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Music and the Sirens
Cambridge, July 1998

************* CALL FOR PAPERS International Symposium KNOWLEDGE, SEDUCTION AND DANGER MUSIC AND THE SIRENS 5-7 July 1998 Darwin College, Cambridge
..the Sirens saw the quick vessel come near them and raised their voices in high clear notes. "Come hither renowned Odysseus.. pause your ship, listen to our song...we know of all things that come to pass on the fruitful earth". (Homer: The Odyssey, book XII) The Siren or Mermaid (Sirena) is repeatedly associated with the enchanting, inspirational and prophetic quality of music and its ability to dominate reason, leading to madness or disaster. Accounts from such diverse places as Sri Lanka, Ireland, Java and the Andes also tell of spirit beings that enrapture humans with their music, bringing insanity or death, but also knowledge and sometimes the promise of new life. Is it possible that such stories spring from a wider set of beliefs, common to many cultures, concerning the ambiguous and prophetic quality of music? Indeed, are there any cultures for whom all music is benign and disconnected from life-threatening realms beyond the human world? AIMS In this symposium we hope to explore ways in which (a) the ambivalent associations of music are represented in different cultures and (b) to bring together diverse approaches to the concept of the Siren or Siren-type beings in relation to music. There are two main areas of investigation: 1. The concept of beings specifically called 'Sirens' in texts and music. 2. Approaches to music which draw together the concepts of knowledge, seduction and danger. In relation to these categories the following questions may serve as points of departure: Why have Sirens or Siren-type beings been adopted by certain cultures at particular times? How have they been represented? How have they been used to construct meaning in different cultures? Does this tell us something abouth the ecological, political or social environment? How does music relate to the ideas of desire, prophecy (knowledge) enchantment and death? PUBLICATION We intend to publish an edited a selection of the papers presented in the symposium as a book. It would be useful if papers, which should not be more than 35mins in length, are conceived as chapters. Please send abstracts of 300-500 words to: All enquiries to: Dr Henry Stobart (see below) or Dr Daniel Chua, Department of Music, King's College London, The Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK -------------------------- Henry Stobart, Darwin College, Cambridge CB3 9EU, UK Tel. +44-(0)1223 335178 (office) Tel/Fax. +44-(0)1223 327444 (home) e-mail: