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Oxford Seminar in Music Theory & Analysis | J.P.E. Harper-Scott (Royal Holloway, University of London)

January 27 @ 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm


J.P.E. Harper-Scott (Royal Holloway). Tonality and the capitalist mode of exploitation

Please note that all the spaces for the seminar have now been filled.


Tonal music is a product of human intellectual and artistic labour, dependent on the activity of ideologically interpellated human beings. It therefore imbibes and reflects the relative ideological positioning of the very many human beings who form its laws and customs, as well as its normative and exceptional expressive instances in particular musical works. It might seem trivially true to state that there exists a tight relationship between tonality and the world of late capitalism with which it is coeval. The first part of this paper therefore argues, by considering it alongside a modern analysis of class relations under capitalism, for a more precise articulation of the relation between musical tonality and the historical situation that produced it. Then, in its second part, it demonstrates through a harmonically dualist, Riemannian analysis of a chord in Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, how some music can seem to negate elements of the currently existing ideology.


J. P. E. Harper-Scott is Professor of Music History and Theory at Royal Holloway, University of London. His work so far has focused on an examination of music’s cultural, personal, and interpersonal significance in the last two centuries. It draws extensively on philosophical, cultural, and social theory and the explanatory resources of music theory. He has two monographs forthcoming in 2021–2: The Event of Music History and Return to Riemann: Tonal Function in Chromatic Music. His most recent book is Ideology in Britten’s Operas (2018). Others include The Quilting Points of Musical Modernism (2012) and Edward Elgar, Modernist (2006).

About the series:

The Oxford Seminar in Music Theory & Analysis (OSiMTA) meets two or three times a term. Its convenors are Professor Jonathan Cross and Dr Sebastian Wedler.

Our conception of theory and analysis is critical, plural and interdisciplinary. In shaping the seminars, we aim to reflect the broad range of activity taking place under the heading of theory and analysis today, as well as to challenge boundaries, embracing not only ‘conventional’ practices, histories of theory and repertoires, but also new interdisciplinary approaches that engage with cultural studies, ethnomusicology, aesthetics and philosophy, psychology, politics, performance studies, popular music studies, and so on. Speakers include distinguished local, national and international scholars.

Most seminars are open to all, including the general public. Sessions will last 90 minutes and lively discussion is encouraged. They take place on Wednesday afternoons, beginning at 16.30 (currently via Zoom).

Regular updates will appear on these pages. You can also follow OSiMTA on Twitter. For further information email Jonathan.Cross@music.ox.ac.uk or Sebastian.Wedler@music.ox.ac.uk.


January 27
4:30 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Faculty of Music
01865 (2)76133