Dr. Felix Morgenstern (University of Music and Performing Arts Graz)
Chair: Dr Joanne Cusack
Title: Intercultural Transactions: Irish Traditional Music in Germany
Abstract: This research seminar locates the experiences of German Irish traditional-music practitioners in the broader framework of modern European history. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork, it illustrates the ongoing centrality of cultural capital and acquired technical prowess in installing gatekeeping mechanisms of inclusivity in the primary performance and transmission settings of German Irish-music sessions and workshops. Morgenstern argues that, while still adapting some regulations of belonging shaped in the music’s place of origin, such arrangements ultimately serve to decouple the translocal, German community of practice from its Irish authenticating centre. The talk proceeds to interrogate such instances of anxious control as part of a larger cultural anxiety, tied to the traumatic misuses of German folk music for extreme nationalist and racist propaganda purposes during the Nazi era (1933–45). Morgenstern posits that nostalgically inflected German gazes upon Ireland have accomplished the transferral and sublimation of patriotic German sentiments onto a proximal European musical tradition. Further, unravelling distinctions between historical, anti-colonial and expansive-imperial, registers of Irish and German musical exceptionalism proves key to comprehending the political alignment of former German post-war artists with Irish rebel songs. In the current moment, such critical inquiry recalls music’s remarkable capacity to sound the nation from multiple angles.
Dr. Felix Morgenstern is an FWF-funded postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Ethnomusicology, housed at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz in Austria. His ongoing research explores the extent to which the translocal practice and reception of Irish traditional music in Germany and Austria confronts or elides the traumatic legacy of extreme nationalism in modern European history. An active practitioner of Irish traditional music on bodhrán and uilleann pipes, Morgenstern earned his BA, MA and PhD degrees in Irish-music performance and ethnomusicology from the University of Limerick. His monograph Intercultural Transactions: Irish Traditional Music, Nationalism and Nostalgia in Germany is forthcoming with Equinox Publishing.