John Gabriel

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.


Peer-Reviewed Articles

“There and Back Again: Zeitoper and the Transatlantic Search for a Uniquely American Opera in the 1920s.” Journal of the Society for American Music 13, no. 2 (May 2019): 195-215.

“Twentieth-Century Ideologies of Late Style in the Reception of Elliott Carter’s Music.” Elephant and Castle: Laboratorio dell’imaginario 18 (November 2018).

Other publication

“Harry Hay, the Mattachine Society, and Musicology’s Role in the early U.S. Gay Rights Movement.” Musicology Now, 20 June 2018.


“S(w)inging for Hitler: African-American Jazz Musician Herb Flemming’s Subversion of Nazi Racial Categories,” Society for Ethnomusicology, Bloomington, Indiana, November 7-10, 2019.

“China as Political Allegory in the Music Theater of Weimar Republic Germany,” International Musicological Society East Asia, Biennial Conference, Soochow University, Suzhou, China, October 18-20, 2019.

“China as Political Allegory in the Music Theater of Weimar Republic Germany,” Music Since 1900, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK, September 8-10, 2019.

“Topicality and Reportage in the Discourse of Radio Music Theater in Weimar Republic Germany,” Sonic Circulations 1900-1950: Musical Thought, Scientific Fantasies, Global Contexts, Senate House, University of London, in association with the Institute of Musical Research, London, UK, June 24-25, 2019.

“Experimental Radio Music Theater in Weimar Republic Germany: From Neue Sachlichkeit to Funk,American Musicological Society, San Antonio, Texas, November 1-4, 2018.

“From Foxtrots and Factory Labor to Proletarian Revolution: Hanns Eisler’s Kampfmusik,Machines and the Musical Imagination (1900-1950), University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada, October 5, 2018.

“East Berlin?: China as Political Allegory in the Music Theater of the Weimar Republic,” German Studies Association, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 27-30, 2018.

“Medievalism between Communism and Austrofascism in the Work of Hanns Eisler and Ernst Krenek,” Music, Medievalism, and Modernism, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK, June 27-28, 2018.

Invited Talks

Amerikanismus in America: Zeitoper across Borders of Nation, Race, and Media,” Mediating Music/Sound: Discourses, Technologies, Socialities, Department of Music, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, December 1, 2018.

“From Musical Scenery to Sonic Dramaturgy: Radio Music Theater in Weimar Republic Germany,” University of Hong Kong Music Department Research Colloquia, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, November 14, 2018.


Music in Western Culture II: Modernism and After, 1860 to Today, for undergraduate music majors and minors, Spring Semester 2019.

Job Position Offered and Accepted

Lecturer in Musicology (permanent, tenure-track equivalent), University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, starting January 2020.

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