Beyond black tie and bubbly: rescuing opera from stereotypes

Beyond black tie and bubbly: rescuing opera from stereotypes

A one-day conference organised by the Oxford Brookes University opera research unit (OBERTO), to be held on Tuesday 9 September 2014.

Discourse surrounding opera today is concerned with its apparently difficult position within society: journalists, the elusive ‘Mr Taxpayer’ and even some performers  are fond of presenting it as an ‘elitist’ pursuit for the snooty rich, who dress up to enjoy fat ladies singing loudly in opulent surroundings. Alternatively the cliché of the ‘opera buff’ is invoked, who flaunts a vocal score in the gallery and converses knowledgeably about performers and leitmotifs, in order to depict opera as a genre that excludes or positively repels the uninitiated.

While such stereotypes are arguably not new, the public image of opera as a publicly funded, but supposedly socially exclusive and intellectually demanding art form is more visible than ever. The media, in an online economy, are hungry for hits and comments and happily fan the flames of controversy; and the accessibility agenda in the arts creates an environment where, in the UK in particular, opera companies have to demonstrate their openness and their efforts to reach out to new audiences of ‘ordinary people’. Concerns about the squandering of public funds are never far from the surface of the debate. Britain, it would seem, has a particular opera ‘problem’, but it is one that has long and complex historical roots.

This conference aims to unpick and examine critically the idea of opera as a socially exclusive and intellectually forbidding genre. We aim to consider ways in which opera might be presented in more interesting ways to contemporary audiences and hope to bring together scholars, singers, directors, opera house personnel, journalists and opera goers in fruitful debate. We therefore invite papers addressing as wide a variety of topics and methodologies as possible, including (but by no means limited to):

  • The historical roots of operatic ‘elitism’: where, when, why and how did the concept of elite achievement become so freighted with negative connotations in an operatic context?
  • Attitudes to opera in continental Europe: performing opera without apologies
  • Accessibility and outreach: damned if you do, and damned if you don’t?
  • Not for ‘the likes of us’? Reassessing opera’s audiences
  • Opera journalism, social media and PR
  • The X-Factor factor: ‘authentic’ amateurism vs. professionalism
  • Crossover: hindrance or help?
  • Do attempts to address so-called ‘elitism’ serve only to perpetuate the idea?

We envisage that the conference will comprise a mixture of individual papers, panel discussions and open discussion. ‘Alternative format’ contributions are also welcomed.

Proposals of up to 250 words for individual papers of 20 minutes duration should be submitted by e-mail to Dr Alexandra Wilson ( no later than Friday 9th May.

Champagne will not be served.

Conference organisers: Dr Alexandra Wilson, Dr Barbara Eichner and Dr Hugo Shirley

OBERTO: Oxford Brookes – Exploring Research Trends in Opera

Entertainment! – Post Punk, New Wave and Authenticity

Entertainment! – Post Punk, New Wave and Authenticity

Friday 9th May, Registration at 12 noon, Lower Street Gallery, London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6SB

For journalists, bands and fans, genre categories are often a convenient short-hand way of discriminating between what is perceived-to-be-‘cool’ and what is not. More often than not, this boils down to a discourse around ‘authenticity’: such-and-such is ‘the real thing’ whilst some other band or set of bands is, by contrast, ‘phonies’, ‘frauds’ and/or ‘Johnny-come-latelies’. The separation of ‘Post-punk’ from ‘New Wave’ c.1977-79 is a particularly interesting case because, firstly, the sense of ‘authenticity’ and commitment to a (punk) cause was so prominent in this period and, secondly, because many reputations and economies of taste continue to capitalise on a sense that, on the one hand, you’ve got the commercial trash and, on the other hand, you’ve got the real deal.

Perhaps, though, the idea that Post-punk and New Wave form distinct categories is not only something of a fiction but, also, one which has been retroactively constructed by journalists and bands but actually has little reflection in the feelings of both audience and industry. In terms of the audience, is it not the case that a huge number of people in the years in question and in the decades since have collected records from both sides of the supposed divide? With regards to the industry, is it not the case that many Post-punk and New Wave records were being designed, manufactured and distributed by the same companies? This is not to say that there is no distinction to be made between, say, Rough Trade and EMI: clearly there are legitimate grounds for distinguishing between the business model adopted by DiY and indie labels, on the one hand, and ‘the majors’, on the other hand. There remains a surprising level of confusion on this question, with many a supposed ‘indie’ label turning out to be affiliated to a major company; but this is not the central topic for consideration at this conference. Rather, the principal themes include (but are not necessarily restricted to):

