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

Dictatorship and "State music"

CRAL/EHESS, Paris, on May 15th and 16th, 2009

Call for papers

Long time considered a propaganda tool, the music of dictatorial regimes might reveal important aspects in the relationship between art and politics. Recent works have underlined the complex ways in which musicians engaged with power under dictatorships, deemed as monolithic. Thus, the description of censorship, allegiance and dissension mechanisms, and of the breaks and continuities produced between regimes, will show the multiplicity of negotiation and consensus-seeking processes. In the absence of political freedom, these processes guaranteed the continuity of an often intense and creative musical life. Even in the darkest hours of 20th century history, music never ceased to sound.

This conference will focus on the works inspired and promoted by dictatorial state apparatuses. Even when not imposing aesthetic standards, dictatorships favoured certain kinds of music: occasional commemorative or celebrative works, patriotic or militant hymns, military marches, etc. In addition, modern dictatorial states have devised and implemented prize-awarding and commissioning policies aimed at consolidating the status of certain genres as institutionalised forms of political and social order.

Leaning on specific case studies, we will also discuss different approaches to this repertoire: can we broadly label it "State music"? Are there any similarities or constants in music production across different dictatorships? What have been the discourses and practices implemented and how did listeners react to them? Can we agree a set of stylistic features, or are they context-contingent?

The conference will encourage multidisciplinary approaches (cultural history, sociology of music, music analysis) and comparative research, and will welcome contributions on diverse historical and geographical locales, particularly Interwar Europe, Eastern bloc and Maoist China, or Latin American dictatorships of the 60s and 70s.

Papers (in French or in English) should last 20 minutes. Abstracts (300 words) and CVs must be submitted by 31 January 2009.

Contacts: Esteban Buch (buch@ehess.fr), Igor Contreras (contrerasigor@gmail.com), Manuel Deniz Silva (manuel_denizsilva@yahoo.fr)

Centre de Recherches sur les Arts et le Langage (CRAL)
96 bd Raspail
75006 Paris

 


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