Leon Botstein, born 1946 in Zürich, is the President of Bard College and Leon Levy Professor in the Arts and Humanities in Annandale on Hudson, New York. He is the music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra (ASO) and conductor laureate of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra (JSO). He is also the founder and co-Artistic Director of the Bard Music Festival. Additionally, Botstein serves as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Central European University. He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles including Freud und Wittgenstein. Sprache und menschliche Natur (2011), Quasi una Fantasia: Juden und die Musikstadt (2001) and Judentum und Modernität (1991). His latest book Von Beethoven zu Berg. Das Gedächtnis der Moderne (Zsolnay Verlag) will be published in 2013.
The nature of music as a form of life and human communication – its character in relationship to language, for example – has been the subject of philosophical speculation since the late 18th century. The career of musical culture in Europe intersected with politics notably between 1815 and 1945. This lecture is a reflection on the interplay between music and politics considered in the light of shifting theoretical accounts of the nature, meaning, and significance of music.