FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD: Music and Politics

Call for Papers
FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD: Music and Politics
Utrecht, 6-8 September 2015
(Gaudeamus and Utrecht University)

Music has always been inextricably bound up with society. Philosophical debates about the affect and ethicality of music date back to the Politeia, where Plato discussed the corrupting and moralizing powers of music on the soul, its ability to instigate certain behaviour that needed to be regulated by the state.

In his recent book Composing Dissent, Robert Adlington discusses Dutch composed music of the sixties within its political context. Composers including Peter Schat and Louis Andriessen were involved in protest groups, campaigns directed against established musical institutions and the formation of innovative types of ensembles. With their music, they were actively (re)acting on society.

In Sound, Music, Affect: Theorizing Sonic Experience, Marie Thompson and Ian Biddle discuss the influence of popular music in the 2010-11 riots that occurred in response to plans for public spending cuts and tuition increases in the UK. The music ‘that was mobilizing the protesters had no overt political content’ and therefore, according to the media, was not ‘political’. However, its role during the protests did not lie in musical semantics, but in its mobilizing capacity, its power to connect, install a sense of collectivity, its energy and its usage in a particular space.

These are only a few examples of music’s role within and society. Yet, in particular, composers and musicians in the realm of ‘contemporary classical music’ have been accused of losing contact with society. Their political commitment and involvement with society seems to be more and more disconnected. This does not mean that music nowadays is not deeply rooted in society, less reflective, or non-ethical. On the contrary, as Marcel Cobussen and Nanette Nielsen argue in Music and Ethics, ‘[m]usic contributes to a better understanding of one’s place within the world, and (thus) to an ethical sensibility’ and ‘[t]he role, function and position of music in contemporary society exceed the aesthetical realm; music has more to offer to humanity than various kinds of aural entertainment, or of beauty for beauty’s sake. Alongside its social, religious, political and economic roles, music is also an active participant in ethical concerns’.

The conference FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD: Politics, organised by Gaudeamus Muziekweek and the musicology department of Utrecht University, will address
the interplay between music and society. How does the one reflect/react/influence the other and vice versa? Can music be political? Confirmed keynote speaker is dr. Robert Adlington (University of Nottingham).

Academics, practitioners (composers, sound artists and designers, performers and musicians), as well as postgraduate students are invited to submit proposals for papers (max. duration of 20 minutes). Academic as well as artistic contributions can be accepted. Each submission should include the following information: author(s) name(s), academic affiliation(s), e-mail address, title of presentation, abstract (300 words max.), a short CV, and a list of technological requirements (overhead, power point, etc).

All proposals must be submitted by 15 April 2015 to

The conference will contain a concert program. Events will be announced in the build-up to the conference.

Conference committee
Prof. dr. Emile Wennekes (Utrecht University; Music and Media Study Group,
International Musicological Society)
Dr. Robert Adlington (University of Nottingham)
Dr. Marcel Cobussen (Leiden University; Journal of Sonic Studies)
Stefan Prins, PhD (Composer)
Jan Nieuwenhuis (Gaudeamus Muziekweek; Journal of Sonic Studies)