The Journey of Music(s): Colonial Music Practice in the Age of Enlightenment

7 September 2012, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany

Symposium as part of the 15th International Congress of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung, “Music | Musics: Structures and Processes”, 4-8 September 2012, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Germany

Call for Papers

The symposium is dedicated to a topic that to this day remains under-researched within historical musicology: the forms and effects of colonial music practice during the age of Enlightenment. The heterogeneous characteristics of colonial politics exercised by the Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch, Danish, and French allow researchers to draw conclusions regarding many aspects of their musical practices, including where they lie on the spectrum between segregation and acculturation and, in missionary contexts, accommodation of local musical traditions, syncretism, and the rites controversy. Furthermore, numerous waves of emigration led to particular types of colonization in which music played an influential part in identity formation both for the immigrants and the local communities. Slavery also presents us with another facet of colonial music practice: for instance, Portuguese America or the Northern American British and French colonies were supplied with Sub-Saharan African slaves who brought their own musical practices, which therefore must also be considered within the discussion of European colonialism.
The overall title of the congress, “Music | Musics: Structures and Processes”, can in one sense refer to intensified musical migration during the 18th century. Such migrations included several exploratory expeditions led by European scholars, natural scientists and even musicians, including Pierre Poivre, James Cook, Johann Reinhold Forster, and Gottlieb Mittelberger (the latter worked as an organ player in Providence, Pennsylvania, from 1750 to 1754). Also, the musical activities of missionary orders like the Franciscans, the Jesuits, or the Moravians were at their peak in many parts of the world. The question of musical practices becomes urgent especially, but not only, in the Jesuit contexts, where missionaries and musicians from various European countries used to work in the provinces and reducciones. It is, therefore, necessary to analyse such cultural transfers in detail and to investigate the long-term developments of hybrid musical and cultural forms.
Set against the background of the European Enlightenment, an era of fundamental changes in political, aesthetic, critical as well as musical contexts, the question arises of the extent to which these changes were reflected in heterogeneously shaped colonial forms according to music production, performance practice, and music reception. The symposium will focus on the following topics:

• The Journey of Music(s): Who and What, Why and Whereto? Tracing the global paths of musical knowledge, both theoretically and practically;
• Musical daily life in colonial and missionary contexts;
• The function and functionalisation of urban, court and religious/missionary music in the context of different types of European colonialism;
• Integrating colonial music practice into the general music history of the 18th century, especially against the background of the ideas of Enlightenment.

The conference language is English.

Abstracts should not be more than 250 words. A short biographical note should also be submitted. We especially welcome abstracts submitted by doctoral students and post-doctoral researchers.

Please send your abstract as a PDF file no later than 8 January 2012 to:

For additional information please refer to

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