Compositional Aesthetics and the Political

CONFERENCE: COMPOSITIONAL AESTHETICS AND THE POLITICAL

Call for Papers / Performances

Contemporary Music Research Unit
Department of Music, Goldsmiths, University of London

20th – 22nd February 2015

The increasing growth of the field of Music and Politics has recently seen quite a few turns in Music Studies, materialized in articles, books, and journals. The natural tendency to themes such as feminism, post-colonialism, the culture industry, war, censorship, resistance, etc., have irreversibly affected thinking about music and music-making of several genres, including that of ‘contemporary classical’. However, perhaps as a reaction to traditional musicology (with its insistence on the musical work and on authorship), the study of compositional practices against contemporary political dimensions, has hitherto received less scholarly attention. In the—ostensibly distant—sixties, figures like Xenakis or Nono represented two typical examples of politicized compositional attitudes: the former’s radical abstraction was a coup against the dominance of serialism, the latter’s thematization of textuality and location constituted gestures of resistance. Their epigones still produce work that challenges traditional conceptions (including those of their progenitors); this symposium’s foremost aim is to advance such contemporary practices. One such example is the impact that (free) improvisation has had on recent composition. To the extend that improvisation is the correlative of composition (as ‘material’, listening attitude, style, etc.), this symposium aims to examine both creative practices in their political dimension—either explicit or implied. Thus, this gathering will focus primarily on practice-based research, its underlying politics, the explicit or implicit theme of the political, and how these translate into to the praxis of composition.

The following is a list of suggested themes, but these should only be taken as indicative springboards. However, please note that these will be considered against the symposium’s focus on compositional praxis.

  • Problematics of the musical work
  • Absolute music, programmatic music and claims to representation
  • Progress, tradition and originality
  • Politicising the aesthetic / aestheticising the political
  • Performance spaces
  • Composition & ecology
  • Crisis in politics & aesthetics
  • Feminism & queer theory
  • Situationism & psychogeography
  • Contemporary composition, improvisation and activism
  • The politics of notation

Proposals of up to 300 words are invited for 20 minute presentations with 10 minutes questions. Please also include a short biographical note of around 100 words.

In addition, proposals involving practice are encouraged. These may take the form of a 30-minute presentation split between practice, speaking and questions as desired by the proposer/performer, or pieces which could be performed as concert items. In the case of these presentations, please supply a full list of equipment needed for the presentation/performance.

Please send proposals and indications of interest to either Professor Roger Redgate: r.redgate@gold.ac.uk, Dr Dimitris Exarchos: d.exarchos@gold.ac.uk, or Alistair Zaldua: a.zaldua@gold.ac.uk

Deadline for proposals: 29th of September 2014
Notifications of result: October 2014

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