Musical biography: National ideology, Narrative technique, and the Nature of myth

9–11 April 2015, Institute of Musical Research, University of London, UK

While musical biography has recently received scholarly attention through an array of insightful research, the sheer breadth of possibilities for the study of biography (and biographies) in relation to music means that the broad field remains rich in untapped investigative potential. This conference will provide a forum for consolidated critical discussion on both the content of musical biography (national trends and ideologies; myths and mythology) and its form (narrative technique and meaning). It will aim to open up interdisciplinary avenues of enquiry across a wide range of subjects and time periods, in the domains of classical music, popular music, and ethnomusicology alike.

In lieu of a single keynote speaker, a series of roundtables with invited speakers is planned, including one on the writing of contemporary musical biographies and another on writing the lives of music critics. Further details will be circulated in due course.

Call for Papers

20-minute papers (plus 10 minutes for questions) are invited on any aspect of musical biography that intersects with the conference theme, including (although not limited to) the following broad areas whether singly or in combination:

1. National ideology
a) Musical biography as national celebration
b) National trends in the writing of musical biography
c) Competing portrayals of the same subject
d) Musical biography as reception history

2. Narrative technique
a) The role of narrative in the creation of meaning in musical biography
b) Musical biography as a literary genre
c) Popular versus scholarly biographies
d) Aspects of the relationships between biographer, subject, and reader

3. The nature of myth
a) The creation, perpetuation, and refutation of mythologies
b) Musical biography as hagiography
c) Constructions of greatness, genius, and virtuosity through biography

Proposal for panels (4 speakers over 2 hours) are also encouraged.

Abstracts should be no more than 250 words and should be e-mailed by 12 January 2015 to Dr Paul Watt, and Dr Christopher Wiley,

Decisions will be communicated to speakers by 31 January 2015.

Queries: Paul Watt, or Christopher Wiley,

The conference is part-funded by the Australian Research Council and the Monash University Research Accelerator Program, and is supported by the University of Surrey.

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