Internship Project

Second World Music: Latin America, East Germany, and the Sonic Circuitry of Socialism

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,
Institute for Musicology and Media Studies
Subject Area
Music, Musicology, Dance studies, Cold War history
06 May - 26 July

Internship Modality:
On-site internship in Berlin

The application is closed, and all positions have been filled.
Applications for 2025 will open in October 2024.
Project Supervisor(s)
Dr. Sydney Hutchinson
Academic Level
Advanced undergraduate students (from second year) 
Master's students 
Ph.D. students 
English; German and/or Spanish may be useful.
Project Type
Academic Research
Project Content
While "world music" became an important musical category and commodity in the Western world in the 1980s, an incipient world music practice had already begun to take shape in the Eastern Bloc, one with very different ideologies and forms of circulation. This project looks at the globally-oriented Festival des politischen Liedes, held in Berlin from 1970 onwards, as well as East German radio programming, artistic and scholarly exchanges, and social dancing to show how cultural and musical interchange connected diverse peoples around the socialist world, transformed musical sounds and practices and created new forms of socialist solidarity and cosmopolitan cultural formations. Drawing upon primary sources, including audio recordings, film, concert and festival ephemera, transatlantic oral history interviews, and policy documents, the project focuses on one particular trajectory of musical and choreographic exchange – the one which linked the GDR and Cuba, East Germany's most important partner in the Western hemisphere – while also touching on the influences of other Latin American musical socialisms in both Germanys. After 1989, sounds of what was then termed the "Second World"– musics transformed by socialist governments and their international exchanges - entered the Western world music market, some with great success. Yet, to date, Second World practices of international musical exchange have been left out of world music scholarship, leading to impoverished understandings of the world music phenomenon and the Cold War soundscapes, relationships, and imaginaries that form the socialist sonic circuitry. This project aims to correct the blind spot by providing a concrete example of how the Second World created and presented itself to the world as an international political/artistic movement and of its wide-ranging and highly influential cultural flows. 

The project's methodology combines archival research, oral history, and experimental methods. Aside from the catalogued collections at locations like the German Broadcasting Archive (Potsdam), Academy of the Arts (Berlin), German Music Archive (Leipzig), and Dance Archive (Leipzig), the project makes use of uncatalogued and, in part, previously unknown archival materials. These include 3000 reel-to-reel tapes containing Latin American music played on East German radio and held by the Ethnological Museum, the documents of the socialist-era Research Center for Popular Music at Humboldt University, and recordings and paperwork in possession of the German Broadcasting Archive in Potsdam. Interns will be able to assist Dr. Hutchinson in her work with these unique materials. 

Tasks for Interns
Depending on the timeframe and the intern's skills, tasks may include:
  • Entering data in a spreadsheet of reel-to-reel tapes from East German radio 
  • Assisting with digitization of materials (scanning documentation, digitizing recordings)
  • Assistance with tabulating data on these materials, creating statistical reports, importing data to MAXQDA, or entering bibliographic information into a citation program
  • Updating and expanding project website, promoting project on social media
  • Collecting data in libraries and archives by scanning or photographing research materials
  • Assistance with conducting field observations and interviews
  • Experimenting with research materials by playing musical scores or performing choreographies

Academic Level
Advanced undergraduate students (from second year) 
Master's students 
Ph.D. students 
Familiarity with Excel and Word is essential. Also desired: any prior experience with cataloguing, digitization, web design, MAXQDA, bibliographic citation programs, and musical and/or dance performance.
Expected Preparation
Familiarizing oneself with project materials (including the website and associated playlists), and conversation with project leader.
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For more information on the Humboldt Internship Program or the project, please contact the program coordinator.