Department of Music

Back Page

The Past in Music, British Forum for Ethnomusicology Annual Conference
Bangor, Wales, May 2003

British Forum for Ethnomusicology
Annual Conference : 1st - 4th May 2003
University of Wales, Bangor
The Past in Music

Call for papers

"Typically", to quote Nettl, "ethnomusicology studies the musical culture of a
society through the observation of the present" (1983:176). This does not,
however, mean that the past remains for ever outside the frame.  The past may
express itself in the present in a variety of ways, from the attribution of new
compositions to the ancestors to the revival of abandoned instruments and
repertories by a new generation.  The evocatively titled volume Hearing the Past
(Buckley, ed., 1998) - an excursion into the archaeology of sound - argues for
"cross-cultural surveys which are also cross-temporal" and for the value of such
perspectives in the broader investigation of social processes and mentalities.  
The present conference aims at a consideration of the ways in which the past can
still be heard, in one sense or another, in the present.  One of the subplots of
our meeting might be the deconstruction of the too-easy opposition of past and
present, old and new, traditional and modern.  In the course of the past century
social and cultural stability, in many parts of the world, has been profoundly
affected by the forces of war, emigration, urbanisation, industrialisation,
professionalisation, the growth of the media and tourism, and so on.  Many
communities have turned their attention to reviving, revitalising, reclaiming or
restoring past practices as a means of recreating a community spirit in an
increasingly alienated existence.  In other parts of the world a "return" to the
traditions or customs of the past has followed in the wake of independence or
freedom from repression.  At an entirely pragmatic level, recordings allow the
voices of the past a very tangible hearing in the present and field recordings
have in some cases played a crucial part in the revival or even reconstruction of
"lost" material.

More specific themes and questions which might be addressed include:
~	The power of music to evoke the past.
~	Music and ritual as celebrations of the past  -  both imagined and historic.
~	Musical echoes and legacies in the present.
~	Methods of reconstruction - of musical instruments, musical repertories,
musical memories.  
~	Is it possible to draw parallels between musical restoration or 
reconstruction and the restoration or reconstruction of material structures and
~	What is the meaning of "tradition" in the post-modern world?
~	What does it mean to talk about "archaisms" in the style of a present-day
music culture?

Presenters may wish to focus on individual case studies or on broader theoretical
issues.  Proposals for panels will be particularly welcome.  Individual papers
should last no longer than 20 minutes, including audio and visual illustrations.  
Proposals for posters will also be considered.  Other presentation formats
(performance demonstrations, workshops, films etc.) may be considered by special
arrangement.  The working language of the conference will be English.

Submission of proposals

Abstracts of up to 300 words should be submitted, preferably by e-mail, to the
Chair of the Programming Committee, David Wong (see below) by 30th November 2002.  
In the case of postal submissions, authors should include two copies but with
their identity and institutional affiliation included on one copy only, plus a
copy of the text on disk to facilitate eventual reproduction in the book of
abstracts.  Please also indicate (a) what audio visual equipment the presentation
will require, and (b) whether you expect to be in attendance for the full duration
of the conference.  Abstracts will be evaluated anonymously by a small panel and
authors may expect to be advised of their acceptance or otherwise by around 30th
December 2002.  Those in need of an earlier decision should consult the Programme
Chair.  Please note that all those presenting a paper should be paid up members of
BFE.  Booking details will be available by October and will be posted on the BFE
website, where a fuller version of the present call - including details of the
venue and local arrangements - can also be found.

Chair of the Programming Committee:  
	David Wong
	Block M, Computing Service, The Open University, Walton Hall, 
	Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA, UK 
Local Arrangements:
	Caroline Bithell
	School of Music, University of Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2DG, UK

BFE and conference website:  (select "Conferences")