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Spiritual New Music: Between Fall and Resurrection
International Conference

University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 13-15 June 2007

Keynote Speakers:
Jonathan Harvey, Michael Steinberg (Brown University), Ruth HaCohen
(Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Lawrence Sullivan (Harvard University -
to be confirmed), and Arnold Whittall (King's College London - to be

CALL FOR PAPERS (Deadline 15 March 2007)

The divergence between Western art music and institutional religion, which
took place in the course of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century,
has inspired a tradition of spiritual art music intended for the concert
hall. In the twentieth century, this tradition continued to produce a
great number and variety of works. It adapted itself to changes in the
musical language, and to changes in the content and form of the religions
taken as sources of inspiration.

Examples of this tradition include such diverse works as Schoenberg's
Moses und Aron, Hindemith's Harmonie der Welt, Stravinsky's Symphony of
Psalms, Messiaen's La Transfiguration, Stockhausen's Inori, Harvey's
Bhakti, and many others.

The 1990’s saw a significant change in the prominence of
spiritualism, with works of Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt and John Tavener
receiving approval from a wide and diverse audience. On both musical and
social grounds, however, some critics interpret these and more recent
works of spiritual art music (such as John Adams’ El niño and Philip
Glass’ Fifth Symphony) as merely affirming the demise of spiritual
music at the turn of the twenty-first century.

This conference aims to address tensions between, on the one hand, the
apparent continuation of the tradition of spiritual art music, and, on
the other hand, the crisis of its artistic and spiritual credibility, as
well as the paradoxes of its public, economic and media success. Does the
new spiritualism mark the end of two centuries and a half of spiritual
art music, or does it lead this tradition towards an unforeseen future?

Questions regarding this issue include:
- Has secularization irreversibly changed the historical and structural
possibility of contemporary spiritual music?
- What is the nature of the present entanglement, in music, of economy,
media and spirituality?
- How to account for the discourse which enables the
“bricolage” of religion? Is it an artistic phenomenon? Is it a
specifically western phenomenon?
- What are the stakes of new spiritual music? What kind of
“spiritual” desire does it entail, what kind of
“experience” is searched for, what kind of temporality or space
does it involve?
- Are there differences in approach to spiritual music between
predominantly Christian and, e.g., predominantly Buddhist inspired
- Why does the name of Messiaen repeatedly surface with critics as a
“schibboleth” for a credible new spiritual music? Is there
something like a new spiritual music “after Messiaen”?
- Is new spiritual music in its status quo limited to a certain
generation (1960’s-1970’s)? Or is it rather in state of
transformation, “beyond recognition”?
- How to evaluate the exchanges between western and other traditions of
spiritual music culture, or between the “literate” and
“illiterate” traditions, including pop music, experimental
digital music, etc.?

The organizers invite proposals for papers, panels, and lecture-recitals
on any subject related to the main conference theme, and from any
methodological background. Individual presentations should be no more
than 20 minutes in duration. Lecture-recitals should not exceed 30

Proposals should be written in English and contain an abstract of 300
words maximum. They also should include your name, a short biographical
note, and your contact details. Please send your proposal before 15 March
2007 by email to Dr. Sander van Maas, Authors will be
notified by the Program Committee by 1 April 2007.


With kind regards,

Dr. Sander van Maas
University of Amsterdam
Department of Musicology

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