Between Nostalgia, Utopia, and Realities


The Tenth International Conference of the Department of Musicology
University of Arts in Belgrade

Between Nostalgia, Utopia, and Realities

14–17 April 2010

Nostalgia and utopia could be understood as synonyms, placed on the different poles of the time: utopia actually is nostalgia for the perfect future, as well as nostalgia is utopia of the past, a longing for idealized past that has never existed. Both terms refers to the identity question, either in personal, intimate sense, or in the sense of community, or specific groups within a society. Being related to the past and determined by arbitrary chosen historical perspectives, both nostalgia and utopia are reflected in the cultural memories, and concepts of the self-representation, ranging from social behaviour and cultural practices to the individual artefacts. In that way, musical life is also signified by the given codes of nostalgia and utopia, recognizable and identifiable for a certain society, offering a secure shelter from the Other, especially in the periods of crisis or social traumas. It is, therefore, understandable, why music and poetry had very significant role in different revolutions, uprisings, wars. Considering the musical repertoires, it is also obvious that musical life is always socially explicable in the specific cultural and political contexts, reflecting the dominant ideology or ideologies. On the personal level, nostalgia is connected with the longing for “our childhood”. Consequently, nostalgia is both a cultural phenomenon and a personally subjective experience (Janelle L. Wilson).
Starting from this general point, theories of nostalgia include further divisions and definitions. Thus Fred Davis makes difference between public and private nostalgia, meaning the public is “the condition in which the symbolic objects are of a highly public, widely shared, and familiar character”, and private would then assumes the “symbolic images and allusions from the past which by virtue of their resource in a particular person’s biography tend to be more idiosyncratic, individuated, and particularistic in their reference”, including personal memories. One of the main theoreticians of the issue, Svetlana Boym, makes difference between restorative and reflective nostalgia: “Restorative nostalgia evokes national past and future; reflective nostalgia is more about individual and cultural memory”. This theoretical field provides very fruitful approaches in the musicological research, very actual in a contemporary scholarship.
In a similar way, utopia joints the public and private perspectives, political visions of entire community, as well as individual visions expressed in individual work of art, like in the Beethoven’s 9th symphony, or in the musical setting of the Schiller’s ode An die Freude, for instance. Idealized (impossible to realize) image of future is contextualized by the past seen as well-known and experienced knowledge, assigned as a sublime model.
It seems that nostalgia and utopia are especially close to the issue of diaspora. Numerous examples show how societies of diaspora function heavily relying on the frozen cultural memory, including musical memories too. This aspect of nostalgia is connected with social psychology. After migrations and displacements, nostalgic feelings to the Heimat are transforming into the utopia, remaining often the only connection to the past or “roots”, based on idealized feeling of belonging to the own nation. Music compositions, both classical and popular, and folk rites, songs and dances, are the objects for the (national) identification, through experienced or ancestral recollections.

1. music repertoires as reflections of the nostalgic recollections of the former empires or countries, such as the Habsburg Monarchy, Yugoslavia (“Yugo-nostalgia”) or USSR: classical music, popular music, media (film music, program of the radio stations, music TV shows and advertisements, melodies for mobile phones), music stage, music festivals, Eurosong competition, (neo)folk music,
2. musical culture identities between nostalgia and utopia,
3. opera as embodiment of utopia from the Arcadian world in early opera and stage madrigals to the Wagner’s and 20th- and 21st-century opera concepts,
4. music and patriotism,
5. musical microspace(s) of/in diaspora,
6. music historiography as a nostalgic field of national images,
7. music iconography as an embodiment of nostalgia and utopia,
8. musical work as a personal utopian vision of the world,
9. musical work as expression of nostalgia,
10. musical embodiments of nostalgia and utopia in the light of (social) psychology.

Please submit your paper topic (including the number of the thematic area as described above) to the following e-mail address: not later than September 15, 2009. Please include your short CV and an abstract of 200 words in English.
You will be notified by 15 October, 2009 if your topic has been accepted.
The official language of the conference is English. It is possible to deliver papers also in German, French, Russian, and Serbian, but the authors are kindly requested to provide translation in English.
The time limit for the presentation and discussion of your paper is set at 30 minutes in total.
Selected papers presented at the conference will be published in the proceedings.
Registration fee: 50 €

Program Committee:
Antonio Baldassarre, Zürcher Hichschule der Künste, Kurt Leimer Schtiftung
Paulo de Castro, Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Paulo Chagas, University of California, Riverside
Marcel Cobussen, Universiteit Leiden
Adam Krims, University of Nottingham
Tatjana Markovic, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Marija Masnikosa, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu
Vesna Mikic, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu
Ivana Perkovic Radak, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu
Tijana Popovic- Mladjenovic, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu
Mirjana Veselinovic-Hofman, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu

Organization Committee:
Tatjana Markovic, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Vesna Mikic, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu
Ivana Perkovic Radak, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu
Tijana Popovic-Mladjenovic, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu
Mirjana Veselinovic-Hofman, Univerzitet umetnosti u Beogradu