Finding Democracy in Music – A Symposium

4-5 September 2017, University of Huddersfield

Deadline for proposals: 17 February 2017

Confirmed keynote speakers: Professor Georgina Born (University of Oxford); Professor Tina K. Ramnarine (Royal Holloway, University of London)

For a century and more musicians have sought to relate their practice to the values of democracy. Composers have justified innovative approaches to musical material and performance practice in terms of democracy. Jazz and orchestral social inclusion projects have been championed globally as models of democratic process. Experiments in group improvisation, audience participation and online networked performance seek new kinds of emancipation and egalitarianism in the name of musical democratisation.

But what is meant by democracy in such instances? In recent months, the UK’s Brexit vote and the US presidential election have made democratic processes the subject of unprecedented public debate. Political theory teaches that democracy is a highly contested category, one that has been imagined in many different ways, and any particular realisation of which carries costs as well as benefits. This symposium aims to interrogate claims for the ‘democratic’ nature of music, asking questions such as: What ideas of democracy are assumed by different musicians and musical practices? To what extent do discourses ascribing democratic attributes to music map onto the realities of music-making? What are the shortcomings as well as the gains, in terms of freedom and equality, of particular democratic arrangements? What can musical democracy have to teach us about democracy in the political field?

We invite proposals for papers exploring these and related questions in relation to any musical practice of the past 100 years. Proposals are welcome from scholars working in any discipline. Papers should place the emphasis upon ways in which musical material, music’s performance practices and/or the institutional structure of musical organisations embody democratic process (thus ‘democracy in music’), rather than music’s diverse deployments within democratic politics (‘music in democracy’). In this regard the symposium forms a complementary counterpart to the 2015 Paris conference ‘Musiques en démocratie’. A volume of selected essays arising from the symposium will be published in the book series ‘Musical Cultures of the Twentieth Century’ (Routledge/Fondazione Giorgio Cini).

Papers will be 30-minutes in length with 15 minutes of discussion time, to enable the fullest exchange. Please submit proposals (250-300 words) to adlingtonrc@gmail.com by the deadline Friday 17 February 2017, 5:00pm. The programme will be announced in early March.

Conference organisers:

Professor Robert Adlington (University of Nottingham; from 2017: University of Huddersfield)

Professor Esteban Buch (L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris)