then, the beginning of philosophy? Are they only the beginning? Professor Benitez explores the relationship between philosophy and myth through the Ancient Greek philosophers focussing on two different approaches to the distinction between appearance and reality, and the way that myth operates in each of the two approaches.


Rick Benitez is Professor in the departments of Philosophy and
Classics and Ancient History at the University of Sydney. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Plato, and is currently chief investigator for an Australian Research Council funded project on Plato's Myths.

© Goetz Richter, 2015