Andrea Bohlman

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2016/2017
discipline Music
Assistant Professor of Music, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Research project

Fragile Sound, Quiet History: Music and Unofficial Media in Communist Poland


Despite the recent interest in sound studies and media history across the humanities and social sciences, the powerful interface between musical culture and unofficial media in late-twentieth-century Poland has barely received scholarly attention, not least because of fragility of the materials at the heart of the story. The proposed book project "Fragile Sound, Silent History: Music and Unofficial Media in Communist Poland", is the first large-scale media history of East Central Europe and of aural culture under state socialism. It argues that the precariousness of sound media in East Central Europe has contributed to the assumption of a logocentric—too often, silent—cultural history, obscuring a vibrant network of unofficial sound production and reproduction. The planned research reframes the conventional discourse of Cold War music studies, now focused on ideological control and revolution.


It seeks a new focus upon the historiography of music in everyday life under state socialism. How did state-owned media institutions shape domestic listening experiences and expectations, what Jonathan Sterne has termed "audile techniques"? How did the economic realities of the People’s Republic of Poland influence the sound media’s material culture—the records and playback devices people used? Questions from sound studies and the cultural history of music are thus brought to this project, which combines ethnographic work with the producers and consumers of music technologies and the archival study of music’s economic and material history. The plan for the EURIAS fellowship it to complete the primary-source research for this project and start drafting the book.


"Fragile Sound, Quiet History" is structured around three case studies in historical order: (i) ethnographic reel-to-reel recordings in the 1950s, (ii) homemade 45-rpm single records in the 1960s and 70s, and (iii) cassette tapes in the 1980s. I approach each case study as a field of musical creativity and manipulation at the interface between the history of technology—including state-owned industry—and social history. The study considers diverse musical genres and many musical media. The themes of participation and accessibility—consequences of socialist ideology—unify the book and open up new research possibilities for sound studies, which has focused on Western, capitalist contexts.




Andrea Bohlman is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a historical musicologist who studies the recent past with a commitment to archival engagement, ethnomusicological methods, and music analysis, as well as oral history and sound studies. She earned her Ph.D at Harvard University. Her research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Musicological Society, and a Fulbright-Hays fellowship.


Selected publications


'Solidarity, Song, and the Sound Document', Journal of Musicology, vol. 33, no. 2, Spring 2016, pp. 232–269.


'Eisler on the Move: Situating Mobility in the Reisesonate', with F. Scheding, Music & Letters, vol. 96, no. 1, 2015, pp. 77-98.


''Where I Cannot Roam, My Song Will Take Wing': Polish Cultural Promotion in Belarus, 1988', in J.C.E. Gienow-Hecht (ed.), Music and International History, Berghahn Books, New York/Oxford, 2015, pp. 226-255.


'Doing the European Two-Step', with A. Rehding, in D. Tragaki (ed.), Singing Europe: Spectacle and Politics in the Eurovision Song Contest, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, 2013, pp. 281-297.


Hanns Eisler (1898–1962): 'In der Musik ist es anders', with P.V. Bohlman, Jüdische Miniaturen, Hentrich & Hentrich, Berlin, 2012.



junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Sociology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Environmental Biology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline Sociology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
discipline History