Norges musikkhøgskole Norwegian Academy of Music
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To Sing Reality

Exploring ethical implications of classical singing through phenomenological-hermeneutic, ethical and public sphere theory.

Subject Matter

The thesis takes as point of departure that human action, expression, relations are immersed in given ethical conditions we neither choose nor produce. Reality is conditioned by an ethical demand between acting subjects. The thesis explores the implications of this demand on the act of singing as an event taking place on three interrelated levels: 1) in the use of voice as constituting subject and meaning, 2) in the intersubjective relation between singer and audience established, addressed and changed by the act of singing, and 3) in the dynamics through which the singer-audience-relation occurs in the public sphere as discourse.


The research design is threefold: 1) exploring how a theoretical framework of phenomenological, hermeneutic, ethical and public sphere theory illuminates fundamental issues concerning singing, 2) gathering empirical data through action research in my own concert performances, in interviews with an attending focus group and with fellow musicians, 3) conducting qualitative analysis of the empirical data and interpreting them in light of the theoretical framework moderated throughout the explorative process.

Objective and Significance

The main objective of the thesis is the attempt to verbally articulate how singing constitutes a spatio-temporal event in which subject and meaning, ethical demand and public discourse occur. The significance of this attempt is presumed to lie in 1) the providing of fundamental reasons for performing music, 2) a transdisciplinary critique and dynamization of the relationship between ´hard´ and ´soft` science (language and music), and 3) the articulation of how singing is part of, addresses and changes socio-political reality.

Alongside his PhD project, Mathias Gillebo is an active opera and concert singer. He is also educated as a theologian.