Hearing Landscape Critically: Sense, Text, Ideology



Music Faculty, University of Oxford, 18-19 May 2012


‘Tell me the landscape in which you live and I will tell you who you are’ (José Ortega y Gasset).


Nowhere is the only unattainable elsewhere; people are always already somewhere. This conference – the first of three inter-continental meetings between 2012 and 2014 – is concerned with any and all ‘somewheres’ that might be thought of as landscapes.

Whether telescoped from afar or lived up close, landscapes are tense and contested sites of being, doing and remembering, of disaster and delight. In them we hear sounds, enact performances, partake in noise, rush and solitude. Yet these embodied and affective encounters are always already mediated in complex and conflicting ways; institutional, inter-personal, and ideological dynamics render landscapes amenable to the agencies of power, knowledge and desire.

From vast expanses to private quarters, landscapes articulate multiple and overlapping scales: global, local, temporal, virtual, universal. Landscapes, moreover, are rarely static or stable; at the frontier and the fringe, in the warren and the den we find marginal, interstitial and oppositional spaces.

Like a landscape, this call for papers cannot help but mark out its terrain: while acknowledging the contribution of existing work on landscape, too many studies have been concerned with purely scopic analyses, leaving multi-sensory experience and the historical materiality of landscape under-theorised. This conference thus seeks to expand, even explode our critical frames of reference, and develop alternative strategies for engaging critically and creatively with the poetics and politics of landscape.


Papers related to this agenda – including but not limited to the topics listed below – are welcome in the formats stipulated at the bottom of this CFP.

SITES OF POWER – occupation, reservation, institution, restitution, academy, capital, knowledge, ideology;

QUESTIONS OF STRUCTURE – smooth, striated, complex, chaotic, fixed, dense, in flux;

PERFORMING LANDSCAPE – theatre, narration, embodiment, language, song, immersion, everyday;

MOBILITIES – tourism, commuting, returning, tracing, dwelling and/as wandering, stasis and acceleration;

POLITICAL CONCERNS – subordination, exploitation, destruction, survival;

PHILOSOPHICAL CONCERNS – human, non-human, transcendental, nature, culture, ontology, epistemology, phenomenology.


Keynote speakers:

Prof. Julian Johnson (RHUL), “Aural Fantasies: Music, Modernity and the Imaginary Landscape”;

Prof. David Matless (Nottingham) will speak on landscape and sonic geography.

Other confirmed speakers include: Dr Daniel Grimley (Oxford) and Prof Stephanus Muller (Stellenbosch).


How to send proposals:

All proposals should be emailed to criticallandscapes@gmail.com (size limit = 5MB) by 15 January 2011. Please include name, affiliation (if applicable), postal address, email address and AV requirements on a separate cover sheet.

Individual papers (20 minutes) – abstract of no more than 300 words.

Panel sessions – describe individual papers and overarching theme in no more than 500 words.

Alternative formats – describe your proposal (i.e. performance, round table, film discussion, or whatever it may be) in no more than 500 words.


NB. Unfortunately, funding for travel will NOT be generally available for delegates. However, there may be some funds for student travel bursaries. If you would be interested in this, please indicate so on your cover sheet.