Rethinking the Dynamics of Musical Nationalism

an International Conference, 12-15 September 2017, University of Amsterdam

Call for papers.
“National music” (music as an expression of the nation’s character or identity) and “musical nationalism” (music as a vehicle or mobilizing agent for the spread of national ideals) have received fresh attention from music historians and cultural historians over the past decades, and interpretive patterns are now firmly emerging. These involve a curious ambivalence between a geographic centralism, emphasizing Europe’s metropolitan countries, arranged concentrically around Germany, and a canonical marginality: the ideological freighting of music is generally deprecated as an adulteration of its aesthetic purity or its innovatory progress towards ever purer, wide-ranging and non-traditional modes of expression. “National music” is usually seen as a European-centred example of 19th-century taste, dubiously ethnocentric and chauvinistic in its assumptions, and posing a challenge to the composer to overcome its inherent slant towards kitsch and facile effect.
This ambivalence invites further reflection on a number of fields of interest.
[1] The impact and function of national music further afield, and its interaction with the German-centred heartland and breeding-ground of Romantic Nationalism: South-Eastern Europe, as well as non-European countries beyond the Bosporus, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic; and these not just as delayed epigons of European developments, but involved in dynamics of their own.

[2] “Nothing is as transnational as nationalism”: not only does the nationalization of music affect many countries, the composers themselves were a highly mobile group and what was their “own” national idiom in the home country was appreciated as exotic local colour elsewhere. (National and exoticizing choices were never far apart, in that both offered a fresh stylistic register to spice up the ingrained classical idiom.) This transnationalism does not stop at Europe’s borders.

[3] Musical nationalism is also situated on a sliding scale from “advanced” works for the concert hall, by way of commissioned incidental pieces for public occasions, to work (mostly choral) written for general amateur performance. These margins of canonicity likewise invite closer reflection, also as regards the complex relationship between canonical prestige and social/political impact.
A conference will be held at the University of Amsterdam on these dynamics of musical nationalism and national music. The conference will take place on 12-15 September 2017 and is hosted by the Department of European Studies. The conference will consist of invited keynote lectures and sessions of self-submitted papers; the conference language is English. A proceedings publication with a reputable academic publisher in an international, peer-reviewed series is envisaged
Submission of papers, preferably on the historical negotiations of European/global/transnational or popular/canonical dynamics, is cordially invited; Please send an abstract (500 words max.), before 31 December 2016, to Dr. Kasper van Kooten, K.B.vanKooten@uva.nl.

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