Richard Parncutt (born 24 October 1957 in Melbourne) is an Australian-born academic who specializes in the psychology of music. He has been Professor of Systematic Musicology at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz in Austria since 1998. He attracted international media attention in 2012 for calling for the death penalty for various groups and individuals, notably the Pope.
Parncutt studied music and physics at the University of Melbourne, Australia and physics at the University of New England, Australia. In 1987, he was awarded a PhD in psychology, physics and music by the University of New England. He was guest researcher or postdoc with Ernst Terhardt (Munich), Johan Sundberg (Stockholm), Annabel Cohen (Halifax, Canada), Al Bregman (Montreal), and John Sloboda (Keele, England). From 1996 to 1998 he held a permanent position as Lecturer in the Department of Psychology, Keele University (England).
Parncutt's research addresses the perception of musical structure (pitch, consonance, harmony, tonality, tension, rhythm, meter, accent), the psychology of music performance (especially piano performance), and the psychological origins of tonality and of music. He has also considered musicological interdisciplinarity. Since 2008 Parncutt has directed the Centre for Systematic Musicology at the University of Graz. In 2004 he founded the series Conference in Interdisciplinary Musicology, and in 2008 he became founding academic editor of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies.
Parncutt established the antiracist series “Conference on Applied Interculturality Research” in 2010. The conference is inspired by the Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology and organized on similar lines. He has also researched the role of music in the construction of migrant identities and the integration of migrant minorities (Parncutt & Dorfer, 2011).
Views on the death penalty
In an internet text entitled "Death penalty for global warming deniers? An objective argument...a conservative conclusion" dated 25 October 2012, Parncutt, after declaring his fundamental opposition to the death penalty in all cases including mass murderers such as Anders Behring Breivik, proposed restricting the death penalty to individuals who cause more than one million deaths, and claimed that influential "global warming deniers" could fall into that category if they slow progress toward reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and thereby cause the deaths of millions of future people. The text included a link to desmogblog's controversial list of climate skeptics. Parncutt suggested that a panel of scientists should decide whether a given individual had caused more than one million deaths. Convicts should also have the chance to reprieve to life imprisonment, if they withdraw, publicly repent and commit themselves to "participate significantly and positively over a long period in programs to reduce the effects of global warming (from jail) - using much the same means that were previously used to spread the message of denial". He continued: "Please note that I am not directly suggesting that the threat of execution be carried out. I am simply presenting a logical argument" but then finished: "At the end of that process, some global warming deniers would never admit their mistake and as a result they would be executed. Perhaps that would be the only way to stop the rest of them. The death penalty would have been justified in terms of the enormous numbers of saved future lives." He then doubted his argument, saying "People will be saying that Parncutt has finally lost it" - but in the year 2050 "perhaps the Pope would even turn me into a saint".
Parncutt continued that if the death penalty were limited to individuals causing more than one million deaths it might also apply to Popes since the 1980s, whom he claimed to be responsible for millions of AIDS deaths for their failure to change the church's position on contraception in the 1980s and subsequently. The paper remained on the website of the University of Graz until 24 December 2012.
After several people listed by desmogblog cited the text in their blogs, and some of them threatened to take legal action against Parncutt and the university administration, Parncutt replaced the text by a shorter explanation and then by an unconditional retraction and apology. University officials ordered the removal of all political texts and issued a statement saying:
- The University of Graz is shocked and appalled by the article and rejects its arguments entirely. The University places considerable importance on respecting all human rights and does not accept inhuman statements. Furthermore, the University of Graz points out clearly that a personal and individual opinion which is not related to scientific work cannot be tolerated on websites of the University.
- Death to the Pope Prof faces possible job loss, Austrian Times
- Richard Parncutt: Death penalty for global warming deniers?, 25 October 2012
- Monckton Foundation: Threat of legal action against Parncutt and the university administration December 2012
- Richard Parncutt: Parncutt's apology, uni-graz.at, 27–28 December 2012
- University of Graz: Statement, uni.on, 28 December 2012
- Disziplinarverfahren gegen Grazer Professor nach Todesstrafe-Forderung, Der Standard