• Similarities and differences between Post-punk and New Wave (musical, cultural, political)

• The construction of ‘authenticity’ through branding, marketing and critical positioning

• The extent to which punk-descended music(s) can be more than ‘entertainment’

• The artwork of Post-punk and New Wave records

• Audience reception of this music c.1977-9

• Audience perception of this music since the 1970s

• Constructions of taste between industry, journalists, bands and fans

The conference organisers are particularly keen to welcome presentations from non-academic individuals: it is hoped that a panel discussing audience-perception of Post-punk and New Wave will be primarily or better yet entirely made up of non- academic and non-industry individuals (AKA ‘fans’, if you like).

Panels will also include Design/Designers, Music/Musicians, Audience/Fans and Cultural Commentators/Histories, with an accompanying exhibition of Post Punk and New Wave graphic material curated by Russ Bestley. The event will take place at the London College of Communication, Elephant & Castle, London SE1 6SB and is jointly co-ordinated by the LCC Graphic Subcultures hub, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Punk Scholars Network.

Proposal abstracts should be emailed to Russ Bestley at by 1st April 2014

György Ligeti and the Future of Maverick Modernity

In celebration of its tenth season, the 2014 soundSCAPE Composition and Performance Exchange (artistic director, Nathanael May) is expanding its tradition of innovation and artistic experimentation to include a one-day conference on Ligeti, including special guest composer Lukas Ligeti, with a keynote address on the future of Ligeti’s Comic Legacies by James Currie. Since this is not a conventional academic event, but a constituent feature of a set of workshops and performances of contemporary music, we are particularly interested in papers that might interact with such live production and perhaps broaden their frame of reference.  With this in mind, we are particularly interested in papers that might address themes in Ligeti that resonate with the issues of our world: such as apocalypse, climate, free markets, machines and technology, the music of others, comedy/humor, systems, and the human and the animal.  As a kind of productive homage to Ligeti’s courageous maverick streak, we also encourage proposals for presentations that break the mold or reconfigure the academic music lecture per se, and welcome work not only from the world of academic music studies, but also other fields, including (but by no means limited to) sound studies, performance studies, comparative literature, poetics, media studies, philosophy and anthropology.

The conference will take place on July 14th, 2014 in Maccagno Italy, and further information about the soundSCAPE festival overall (July 4-17) can be found at  All proposals are due by March 31st.  An abstract (300 words) and a short biography (200 words) should be sent in the body of an email (no attachments) to Further inquiries may also be made to this email address.

Punk Scholars Network: First Annual Postgraduate Symposium

In Association with The University of Leicester and the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance

Punk Scholars Network: First Annual Postgraduate Symposium

The Punk Scholars Network’s first Annual Post-Graduate Symposium provides a national and international forum for postgraduates currently working/researching in the area of punk to meet, network and exchange ideas in an informal and colloquial environment.

The First Annual PSN Postgraduate Symposium will be hosted at the University of Leicester on 30th October 2014, and we invite both postgraduate and graduate students to submit proposals.

The programme will consist of a keynote speaker (tbc) and a number of thematically grouped panels where postgraduates can present work-in-progress papers on their PhD thesis, Master’s dissertation or graduate dissertation.

Each paper should last 20 minutes and proposals should be submitted in the form of an abstract of c.250 words. All proposal submissions should also include:

- Full title of the paper
- Full name, contact details and institutional affiliation
- Any requirements (projector, CD/DVD player, OHP, etc)

Deadline for receipt of proposals/abstracts is 31st July 2014

We hope that this conference will be inspiring to students in the area of punk studies and scholarship, and will provide an encouraging and informal environment to meet, discuss and disseminate ideas surrounding their research.

Proposals should be sent as e-mail attachments to Laura Way at

Any queries to be directed to Laura Way ( and Dr. Mike Dines (

The conference programme will be announced in August 2014.

Contamination, Purity, Ownership: exploring interactions between dance and music

Practice Research Unit, at Kingston University
April 3rd, 2014,
Coombehurst Studio, admission free.

The Practice Research Unit welcomes proposals for papers considering the interactions between creators in dance and music. In particular we welcome proposals that include examples of practice on video or by live performance. Presentations will normally last for 20 minutes but duration is open to negotiation for those including examples of practice.

Keynote Address/Performances will be announced on the website.

