The Defiant Requiem—scheduled at UNC on April 20, 2017—commemorates performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem (the Catholic mass of the dead) by Jewish prisoners in Theresienstadt for other inmates as well as for their Nazi captors between 1942 and 1944. This production is constructed as a reenactment of a historical event, contextualized by additional readings of documents from the concentration camp and given an interpretative gloss by way of other sonic and visual elements. As such, it raises important issues about how commemoration, performance, and reenactment intersect with ideological frameworks and identity politics.

At the heart of this project lies the question: What is it to perform commemoration? Many musicologists and ethnomusicologists over the past few decades have attended to the performative dimension of commemorative activity—through such critical lenses as national and transnational cultures, the transfer of social memory, and the relation between individual and collective expression in music. In this conference, we ask what it is to think of commemoration as a performed mode of remembrance, and how the commemorative mode serves the ends of socialization and public power. We convene a conference to discuss the role of music in the performance of commemoration, in order to understand how diverse states, governments, organizations, communities, and individuals across the globe deploy the specter of trauma for public, private, or political ends. By so doing, we aim to trace out theoretical territory for performance in the study of memory, reenactment, and commemoration.