Beyond the East-West Divide: Rethinking Balkan Music’s Poles of Attraction

Beyond the East-West Divide:
Rethinking Balkan Music’s Poles of Attraction

Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
BASEES Study Group for Russian and Eastern European Music

Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, 27–29 September 2013


The Institute of Musicology of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the BASEES Study Group for Russian and Eastern European Music are pleased to invite proposals for an international conference to be held in Belgrade in September 2013 under the title Beyond the East-West Divide: Rethinking Balkan Music’s Poles of Attraction.

In its engagement with Balkan music, musicology has largely conformed to the dominant cultural historiographical model of a divide between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Marked by core binary concepts, under the spell initially of theories of modernity, and subsequently of critical theories that aimed to deconstruct these oppositions, musicology on Balkan music still remains within the confines of the ‘East-West’ paradigm. Theories such as Edward Said’s Orientalism and Maria Todorova’s Balkanism have served as key methodological tools in conceptualizing Balkan music and analysing the ways in which stereotypical and ideologically-charged images of ‘the West’ and ‘the East’ are reproduced in musical praxes. Powerful as they have been, analyses of the Balkans solely with reference to ‘East’ and ‘West’ surely do not do justice to the diversity of relationships that have shaped its variegated musical space, and have inevitably rendered a distorted image of its musical landscape.

The conference aims to contribute to a widening of our critical understanding of a historically and spatially diverse cultural network that embraces Balkan music, and therefore invites proposals for papers that challenge and/or move beyond the ‘East-West’ paradigm. An examination of a network that would not be restricted to the West-East perspective should lead to a richer and more complex understanding of the Balkans and its interconnectedness with other regions, such as the Mediterranean and Russia. By analysing these as well as other spheres of influences, we hope to reveal affinities that have rarely been explored, and will yield a richer understanding not only of Balkan music (‘art’, ‘traditional’ as well as ‘popular’) but also of music history in general.

Contributions could fall under – but do not need to be restricted to – one of the following subtopics:
– Musical Relations between the Balkans and Russia
Russia has acted as an influencing agent on the Balkans over several centuries and ties between these two regions were often highly charged politically. Importantly, Moscow was perceived as the ‘Third Rome’ by the Orthodox Balkans, while the Russian Empire was deeply involved in matters of the so-called ‘Eastern Question’. The great influx of Russian émigrés following the Russian revolution played a significant role in shaping the Balkan cultural elite. Last but not least, the Russian national school and the Soviet model of socialist realism had a profound impact on Balkan music over the last two centuries.
– Interactions with the Mediterranean
Both the Balkans and the Mediterranean figure more as imaginary cultural spaces than firm geographical entities. Yet the way these spaces correlate musically has barely been explored. How did the culture of the Mediterranean, with its shifting empires and perpetual migrations, engage with the Balkans musically? What could be learned, for example, by exploring the great hub of Constantinople, which has been perceived both as a gateway to the Balkans and a symbol of the Eastern Mediterranean? Could a scrutiny of Balkan music’s interaction with Mediterranean music enrich our understanding of musical life of the broader area of South Eastern Europe?

The conference’s official language is English. Proposals for 20-minute papers (of no more than 400 words) and short biographical notes (of up to 200 words) should be sent both to Srđan Atanasovski (, Institute of Musicology SASA) and Katerina Levidou (, REEM Study Group) by 1st of December 2012 (receipt of proposals will be acknowledged by e-mail). We also encourage session proposal; please provide a short description of the session in addition to individual abstracts and biographical notes. Proposals will be reviewed by the conference committee and results will be announced by 1st of February 2013. A selection of papers will be considered for publication in the form of conference proceedings. Conference fee: 50 Euros (Students are exempted).

Keynote speakers

Danica Petrović, Institute of Musicology SASA, Belgrade
Danica Petrović specializes in the Byzantine foundations of Serbian church music, post-Byzantine Greek-Serbian and Russian-Serbian cultural connections in the 18th century, traditional Serbian folk church chant and the links between Serbian music and European music in the 19thcentury.

Timothy Rice, University of California, Herb Alpert School of Music, Los Angeles
Timothy Rice specializes in the traditional music of the Balkans, with a special focus on Bulgaria in both the socialist and post-socialist periods. In terms of research themes, he has written, among other things, on musical cognition, politics and music, meaning and music, mass media, and music teaching and learning.

Conference Committee:

Dejan Despić, Fellow of the SASA
Jim Samson, Ph.D., Fellow of the BA
Philip Bullock, Ph.D.
Jelena Jovanović, Ph.D.
Katerina Levidou, Ph.D.
Ivana Medić, Ph.D.
Melita Milin, Ph.D.
Danica Petrović, Ph.D.
Katy Romanou, Ph.D.
Katarina Tomašević, Ph.D.
Biljana Milanović
Srđan Atanasovski

Call for papers can also be found on the following web-site: CALL FOR PAPERS