John Gabriel is a musicologist who seeks to understand the role of music and sound in the cultural history of Central Europe and the United States from the fin-de-siècle to the early Cold War. His interests include the productive collisions of art and popular idioms, of old traditions and new technologies, and of competing socio-political ideologies.
As a fellow in the Society of Fellows in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong, Gabriel’s primary research project is a book on the music theater of the Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”) in Weimar Republic Germany (1919-33). The composers of the Neue Sachlichkeit sought to create a new kind of avant-garde music that was accessible, relevant, and appealing to mass audiences without sacrificing artistic quality. A central tenant of their aesthetics was to create music that was of the “now.” How exactly music theater could be of the “now,” however, was up for debate. Gabriel analyses music, stagings, and discourse to show how the aesthetics of the “now” played out, from superficial representations of the present-day on stage, to structural reflections of the jarring experience of modern life in musical form and dramaturgy. His investigation spans multiple genres of music theater, including dance and marionette theater, opera, semi-staged oratorios and cantatas, and the radio music play.
Before coming to the University of Hong Kong, Gabriel was a visiting faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He completed his Ph.D. in Historical Musicology with a secondary field in Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University in 2016.
At HKU John is affiliated to the Department of Music.