Music & Material Culture. From Medieval Times to the Present


One-Day Workshop
University of Cambridge, 7 December 2016


     During the last decade, many disciplines have been increasingly oriented towards the study of material culture, exploring the relations between objects and people. From different perspectives within the humanities and social sciences, this 'material turn' has emphasized both the materiality of objects, and their social life as bearers of cultural meaning.
     Music and sound studies have also seen a growing interest in objects and materiality, with approaches ranging from the relations of music and space, the technologies of sound production and consumption, and the materiality of musical notation, to the raise of 'materialism' as opposed to the 'idealism' that governed traditional musicology. However, these developments have taken place in a generally uncoordinated manner, and the purpose of this conference is to bring them together in such a way as to deepen knowledge and promote discussion of objects and materiality in music and sound studies.
     This workshop proposes to create a bridge between material culture studies and musical studies, exploring the wide range of objects that interact with musical practice and consumption, sound production, and the sense of hearing. The workshop has a wide regional and historical scope, ranging from Medieval times to the present.

Some of the topics that will be addressed in the workshop are:

–The theoretical and methodological challenges of materialism in musicology

–The social life of musical instruments: a new organology

–Scientific knowledge and ideas of the material in music and sound

–The body and the senses

–Mobility and cultural exchange

–Sonic materiality and immateriality of music

Abstracts of no more than 350 words should be sent both to and by August 22, 2016. Please include title, name, institutional affiliation, email address, and a short biography (150 words). The Committee will notify applicants of the outcome by September 5, 2016. We welcome submissions for twenty minutes papers in English and in French. Due to time constraints, only a limited amount of papers will be selected. If you have any further queries, please contact the organising committee by emailing or

Organising Committee:

Amparo Fontaine (University of Cambridge)
Vera Wolkowicz (University of Cambridge)
Violeta Nigro Giunta (CRAL/EHESS)
Nicolò Palazzetti (CRAL/EHESS)