Music History and Historical Materialism: Reflections and Possibilities

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*Registration Open*

Senate House, University of London

Friday 13th April 2018

Organised by the Ernst Bloch Centre for German Thought, Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London

Keynote: Prof. Benjamin Korstvedt (Clark University, USA)

Organisers: Dr Jeremy Coleman (Bloch Centre, IMLR; Aberdeen); Dr Johan Siebers (Bloch Centre, IMLR; Middlesex)

Marxist thought and music historiography have only seldom combined in critical writing or scholarly research, and from the perspective of the present most examples appear as so many moribund historical curiosities. This one-day international conference, organised by the IMLR’s Ernst Bloch Centre on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx, believes that a genuinely fruitful interaction between music history writing and historical materialism has yet to be carried out and, at the same time, that signs towards such a mode of criticism are discernible in the very agents and materials of music history and of the history of philosophy. Acknowledging that historical materialist ideas have so far arguably found greater resonance in popular music studies and in ethnomusicology than in Western art music historiography, the focus of the symposium will be on Western art music history with respect to its complex relations to industrial capitalism, bourgeois liberalism and modernity. Beyond Marxist cultural theory or critical theory, the conference seeks to evaluate the potential of Marxist thought for historical musicology and for the philosophy of music today, and to consider to what extent music history and historical materialism can even be ‘thought together’. An interdisciplinary conference at the crossroads of musicology, history and philosophy, the day will consist of nine papers in four sessions followed by a keynote address given by Professor Benjamin Korstvedt (Clark University, USA) and a concluding discussion.

Keynote: Benjamin Korstvedt (Clark University):
Bloch, Music, and Historical Materialism: Why Now and Why for the Future?

Session 1: Blochian Perspectives
Beth M. Snyder (Surrey); Naomi Woo (Cambridge); Ben Earle (Birmingham)

Session 2: Re-Evaluating Marx on Labour and Commodity: 19th-Century Case Studies
Charlie Shrader (Pennsylvania); Peter Mondelli (North Texas)

Session 3: Myth and Ideology in the History of Opera
Emily X.X. Tan (Oxford); Nicholas Till (Sussex)

Session 4: Musical Production after Modernity
Noah Zeldin (Chicago); James Davis (Birmingham)

Advance registration essential • £15 (standard) • £10 (students/unwaged)

To register and to view the programme, paper abstracts and speaker biographies, please visit

This event is sponsored by the Coffin Trust of the University of London