On Humiliation
On Humiliation
Nico Andreas Heller in Conversation with Keith McVeigh.

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Hugo Ball, co-founder of the Dada movement, once remarked that “every word that was spoken and sung [at Cabaret Voltaire, their club in Zurich] represented at least this one thing: that this humiliating age had not succeeded in winning [their] respect”. That was back in 1916, at the height of the first world war.

For Ball art was not an end in itself, but an opportunity for the true perception and criticism of the times we live in. The Dada movement, to him, was a direct revolt against the prevailing bourgeois aesthetic and social values of the West and against society's glorification of war and violence.

Belfast-based philosopher Keith McVeigh, who joins Nico Andreas Heller for this edition of Annotations, has developed his practice as a composer and pianist against the backdrop of the ‘troubles’, the violence and bigotry that, since the late 1960s, have served as a constant reminder of the frailty of our human condition.

Starting from Hugo Ball’s conception of a humiliating age, we will be exploring the role art in general and music in particular can play in today’s polarised world in reminding us of who we are – or rather ought to be.

Keith McVeigh left school at 16 and, after spending ten years in engineering, enrolled as a mature undergraduate student at Queens University Belfast, where, in 1996, he was awarded a PhD in philosophy. In 2003, Keith returned part-time to Queens for an MA in composition. He started performing in the late 1970s, heyday of the Belfast punk scene, and went on to play and record everything from folk, blues and metal, to serial, concrete and experimental music.

For more information about Keith McVeigh, his music and writing, please visit and subscribe to his newsletter. You can subscribe to the Annotations newsletter and podcast at

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Appears in episode

Nico Andreas Heller