Fringes, outsides and undergrounds: The aesthetics and politics of unpopular music

One-day conference to be held at Goldsmiths on 7 May 2016

Musical forms such as noise, extreme metal, performance art, experimental techno, free improv and more take inspiration from both popular and art traditions without being fully identifiable with either.

These forms exist either on the fringes of, or outside, these commercial and cultural mainstreams, both in conventional musical centres such as London and Berlin and further afield, in South America, Japan and China.

A range of questions can be asked in response to these practices:

What values do these musics draw upon, enact and invent?

Where do they sit in culture, particularly in relation to other musics?

What kind of historical lineage might these musics have?

What kind of political powers or political issues do they suggest, or do their practitioners engage with?

What kind of backgrounds do these practitioners have, and how do they make money?

Who has written about these musics, using what languages and what methodologies and platforms?

What do these musics sound like; what kind of aesthetic and musical styles, systems and idioms do they work within, against or, again, invent?

The day itself:

We want the conference to engage these questions and more in mapping this field of minority, marginal practices, which nonetheless connect clearly with existing traditions of music making.

We envisage splitting the day into three successive sessions – on politics, music and culture broadly conceived – so your submission could be directed at one of these three topics.

But we welcome submissions that address in any way the kinds of musics and issues suggested by our theme, including papers that critique the institutionalising impulse represented by this conference, and we are open to all methodologies, from field research, to critical and theoretical discussion, to musical analysis and beyond.

We also welcome papers in experimental formats, including, for instance, elements of musical performance or non-standard conference presentation.

Papers will be roughly 20 minutes, with 10 minutes for questions.

Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent to Stephen Graham and John Harries at s.graham@gold.ac.uk.

Deadline for abstracts is 15 January 2016. We will notify you of our decision in mid-February.

A free evening concert performance will be held in the Student Union Bar at Goldsmiths from 6pm-9pm, featuring 3-4 acts whose work fits the themes of the conference. Attendance at the conference and concert will be free, but registration is required. To register e-mail s.graham@gold.ac.uk.

Fringes, Outsides and Undergrounds is presented in association with the Popular Music Research Unit and the Contemporary Music Research Unit at Goldsmiths College.

Dr Stephen Graham and John Harries
Lecturers in Music
Department of Music
Goldsmiths, University of London
London SE14 6NW, UK

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