Graduate Student Colloquium: Bethan Winter and Michael Koenig (University of Oxford)

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Bethan's title and abstract to follow.

With a background in both music and history, Bethan Winter's research is interdisciplinary in nature, focusing on music and politics in the German Democratic Republic and, more specifically, on the appropriation of the legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach. Her work explores the ways in which the East German Bachbild overlapped with various policy concerns including the legitimisation of the new communist government, foreign policy and international relations, education, tourism, and music composition. A concurrent project for a forthcoming publication explores the soundscapes of socialism in 1950s East Berlin. Whilst completing her doctorate, Bethan currently works as a lecturer in Modern European History at Magdalen College.

The global race for the world’s largest pipe organ, and how the networks of the  Anglophone World created an outmoded musical Leviathan in Sydney, Australia (1884-90) 

During the second half of the ‘long’ nineteenth century, large and complex pipe organs  became increasingly popular as multi-sensory symbols of technological achievement.  Various nations competed for what was seen as the ultimate award, the title of “largest pipe  organ in the world.” Towards the end of the nineteenth century, this title gradually shifted from the metropoles of France and England towards newly urbanised regions, particularly in the United States, before being conferred in 1890 to the largest and most expensive musical  instrument ever built in a colonial dependency, the organ at Sydney Town Hall in pre Federation New South Wales. Whilst this instrument initially created the much-desired global attention for Sydney, it soon also provoked criticism for its retrograde technical  design and aesthetics, a criticism that still persists amongst organ historians today. By exploring the reasons behind the out-datedness of Sydney’s gargantuan pipe organ, this  paper wishes to address a substantial research gap at the intersection of music, technology  transfer and the nineteenth-century network history. More precisely, based on explanatory  concepts from David Edgerton’s global history of technology and Gary Magee and Andrew  Thompson’s study on globalisation across the Anglosphere, this paper will argue that musical  considerations and the quest for innovation mattered little for the decision-makers in  Sydney and that the world’s largest musical instrument in 1890 was primarily used to  support a non-musical agenda.

Michael Koenig is currently in his second year pursuing an inter-disciplinary doctorate in  Music and Global History at the University of Oxford, supervised by Professors Laura  Tunbridge and Andrew Thompson. Prior to coming to Oxford, Michael completed an MA in  World History and Cultures at King’s College London, a Postgraduate Diploma in  Development Studies and Comparative Cultural Studies at the School of Oriental and African  Studies in London, an MA in African Studies at Copenhagen University and MA degrees in  Organ Performance and Music Pedagogy at Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts.  He is a prize-winning Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, has over ten years of  experience as a visiting organ teacher and recitalist in sub-Saharan Africa and currently  serves as the Graduate Organist at Exeter College, Oxford.

About the series:
The Colloquia feature leading figures, as well as younger scholars, from across the world. They present their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. Graduate students Chuyu Zhang and Eugenie Dalgleish organise the series. Presentations are followed by a discussion and drinks reception. If you would like more information, please email Chuyu Zhang.