Proposals including a 300 word abstract can be sent to Dr Tim Ewers . Proposals will be assessed by the conference team, including Jason Piper, Tim Ewers and the directors of the Practice Research Unit Helen Julia Minors and John Mullarkey.

Deadline for submission is Friday March 14th 2014.

South African Society for Research in Music (SASRIM) Eighth Annual Congress

Invitation and Call for Papers


University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg 12-14 September 2014

SASRIM cordially invites you to its 2014 annual congress to be held at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The keynote speaker will be well-known music education specialist Lucy Green from the Institute of Education at the University of London.

Submissions are invited on any research related to music. Presentations will be accepted solely on the basis of their quality, and not on their subject matter or approach. SASRIM hopes that the conference in this way will stimulate the submission of a wide variety of proposals, including those that may cross the boundaries of conventionally segregated disciplines and thereby offer new perspectives.

We extend a special invitation to students to submit proposals and use the conference as a forum for networking and their development. Students whose proposals are accepted may apply to SASRIM for limited financial support.

SASRIM invites proposals for

  • papers (20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for response)
  • lecture-demonstrations (45 minutes for presentation and 15 minutes for response)
  • panel discussions (45 minutes for presentations and 15 minutes for responses)
  • study group sessions (90 minutes, i.e. 3 presentations by different presenters and responses)
  • poster sessions

Proposals for all presentations, lecture-demonstrations and poster sessions must include

  • an abstract with title (maximum 300 words)
  • biographical information and contact detail of presenter(s) (maximum 50 words)
  • audio-visual or display requirements

Proposals for panel discussions and study group sessions must include

  • an explanation of the topic and a structure for its discussion (maximum 400 words)
  • a list of all members as well as their institutional affiliation and contact details
  • audio-visual requirements

Proposals must be submitted to by no later than 15 April 2013.

Lucy Green is Professor of Music Education, Institute of Education, University of London. She is a leading music education specialist, with a focus on the philosophy and sociology of music education, particularly musical identities. She is the author of five single-author books and her work has significantly influenced the thinking about musical learning and pedagogy,  particularly how the learning practices of popular musicians can inform and change formal learning (e.g. Music, Informal Learning and the School and How Popular Musicians Learn).

Phone: +27 (012) 429 6662 – Fax: 086 525 3704
Conference Website:


Dreams of Germany – Music and (Trans)national Imaginaries in the Modern Era

Deadline for Paper Proposals: 30 April 2014 to dreamsofgermany at gmail dot com
Venue: German Historical Institute, London, 5-7 February 2015
Keynote Speakers: Celia Applegate (Vanderbilt); Berthold Hoeckner (Chicago).
Convenors: Andreas Gestrich (GHIL), Neil Gregor (Southampton), Tom Irvine (Southampton)

Conference website:

Celia Applegate and Pamela Potter’s groundbreaking collection of essays on ‘Music and German National Identity’ sought to map both the historical terrain on which the notion of Germans as ‘the people of music’ was constituted and an intellectual terrain on which that trope might be fruitfully historicised. In this conference, we seek to revisit these questions and explore the problem space further in the light of approaches that have emerged in the meantime. In working with the rubric of ‘dreams’ we seek to acknowledge both the visceral qualities of a set of imaginaries that cannot be reduced to a corresponding set of politics, but work also independently of them, and the presence of a recognizably German set of histories for which the vocabulary of dreams (fantasies, projections, recollections, nightmares) provides an equally recognizable metaphorical language.

We invite papers on all aspects of modern musical culture that would sit meaningfully inside the rubric ‘Dreams of Germany’, for example:

How does class function in relation to musical Germanness?
How might Germany as a musical construct be inflected by gender?
To what extent do declarations of musical Germanness exclude or embrace registers other than ‘art or ‘E-Musik’?
How did young Germans (the Jugendmusikbewegung, the generation of the ‘Stunde Null’ and the ‘1968ers’) dream of their music?
How did emigrants and other outsiders from Edward Dannreuther to Theodor W Adorno to (the Austrian) Falco (‘Rock me Amadeus’) imagine German music and musical culture?
How did music function in conceptions/dreams of the German colonial mission, and how did and do ideas of Germany as a musical nation play in non-colonial contexts such as Britain, Japan, Latin America, the United States and Israel/Palestine?
To what extent were cultural politics post-1989 inflected by ideas of a specifically German national music?

