James Garratt


  • Professor of Music History and Aesthetics, Music

Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile


James Garratt is Head of Music and Professor of Music History and Aesthetics at the University of Manchester, where he also holds the position of University Organist. His research and teaching centre on German music, thought and culture in the long nineteenth century; aesthetic theory and the history of music aesthetics; and music, politics and political theory. His publications include three books:

Music and Politics: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Music, Culture and Social Reform in the Age of Wagner (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Palestrina and the German Romantic Imagination: Interpreting Historicism in Nineteenth-Century Music (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

James is currently completing a further book for CUP on Music, Aesthetics and Values. He is also working on a series of comparative studies of music, painting and the aesthetics of truth in the nineteenth century. Other current projects include an exploration of the relationship between music, prefiguration and causation in contemporary political theory.



  • MA  University of Oxford
  • PhD  Cardiff University
  • ARCM  Royal College of Music
  • FHEA  Higher Education Academy
  • Member, Royal Musical Association, International Musicological Society
  • Peer Review College Member, Arts and Humanities Research Council

Research interests

  • German music, thought and culture in the long 19th century
  • music, politics and political theory
  • aesthetic theory; history of aesthetics from the Enlightenment to the present, in particular social aesthetics; music and values
  • historicism, historiography, philosophies of music history
  • Wagner, Liszt and the New German School
  • Mendelssohn
  • music, religion and art-religion
  • music reception; the Palestrina, Handel and Bach revivals

Some recent and upcoming conference papers

'"Flag as Inappropriate": Music, Censorship and the Politics of Power under Neoliberalism', keynote address, Music and Censorship in the 20th and 21st Centuries, International Conference, Lucca, 10-12 February 2023.                                                       

'Christ in the Kulturkampf: Competing Truth Regimes in German Religious Art and Music of the 1870s', Chigiana Conference on Music and the Spiritual since the French Revolution, Siena, 1-3 December 2022.                                    

'Music and Radical Hope "After the Future": Prefigurative Politics in Practice and Theory', keynote address, 5th AEMC Conference on Music and Politics, Montecassiano, 25-26 June 2022.   

‘Beyond Beauty: the Aesthetics of Ugliness in German Musical and Artistic Debates of the Mid-19th Century’, Music and the Figurative Arts in the 19th Century, International Conference, Lucca, 16–18 November 2018.

‘On Messiah and Messianicity: Historical Experience and Aesthetic Agency in Handel Reception’, STIMU Symposium, Utrecht Early Music Festival, 24–26 August 2017.

‘Ein gute Wehr und Waffen’: The Functions of Organ Music in the First World War’, Music and War From the French Revolution to Word War One, International Conference, Lucca, 28–30 November 2014.

'Right-Extremist Rock and the Idea of Metapolitical Activism', Protest Music in the 20th Century, International Conference, Lucca, 15-17 November 2013.

'Handel and the Problem of Classicality: Consuming Messiah in the Global Age', Handel after Handel, International Conference, University of Tours, 18-20 October 2012.

'Our Common Culture? Musical Values, Globalization and Community', 19th Congress of the International Musicological Society, Rome, 1-7 July 2012.

'Composing Useful Histories: Music Historiography and the Practical Past', Constructing Historiography of Music: The Formation of Musicological Knowledge, Georg-August University, Göttingen, 3-5 November 2011.

'Aesthetic Pluralism in Liszt's Weimar Output', Guest Lecture, University of Vienna, 11 April 2011.

'Music, Memory and Collective Identity: Commemorative Festivals in Vormärz Germany', The Public Commemoration of the Past, CIDRA, University of Manchester, 9 February 2011.

'Between Paris and Weimar: Conflicting Currents in Liszt's Writings and Music Around 1850', Chopin and Liszt, International Conference, Lucca, 2-4 December 2010.

'Nietzsche as Music Historian', 16th Biennial Conference on 19th-Century Music, University of Southampton, 8-11 July 2010.

'Liszt and the Challenge of Social Art', Public Lecture, Cardiff University, 27 April 2010.

'"Vulgar Sociologism" and "Pseudo-Philosophical Phrase-Making": Eisler and the Social History of Music', International Conference: Hanns Eisler, IMR, University of London, 19-20 April 2010.

'German Manliness and Moral Strength: Gervinus's Handel', Purcell, Handel and Literature, IMR, University of London, 19-21 November 2009.

'Hanslick, Literary Criticism, and the Critique of the New German School', International Conference on Eduard Hanslick, University College Dublin, 24-6 June 2009.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Areas of expertise

  • M Music
  • BH Aesthetics
  • DD Germany
  • NX Arts in general
  • JC Political theory

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester


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