Sound and Performance


Sound and Performance – This is the title of the 11th Congress of the
Gesellschaft für Theaterwissenschaft (German Society for Theatre
Studies) which is being held from 4 to 7 October 2012 by the Institute
for Music-Theatre Studies (Prof. Ernst, Prof. Mungen) at the
University of Bayreuth.

Current trends in theatre studies and musicology suggest that the
concepts of sound and performance are experiencing a boom, even though
they are not necessarily related to each other. The continuing
convergence of new media, the intermingling and the dissolution of
boundaries in the performing arts, as well as an obvious fashioning of
urban life-styles fostered by consumer products, constantly provide
new phenomena and varieties of acoustic performance. As an end to this
development is not in sight, it clearly presents the disciplines with
new tasks. In addition, with sound in its entire meaning, we address a
fundamental transformation of perception in visual as well as audible
terms. Sound is more than a synonym for music as well as performance
is significantly different from the notion of theatre. To mention only
one out of many examples for this obvious shift of our perception, one
might think of the phenomenon of immersion. In plunging into a virtual
world, we are able to experience what has been described as the
‘walkman-effect’ (Husokawa). Meanwhile visual-audio splits became a
common habit in the use of portable media, mobile phones and in

Over the last two decades, research on performativity has reacted to
various aspects of sound in multiple ways and posed new questions
related to theatre, music and cultural studies in addressing acoustic
phenomena such as voice, sound (space), resonance, rhythm and movement
in performances. Related to this branch of performance studies, we
suggest to ask: Which audible principles characterise performances?
Isn’t each presentation of sound phenomena by the same token also
performative? If sound is used as a metaphor in order to describe a
specific moment of transmission or a specific image (e.g. in terms of
as a specific, recognizable brand), does this metaphorical
transmission also include the bodily sensation, the co-presence and
the “presentness” of performances? Does the performance paradigm also
contain an audible dimension?

The congress aims to assemble for the first time a new spectrum of
questions and research approaches under the title Sound and
Performance and to discuss them in an interdisciplinary context. At
the centre is the assumption that “sound” and “performance” are terms
which fundamentally problematise our understanding of “music” or
“theatre”. These concepts, if applied as tools of critical thinking,
are thus suited to deal with the change and the dynamics of the
acoustic dimension of performances.

The idea is to understand the term “sound” as a complex and developing
field of research, which should be charted in taking in the
perspective of performance/performativity.

For focussed investigations into the specific aspects of sound and
performance, the organisers suggest the following thematic panels.

1. Theory of sound and performance.
2. Aesthetics of sound und performance
3. Historiography of sound and performance
4. Politics of sound and performance

Suggestions for topics for talks (20 minutes + 10 minutes) or panels
(90 minutes) should be sent as abstracts of approximately 250 words in
German or English, in addition to brief information on your
affiliation, to the following address by 15.5.2012:

Additional thematic panels and subject areas to be elaborated on are welcome.


Theaterwissenschaft Bayreuth
Prof. Dr. Wolf-Dieter Ernst, Prof. Anno Mungen

Nora Niethammer (congress office)