Alternative Histories of Electronic Music (AHEM)
15-16 April 2016
The Science Museum Research Centre, Queen’s Gate, London
The story of the genesis and development of electronic/electroacoustic music is often told in the same familiar way. Experiments in musique concrète in Paris and elektronische Musik in Cologne played a central role in European developments, while activities in New York such as those of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, John Cage and his Music for Tape-Recorders group, and Louis and Bebe Barron are frequently proffered as the most prominent American contributions. These activities were significant, of course; but they were not the only progenitors of modern-day electronic music. There are many, many other ways in which the story of electronic music’s history and development could be told.
For example… What does electronic music look like if we focus on the contributions of individuals whose work is less widely known; less widely recognised? What happens if we step away from the Western European and North American institutions that are normally figured as central to the genesis and development of electronic music? Or, what happens if we question, or explore the mechanisms of, their authority? What happens if we change our object(s) of study; if we look at artefacts and objects rather than composers and works, for instance? Are there tools, techniques, instruments that played an important role in shaping electronic music that remain under-recognised or misunderstood? What about when we listen to the marginalised voices; what versions of electronic music’s history do they tell? Or, what happens if we change our methods of study, so as to highlight aspects that hitherto went unnoticed, such as underlying social, political, or economic dimensions? How does current music draw on the origins of the form?
This conference is being staged as part of an AHRC-funded project exploring the work of the English musician and musicologist Hugh Davies (1943-2005). In the late 1960s, Davies produced a comprehensive inventory of electronic music compositions, entitled International Electronic Music Catalog (1968), in which he documented the output of 560 studios in 39 countries. This challenged the hegemony of the Paris, Cologne, and New York schools, whose activities dominated the literature of the 1950s and 60s. As such, Davies provided what was perhaps the first alternative version of electronic music’s history. While this conference is not directly ‘about’ Hugh Davies, then, it does explore some of the broader issues raised by his work.
There are many ways in which an ‘alternative’ history could be framed. The purpose of this conference is to explore all possibilities; to focus upon different ways of telling the story of electronic music; to explore its alternative histories.
Call for Papers
We seek proposals for papers/presentations that fall under the rubric of ‘alternative histories of electronic music’, as sketched out above. We welcome submissions that focus on any one or combination of the following (note that these are suggestive rather than prescriptive):
- Pathways from electronic music’s past to electronic music’s present that are ‘a little bit different’ from what one might expect.
- Individuals, institutions, inventions, or perspectives that have been neglected or under-represented up to now.
- Alternative methodological and/or theoretical perspectives; studies that encourage us to look at the history of electronic music in a different way.
- Ethnographic, anthropological, and/or interdisciplinary approaches; implementation of methods native to science and technology studies (STS); other methodological approaches that are apt to reveal ‘alternative histories’.
- Alternative narratives; studies that compel us to attend to, or listen to, different things as we navigate electronic music’s history.
- Marginalised voices; stories of electronic music’s history and development that have been sidelined, for whatever reasons.
- Non-Western European, Non-North American developments, and/or activities that happened outside those typically considered in electronic music histories.
- Unconventional or DIY approaches; work that has flouted the norms and expectations of its epoch.
- Developments that have shaped or changed the direction of electronic music, but which remain as yet under- or un-recognised.
- Notions of genre/style/idiom as a lens for alternative histories.
- Studies that might be thought of as continuing the work that Hugh Davies started with his International Electronic Music Catalog, for example by focusing on the electronic music of under-represented nations.
- Tools, techniques, instruments (etc.) that played an important role in shaping electronic music, but which remain under-recognised or misunderstood.
- Interrogating the (perhaps invisible) driving forces behind institutions of cultural production, so as to reveal why certain models of electronic music dominate, or appear to dominate.
- Historic perspectives on relationships between electronic music and other musical/cultural practices.
We are interested in how electronic music came to be the way it currently is; and in the developments and perceptions that have shaped this. Proposals are therefore likely to incorporate a strong historical element, either focusing directly upon historic developments, and/or framing the current state of affairs in the light of historic perspectives. (Proposals from individuals to discuss their own creative work are discouraged unless they provide strong insights in the above areas.)
Submissions are welcomed from all disciplines, but particularly from electroacoustic music studies, science and technology studies, history/philosophy of science/technology, and sound studies.
Please submit an abstract of approximately 500 words, plus brief biographies of approximately 100 words for each author, using the template provided, by email to email@example.com. The template can be downloaded here in MS Word and RTF (Rich Text Format).
- Call for papers: 7 July 2015
- Deadline for abstracts: 31 October 2015
- Notification of results: 1 December 2015
- Conference: 15-16 April 2016
There are plans for a thematic issue of Organised Sound. A separate call for submission will be released in due course. Conference delegates interested in publication are encouraged to conceive of their conference papers/presentations such that they could be developed into full-length journal articles (c. 6-7000 words); a deadline for submission of articles for peer review is provisionally anticipated around 5 months after the conference (September 2016).
Contacts and Other Information
For any enquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This conference is being staged as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project led by Dr James Mooney, School of Music, University of Leeds, in partnership with Dr Tim Boon, Head of Research and Public History, The Science Museum.