The Heroic in Music – Diverse Meaning and Musical Analysis

International conference: The Heroic in Music – Diverse Meaning and Musical Analysis
Leipzig, 13-15 September 2012
Closing date for proposals: 31.12.2011

Throughout European art music history, the ‘heroic’ has been established as a central concept to describe and interpret musical phenomena. Associations with heroic characteristics, emotions and actions stimulated to attribute the property of the heroic to the compositional style of Beethoven’s middle period, the voice type ‘heldentenor’ and Baroque types of operas and cantatas (opere and cantate eroiche). Recent research on master performers has elucidated this intertwinement of virtuosity and heroicization.
The significance that the heroic possesses for musical discourse constrasts sharply to the vagueness with which the term has been applied to heterogeneous musical phenomena, works and styles. Usually, if musicologists have availed themselves of the term ‘heroic’ in order to characterize music, the term’s concrete denotations and connotations have not been explicitly defined. Consequently, the ‘heroic’ as a category to describe musical means and styles is plausible only at first glance.
In this light several questions arise: which compositional and/or performance-related means have evoked associations with heroic ideas and attributes (in the past and the present)? What types of discourse on the heroic or the hero, as the basis of these associations, is prevalent during a specific time period? Moreover, which concepts of the hero have dominated music historiography and to what degree did they influence the understanding and the evaluation of music? And – a question for the final discussion of the conference – has the concept of heroism and the characteristics of the music related to it always been the same or has it changed over time? In other words, does the ‘heroic’, despite cultural historical revolts and changes, possess conceptual constants that can also be proven in the music, or does the term’s continuity manifest itself in little more than family resemblances (in the sense of Wittgenstein)?
The conference aims to provide insights in the fields of both musicology and cultural history. On the one hand, its goal is the systematic understanding of the heroic in music i.e. its manifestation in diverse musical means from antiquity to the presence. On the other, the exploration of musical phenomena is expected to broaden the horizon of knowledge on the heroic, heroicization and narratives of the hero in cultural, social and political history; in this way, it aims to contribute to deeper understanding about the various concepts of the heroic throughout history.

Proposals to be submitted until 31 December might address these and similar subjects (in alphabetical order):

heroic operas and cantatas
heroism and gender
heroism and genius
heroism and greatness
heroism and militarism
heroism and nationalism and/or folklore
heroism and pleasure culture
heroism and religion
heroism and the good and/or bad
heroism and triumph and/or victory
heroism and violence
heroism and virtuosity
heroism and voice
heroism in 20th-century music
heroism in non-European music
heroism in totalitarian systems
rhetoric of the heroic in music
the discourse on the heroic in musicology
the heroic and the pastoral
the heroic style of Beethoven

Conference languages will be German and English. Preference will be given to those proposals that promise new insights in both cultural history and musical analysis. The number of words should be limited to 250. Proposals are to be sent to:

Organisation und direction:

Dr. Beate Kutschke
Institut für Musikwissenschaft
Universität Leipzig
Goldschmidtstraße 12
04103 Leipzig

PD Dr. Rainer Bayreuther
Musikwissenschaftliches Seminar der Universität Freiburg
Platz der Universität 3
79095 Freiburg i.Br.
Tel. 0761/203-3095