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Name: James Davis

PhD: Music

Thesis Title: From Eco to Barthes: The Waning Radicalism of Luciano Berio and his Music, 1958-1985

Thesis Description:

Luciano Berio was one of the leading Italian composers of the late twentieth-century. He boasted a truly international presence, despite the intellectual challenges of much of his highly varied and large musical output. This wide-ranging musical output has often been studied in a very narrow, formalistic fashion, despite its unashamedly philosophical-political nature and Berio's direct (and indirect) collaborations with figures such as Umberto Eco, Eduardo Sanguineti and Roland Barthes. Indeed, his engagements appear to reflect the movement away from the radical historical impulses of the 1960s to the conservative and restorative repressions of the 1980s. To begin to account for this lapse, this PhD will consider the philosophical-political nature of Berio's output and its relation to the intellectual and social problematic of the time. In so doing, it will not only significantly advance upon current Berio scholarship, but also refine our understanding of late twentieth-century Italian history and philosophy. 


Supervisors and Institution(s):  

Dr Ben Earle (University of Birmingham)

Dr Christopher Haworth (University of Birmingham)



Past Supervisors

Dr Arman Schwartz

Professor Robert Adlington

Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Presented a paper on Ligeti at a conference at the University of Aberdeen in October


  • Presented a paper on Luciano Berio's Epifanie at Canterbury Christchurch University in January
  • Presented a paper on Luciano Berio's Epifanie at the University of Sheffield in September
  • Research trips to Universal Editions Vienna headquarters and the Paul Sacher Foundation in Switzerland


  • Presented a paper on Thomas Adès' Arcadiana at UCL in April
  • Forthcoming papers being presented on opening music in anime (July) and Luciano Berio's Coro (in September)

Research Interests:

  • Philosophy
  • Late twentieth-century music
  • Marxism
  • Late twentieth century and twenty-first century Japanese popular culture


University email address:

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