Rethinking musical transcription and arrangement

A one-day conference, with support from the Royal Musical Association and the Music & Letters Trust.

Saturday, 19 May 2018; University of Cambridge, UK.

Musical arrangements, according to Peter Szendy, enable us to “listen to someone listening”, to “hear them hear”. Arrangement and related practices (including transcription, orchestration, adaptation, reworking, translation, and completion) are musically ubiquitous, reinscribing pre-existing musical material(s) into fresh historical, cultural, and aesthetic contexts. However, the study of musical arrangement and transcription has been neglected within musicology, owing in part both to the lack of suitable theoretical and analytical methodologies for dealing with their processes and products, and to entrenched ideologies which privilege ‘originality’ and ‘authenticity’. This conference aims to bring together critical perspectives on these multifarious practices from within musicology and beyond.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on any related topic. Recognising that existing scholarship has often been narrowly specific to a particular repertoire or theoretical approach, we especially encourage paper proposals that consider broader implications of such practices for musical meaning, ontology, situation, authorship, and interpretation, as well as the social dimensions and mediations of musical transcription and arrangement, in the hope of drawing out theoretical underpinnings common to these diverse practices. We also welcome practice-based proposals from performers and composers.

A non-exhaustive list of themes includes:

-Studies of particular musical transcriptions, arrangements, and reimaginings.

-Musical transcription and arrangement and the challenging of ontologies of music.

-Social, political, economic, and legal stakes of musical arrangement.

-Perspectives from fields of translation, adaptation, and performance studies.

-Critical perspectives on timbre, instrumentation, and organology.

-The roles of transcription in ethnomusicology and popular music studies.

Keynote Speaker: Professor Jonathan Kregor (University of Cincinnati)

Please send abstracts (250 words) to <> by 28th February, along with a short biography (100 words), contact details, institutional affiliation, and technical requirements listed on a separate page. Decisions will be communicated in mid-March. We will be able to offer some financial assistance towards expenses for students — please indicate if you would like to be considered for a bursary.

This conference is organised by a London-based, IMR-affiliated study group on musical transcription and arrangement, ‘TAROT’ (


Peter Asimov (University of Cambridge)

Frankie Perry (Royal Holloway, University of London)

William Drummond (University of Oxford)