InstanceEndEditable --> InstanceEndEditable --> InstanceEndEditable -->
src="" alt=" Students at Royal Holloway, University of London" width="311" height="92" align="left"> Royal Holloway,
University of London
name="Sole-column" -->
Conferences index | Past conferences, 2008 | Golden Pages index | Music Department Home Page

(Auto)biography as Musical Discourse

Belgrade, April 2008

The Ninth International Conference of The Department of Musicology and
Ethnomusicology (Faculty of Music, University of Arts, Belgrade, Serbia; April
20-23, 2008) will discuss the topic


Based on literary, historical, and cultural approaches, biography and
autobiography of musicians include a participation of various disciplines
such as political history, music history, sociology, philosophy, literary
theory, psychology, ethnology, gender studies, psychoanalysis.
(Auto)Biography is constructed under the influence of rhetorical
strategies, determined by contemporary ideology and politics, providing
wide possibilities for recognizing, investigating, and defining it in the
context of musicology discourses.

Call for Papers

Biographies of musicians regarded as distinguished creators marked the
early steps in music historiography as a distinct genre. As a matter of
fact, since a century before the very definition of 'Musikwissenschaft' in
1885, biography was one of the keys historiographical, that is,
musicological concepts, embracing different theoretical and methodological
attitudes. Memoirs, diaries, correspondence, afterwards radio interviews,
ethnographic life stories used to be regarded, however, only as a source
material. But, since the 1970s, they formed unique autobiographical
discourse, overcoming the status of "victim of biography", a subject of
theoretical explications determined by four contracts: social,
autobiographical, referential, and the implicit or explicit contract
between author and reader (Philippe Le Jeune). Poststructuralists are
focused especially on the question of author in (auto)biographical
discourse, establishing the concept of function of the author (M.
Foucault), death of the author (R. Barthes), the model of self-presenting
for the public (P. Bourdieu) in the frame of social and ideological
context. (Auto)Biographical discourse also found significant place in the
recent research of memorialism and decolonization (P. Nora). Within
folklore studies - cultural anthropology and ethno methodology - this
topic is considered in relation to storytelling rights in both oral and
written senses (A. Shuman). Consequently, (auto)biography has been a
signifier of high-class world, inevitably connected with the question of
power. These attitudes certainly provide broad theoretical approaches in
(ethno)musicological research too.

Historically speaking, music biography as well as autobiography and
fictional music biography were established as an individual genre in 18th
century (for instance, John Mainwaring's biography of Handel, 1760; and
Forkel's Ueber Johan Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke, 1802),
in the context of musical lexicography and music history, and were defined
more clearly in early 19th century (memoirs by Berlioz, 1870, or Wagner,
1870-80, for instance). Romantic authors also founded biography of
fictional musicians (one of the paradigmatic example is Wackenroder's Das
merkwürdige musikalische Leben des Tonkünstlers Joseph Berlinger, 1797),
which had their place in novels like Romain Rolland's. In that way,
(auto)biographies of musicians can be regarded as mythologies (H.

As a reaction against the positivism of the 19th and early 20th century,
expressed in Romantic treatment of biography as a key point in creativity
via the theory of genius (Anton Schindler, Biographie von Ludwig van
Beethoven, 1840; Otto Jahn, W. A. Mozart, 1856-1859; Philipp Spitta,
Johann Sebastian Bach, 1873 and 1880; and Max Kalbeck, Johannes Brahms,
1908-1915), the methodological perspective was neglected during the first
decades of the 20th century. However, biography regained its status as one
of the important musicological discourses, due to cataloguing of source
materials in thematic catalogues and critical editions of the works of
chosen composers, music lexicons, dictionaries, Denkmäler series, and an
increasing discourse on the relation of biography and creativity.
Moreover, style-orientated general histories of music were still mainly
based on biography and analysis of selected compositions, and
(mis)understood composers' credo expressed in their memoirs (or,
pseudo-memoirs by D. Shostakovich, for instance) or interviews (I.

In studies of new or cultural musicology, (auto)biography and other
discourses were redefined and reconstructed through applying gender
studies, psychoanalysis, and critical theory. Therefore, certain questions
are rising as possible perspectives:

   1. the role of music (auto)biography in the concept of general and
national music historiography and lexicography or, in wider sense,
national identity and forms of cultural memory as self-presentation
(through the choice of so-called great composers and their certain works
in histories of music, monographs, music dictionaries, critical editions),

   2. question of authenticity (interpretation of archival sources,
documents, correspondence, memoirs, interviews, TV documentaries, movies,
iconographical presentation of composers or performing artists in the
context of more general approaching to the history, either through the
19th-century reconstructing the "truthful facts" or contemporary
constructed narrative),

   3. considering works of music through (auto)poetical standpoints and
(self)expression, analytical remarks as well as in (auto)biographies in
music, construction of (auto)biography, or fictional (auto)biography,

   4. the role of biography in traditional (folk) music studies (biography
in a narrow sense, as biography of individual folk musicians, perceived
through the relation personal-collective, or, in a wider sense,
"biography" of a specific geographic region as a specific music dialect),

   5. theoretical, sociocultural, and axiological aspects of the
re-introduction of biography as a methodological perspective in 20th
century music historiography as a consequence, or counter movement to
dogmatic formalist and structuralist musicology - the invention of an
analytical system to repress (auto)biography; aspects of evaluation of and
within (auto)biographical discourse in musicology.

The language of the conference is English. It is possible to deliver
papers in German, French, Russian, or Serbian too, and the authors are
kindly requested to provide translation to English. Each presenter will
have 20 minutes for the paper, followed by 10 minutes for discussion.
Selected papers presented at the conference will be published in a volume
of proceedings. Send your abstract (about 250 words) in English to Tatjana
Markovic or Vesna Mikic not later than September 1, 2007.

Tatjana Markovic
University of Arts, Belgrade
Back to top of page
Last updated Tue, 28-Mar-2006 13:33 InstanceEndEditable --> / GAC -->
Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX
Tel/Fax : +44 (0)1784 434455/437520