Fakultäten » Philosophische Fakultät » Sozialanthropologie und Empirische Kulturwissenschaft, Institut für » Populäre Kulturen » Prof. Dr. Thomas Hengartner » Hengartner

Completed research project

Title / Titel Broadcasting Swissness - Musical practices, institutional contexts, and the reception of traditional popular music: the acoustic construction of Swissness on the radio
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Summary / Zusammenfassung Broadcasting Swissness - Musikalische Praktiken, institutionelle Kontexte, und Rezeption von "Volksmusik". Zur klingenden Konstruktion von Swissness im Rundfunk

The research project investigates the construction and dissemination of "Swissness" by means of (popular) music. At the core of the research project is the "Dür collection" – a convolute of approximately 8,000 audio tapes with "Swiss popular music" collected by the musicologist Fritz Dür on behalf of Swiss Radio International (SRI) between 1957 and 1967 as a musical Swiss visiting card. The collection was taken up into the Swiss National Library in 1987. The central question of the whole project is how and under what social and institutional circumstances popular music together with the institution radio did emerge as a powerful voice in the construction of – an acoustic – Swissness.
The project is interdisciplinary and examines the acoustic dimension of popular culture from the immediate post-war period to the present from the perspectives of music studies, ethnomusicology, and cultural anthropology. The joint analytical approach of all sub-projects towards the material is based on the question of the nature of the acoustic construction of a "Stimme der Schweiz" (Voice of Switzerland) by means of its fixation on a recording medium, which of course had its own influence as a form of media, in the compilation over a longer term of an acoustic catalogue, which had a canonising function, and finally through the mediation of the audio medium of broadcast radio, which stimulated the formation of an integrated ideal of acoustic Swissness. Three closely interrelated sub-projects based at three Swiss universities explore these negotiations of "popular music" through radio: Sub-project A, based at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts/Department of Music examines the popular music scene in the 1950s and 1960s and the audio-musical side of the archived repertoire from a music studies and artistic research perspective. The anthropological sub-project B based at the University of Zurich/Institute of Popular Culture Studies examines the institutional side of the formation, dissemination and preservation of the Dür collection in its social, cultural, political and ideo-historical contexts as well as the acoustic representation of Swissness. Sub-project C based at the University of Basel/Department of Cultural Studies and European Ethnology, examines from an ethnomusicological perspective the uses that Dür collection was put to and its reception as the "Stimme der Schweiz" at home and abroad.
The Dür collection emerged under the auspices of SRI to represent the "Stimme der Schweiz". The then Director of the sound archive Fritz Dür, was mandated by the SRI to collect audio samples from the holdings of the SRG radio studios and "live recordings" from across Switzerland. The collection was used from the 1960s to the 1990s in domestic broadcasting and especially in broadcasting abroad as well as for other purposes, including the SRI Music Edition "Musica Helvetica". The collection (including both the sound and the conventional archives) is the central primary source for the whole project and thus allows for its coordinated analysis by all three sub-projects applying three different approaches. The synergies developed in "Broadcasting Swissness" emerge in the unique possibility to explore not only the sensual-audio or the socio-cultural embeddedness of a musical phenomenon alone but both musical-performative as well as institutional-political and reception-aesthetic aspects at once. The project thus contributes not only to the analysis of a hitherto unwritten chapter in the history of traditional popular music in its cooperation with the "culture industry" and a critical examination of an acoustic, institutionally forced construction of Swissness, but also takes up the challenge of a modern, multidisciplinary study of culture. The results of the project will not only be disseminated in the usual academic formats but also in non-discursive forms, among others, by means of an audio platform, the publication of musical transcriptions and via the listening stations at the Swiss National Sound Archives and by means of the inclusion of the digitalised collection in the Memoriav Online Database "Memobase". Finally, thanks to a media partnership with the SRG, the research will be made accessible in various forms to a broader public.
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Project leadership and contacts /
Projektleitung und Kontakte
Prof. Dr. Thomas Hengartner (Project Leader)
Funding source(s) /
Unterstützt durch
SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung)
Sinergia-Project und Sinergia-Follow-up-Project
In collaboration with /
In Zusammenarbeit mit
Prof. Dr. Walter Leimgruber, Universität Basel, Semnar für Kulturwissenschaft/Europäische Ethnologie Switzerland
Daniel Häusler, Hochschule für Musik, Luzern Switzerland
Duration of Project / Projektdauer Dec 2012 to Nov 2016