For further details or queries please contact Neil Gregor or Tom Irvine at dreamsofgermany at gmail dot com

The College of Organists examined: the foundation and early history of the RCO

The College of Organists examined: the foundation and early history of the RCO
(RCO Spring Festival in Oxford, part 2)
Saturday 12th April 2014 (10:00 – 18:00)
To mark the RCO’s 150th anniversary, this one-day conference in Oxford (at Somerville and Keble Colleges) on 12 April will examine the environment which led to the foundation of the College of Organists in 1864, and investigate the preoccupations of the College’s  founding fathers and early members as they established a professional body for British organists, which eventually earned a Royal Charter in 1893. It will feature a recital by Graham Barber at Keble College.

For information on online booking scroll down to the bottom of the page.

The Royal College of Organists is working in partnership with The Open University.

The speakers are:
Prof. Graham Barber (Leeds University): Organ playing and organ composition in late-19th-century Britain
Dr Martin Clarke (The Open University): ‘Loud organs, his glory forth tell in deep tone’: the interaction of music, liturgy and theology in mid-19th-century Britain
Timothy Day (Hereford): Where did the English treble come from?
Dr Rosemary Golding (The Open University): Being an organist in mid-nineteenth century
Peter Horton (Royal College of Music): The road to Olympus: the early careers of
four contrasting early-Victorian organists
Andrew McCrea (Royal College of Organists): The foundation of the College of
Organists and its early initiatives
The Revd Dr Nicholas Thistlethwaite (Guildford Cathedral): Organ design in the
1860s and instruments associated with the founders
David Wright (Tunbridge Wells): ‘Middle-classing’ the music profession in Victorian
Registration from 9.45 at Somerville College (Margaret Thatcher Centre)
Recital by Graham Barber at Keble College Chapel at 13.45
Lectures conclude at 17.45

Fees (including morning coffee, light lunch, recital attendance and afternoon tea):
RCO Easter Course Member: £40
RCO Member: £50
Non-Member: £55
RCO Student Member: £30
Other full time students: £40
Overnight Bed & Breakfast (B&B) accommodation at Merton College, Friday 11
April: £67 (standard room); £86 (en-suite room)
Book online at: (see RCO Academy/Courses and Events)
If you have a problem with the on-line booking system please call RCO Bookings on
05603 488231.

The Charisma of Dissonance

“The Charisma of Dissonance”

Musicological Society of Australia 37th National Conference
29 Nov – 2 Dec 2014
Melbourne, Australia

CFP Deadline 10 March 2014
Dissonance is integral to human experience. Awesome, beautiful, and
terrifying, it occurs in nature in the form of thunderstorms, 
tsunamis,and earth tremors - and music is created in their honour. 
At the root of communal human tragedies, dissonance leads to war,
bloody revolution, and terrorism, and music is performed for 
relief. Soul destroying and depressive, dissonance occurs in 
interpersonal relationships through intimidation, unrequited love,
and death, and music is received as cathartic. Vicariously we are 
charmed by the theatrical villain whose dissonant behaviour 
encapsulates an intoxicating freedom that resonates with the ego. 
Although typically considered undesirable – something to avoid, 
escape or be freed from – without dissonance there is no 
contrasting time of peace or joy. No need for music. From acts of 
dissonance arise creative solutions, new technologies, new sounds,
and new ways of being. Without dissonance there can be no heroes 
and no history to record and analyse. An essential component of 
musical creation, as both sound object and programme material, the
charisma of dissonance is inescapable. 

Individual papers which address this theme are warmly welcomed; 
however, papers on other topics of current research are also 
invited, as are proposals for panels of up to four papers on a 
common theme. In the centennial year of the commencement of World 
War I it is anticipated that several consecutive sessions will be 
devoted to the musical responses, outcomes and products of a war 
that has historically – albeit controversially – been described as
"Great", and thus constitutes a quintessential expression of the 
charisma of dissonance. 

Abstract Submission Procedure and further information is available

All enquiries should be addressed to

5th International ‘Music on Stage’ conference

A date for your Diary and an invitation to present papers

The 5th International “Music on Stage” conference at Rose Bruford College

October 18th – 19th

Papers discussing all aspects of opera, the Musical, music theatre and performance.

Papers from the 3rd conference available from Intellect Press and from the 4th conference available in the autumn from Cambridge Scholars Press.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words to me, please, by May 31st.

Dr F. Jane Schopf

Programme Director Opera Studies

+44 (0) 208 308 2647