A silhouette (in white) of Founder's Tower, on a background illustrating a musical theme. Royal Holloway, University of London

Beckett and Music Symposium: Call for Papers.


An interdisciplinary symposium organised by the Centre for Research in
Opera and Music Theatre and the Department of English and Drama, University
of Sussex.

Friday November 7 2008. University of Sussex

Samuel Beckett had a deep fascination with music. Several of his works incorporate canonical musical texts: Schubert's string quartet "Death and the Maiden" in All That Fall; the same composer's Lied "Nacht und Träume" in the TV drama the same name; Beethoven's "Ghost" Trio (op. 70) in the TV drama The Ghost Trio. In two of his radio plays, Words and Music and Cascando, Beckett engages directly with the problematic of music and language, and he supplied a text for the American composer Morton Feldman’s opera Neither. Beckett was also interested in the philosophical aesthetics of music, in particular the writings of Schopenhauer, and critics have often noted the “musicality” of his approach to writing and theatrical composition. Beckett’s works have also inspired many composers, including Luciano Berio, Geörgy Kurtág, Philip Glass, Heinz Holliger, Michael Finnissy, Roger Marsh and Richard Barrett.

This symposium will provide an opportunity to review work that has been undertaken on Beckett and music since the publication of the 1998 collection of essays Samuel Beckett and Music edited by Mary Bryden (OUP), and to extend that conversation to consider the ways in which Beckett’s engagement with music is conveyed across a range of practices and disciplines.

The symposium will also include a staged performance of Stefano Gervasoni’s short music theatre piece based on Beckett’s text “Pas si” (1998, revised 2008), and performances of other Beckett-inspired musical works.

Proposals for papers or presentations should be submitted as abstracts of no more than 300 words to n.till@sussex.ac.uk by August 30 2008.

We would also welcome any proposals for performative, musical or sound works inspired by Beckett, or based on Beckett texts.

Conference Organisers: Sara Jane Bailes and Peter Boxall, Department of English and Drama, Nicholas Till, Department of Music.


Thursday 6 November 2008             
6pm.                Registration and refreshments.
6.30                 Opening Address:
                        Catherine Laws. ‘"Headaches Among the Overtones": Thinking Through Music in Beckett.’

7.15-8              Musical Performances. Paul Rhys       ‘Not I’ for Solo Piano (tbc).Ben Oliver      New work based on Stirrings Still, for Piano and Electronics. Pianist Ben Oliver.
8.30                 Dinner in Brighton.

Friday November 7                           
9.30am             Noel Witts. ‘Beckett and Schubert.’
10.15               Diana Kupfer. ‘Unspeakable Sounds: Language Criticism in Musical Settings by Morton Feldman and Earl Kim.’
                        Caoimhin O’Branagain. ‘Text and hemi-text in Beckett’s Radio 1: Richard Rijnvos’s Enrichment of an Impoverished Text.’
11.15               Coffee  
11.45               Katarzyna Orjzynska. ‘Music and Musicality in the Soundscape of  Early Beckettian Plays for the Radio.’
                        Maria Ristani. ‘Music from Within: Samuel Beckett’s Eurythmic or Arhythmic text-scores.’
Anthony Barnett. ‘Only Poet, Shining Whore: Henry Crowder's settings of poems by Samuel Beckett and Nancy Cunard’.

1.15pm            Lunch
2.15                 Mary Bryden.  ‘Apertures and Overtures in Beckett.’

3                      Shirin Nowrousian. ‘On Trajectories and Soundings of the Experience of Unspeakabilities: Neither on the Ways of its Different Spaces.’
                        Thomas Mansell. ‘"Don’t imagine that ballet is music": Beckett’s Symphonic Dances.’
                        Brynhildur Boyce. ‘Reading Music Reading Words’.
4.30                 Tea
5                      Franz Michael Maier. ‘"The notes of the scale may be compared to actors". The Echo of a Schopenhauerian Metaphor in Dream of Fair to Middling Women.’   
                        Celine Surprenant. ‘Beckett, Proust and Schopenhauer.’

6.30-7.45         Musical and theatrical performances          
Stefano Gervasoni     Pas si: Teatrino ambulante for two actors and accordion.  Directed by Nick Till.            
Peter Copley              Cascando. Radio Play for Two Voices and Music. Cello Peter Copley.
                        Richard Barrett          Nothing Nowhere. UK Premiere (tbc).
                        Tom Hall                     New Work for Solo Violin. Violinist Mifune Tsuji.
Fung Lam                   New Work for 2 Sopranos and Violin. Frances Lynch, and Margaret Cameron (sops) and Mifune Tsuji.

Running throughout the symposium:
Hilary Mullaney. Electronic songs unspoken: an audio-visual installation.
For abstracts and speaker biographies, information about getting to Sussex Universuty, etc,  go to:

The fee for the symposium will be £40 for waged attendees and £15 for students or unwaged attendees.

Please confirm attendance by 5pm on Friday November 31: n.till@sussex.ac.uk
Conference Organisers: Sara Jane Bailes and Peter Boxall, Department of English and Drama, Nicholas Till, Department of Music.
October 3 2008

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