Perceptual Tensions, Sensory Resonance

Perceptual Tensions, Sensory Resonance
An International Conference on
Contemporary Opera and New Music Theatre

University of Toronto
June 8-9, 2012

When it premiered in 1976, Einstein on the Beach by Robert Wilson and Phillip Glass stretched audience members’ experience of time by saturating sensory perception over the opera’s five-hour duration. 2012 will see the revival of Einstein on the Beach in a new production slated for international tour. In conjunction with performances of this production in Toronto, the University of Toronto will host a two-day interdisciplinary conference on Opera and forms of New Music Theatre, that takes perception and sensory experience as its starting points. Addressing collaborative creation and the changing reception of opera and new music theatre in the last fifty years, this conference seeks to draw upon varied fields including perception, sensory studies, affect theory, audience studies, phenomenological and aesthetic theories, narratology, and the nature of contemporary operatic staging and theatricality.

Topics of interest may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Multi- and Inter-sensory Perception
• How do our senses work together and in opposition when experiencing contemporary opera and new music theatre? How might we analyze the haptic and kinesthetic modalities of opera and new music theatre?

Time, Contemporaneity, and Temporality
• How do historical time, perceptual time, and aspects of compositional-temporal organization intersect in contemporary opera and new music theatre?

Repetition and Excess
• How do minimalist aesthetics work with and against the grain of opera and new music theatre? How might repetition and excess in contemporary opera and new music theatre structure audience members’ affective responses?

Sensory Scholarship
• How do we talk about our sensory experiences of opera and new music theatre? How might we write about them, or respond to them in alternate, performative ways?

Social Efficacy, Community Engagements
• How are opera and new music theatre creators working in and with communities to collaboratively develop new work? What challenges are involved in such partnerships?

Setting the Stage, Situating the Audience
• How do the sites of performance, and site-specific practices, influence the creation and perception of opera and new music theatre? How have visual media technologies and unconventional performance spaces been used to engage audiences and invigorate productions?

Please submit an abstract of approximately 300 words no later than September 15, 2011 to: Perceptual.tensions(at)

Organizing Committee:
T. Nikki Cesare (Drama, University of Toronto), Caryl Clark (Music, University of Toronto), Linda Hutcheon (Comparative Literature, University of Toronto), Michael Hutcheon (Medicine, University of Toronto), Sherry Lee (Music, University of Toronto), Dylan Robinson (Royal Holloway, University of London)