Music in the body – body in music: The body at the intersection of musical practice and discourse

      • Conference, 5th/6th of September 2019, Department of Musicology, Georg-August-University of Göttingen
    • Our body forms the basis of all musical acts, utterances and experiences. As sonic waves, music impacts the body immediately. Musical instruments vibrate through human bodily action. Notated scores become music through the bodies of their performers. The effects of a Rock’n’Roll classic manifest bodily through physical movement in dance. Despite the undeniable presence and importance of the body in music production and reception, the body has been marginalised in historical musicology. This neglect persists despite the attention to the body as medium and location of knowledge in other disciplines throughout the humanities and social sciences. The body enjoys critical scholarly discussion and analysis since the performative turn in fields such as affect-, gender- and performance-studies, and these fields are explored in popular music studies, Ethno-, and cultural musicology. But these approximations have yet to amount to a rethinking of music in terms of its corporeality. Musicology often operates within a conception of music that is anchored to autonomy aesthetics, which is characterised by a “marginalisation of the body through the autonomy of the mind” (Traudes 2012). Not only is the performing body conceived as a transparent medium, transporting the mind-driven intentions of the composer, but the listening ideal is moreover not one of bodily reaction, but intellectual reflection. Consequently, the ‘music itself’ remains within the notated work requiring a certain ideological reading. As musicologists, the current tasks facing us are to examine the effects this ignorance of the body has had on our understanding of music (history) and detailing strategies to overcome this inattention. Furthermore, the consequences of including the body in our thinking about music must be analysed and critically discussed.
    • This conference aims to open ways into a foundational critical discussion of the above, questioning how the body and (musical) knowledge can be conceptually connected. To what extent are musicological questions impacted by the topic’s prevalence in other disciplines? How can we think of the body as a central musicological category?
    • This conference will examine the bodily dimensions of historical, social, symbolical and cultural practice in music along two related sections: music production and reception. With this, the aim is to discuss how the conceptualisation of the body beyond the dualism of body and mind also helps thinking beyond musical dualisms. Understanding the body as a tool for analysis possibly allows the body to become an intersection of knowledge, agency, discourse and practice. In this respect, the body is a shared locus of musical reception, interpretation and production, and can overturn the dualism of production and reception. The conference will accommodate this idea of intersection by bringing the contributions of the two conference sections into dialogue.

1. Composing the Performance? – staging the body in and to music

    • Questions: Corporeality is perceivable in performance, in visible staging, and in performers’ behaviour while musicking. Can corporeality also be detected as a principle of expression inherent to music, as a body inscribed into (musical) text? How can the resulting blurring of composing, performing and listening body be grasped analytically? How can we understand the body as a tool for music analysis?
    • Possible topics:
      • Musical text as staging strategy for the performing body: musical notation as prescriptive medium for bodily action and movement
      • From transparent medium to en-composed body: blurring of inner-musical and performing body
      • Body as fabric and interface of performative action (sensorially, sensually or sensationally)
      • The role of the interpreter/performer in the body-mind-dualism
      • Perception and presentation of the body on stage
      • Body as analytical key concept: How are discursive norms for the body produced, how do those norms structure our perception and practice?
      • Influence of the body and its potential for movement on the development of sign systems for music notation

2. Historical configurations of listening bodies as intersecting spaces of outside and inside
Questions: How is the bodily listening apparatus related to body norms and body experiences? What relationship does the listening body have to multi-sensory outward space and to concepts of inwardness or the self?

Possible topics:

      • History of the ears and the auditive body
      • Historical construction of listening bodies: disciplining, forming, fashioning listening skills, listening knowledge and listening abilities in the context of repertoires and canons, socio-historical practice, ethical norms, political dynamics, aesthetic norms, the history of knowledge, medicine and psychology
      • bodily listening attitudes, listening roles, listening habits and listening practice
      • The bodily sensory apparatus, historically, culturally, socially located between outside and inside spaces. Sensory apparatus used as receiver, medium, communicator, black box, interface, performer, arranger, multiplier…
      • History of embodiment in sonic space
      • Production of the subject through bodily perception, history of the body-mind-dualism
      • Naturalisation and deconstruction of listening bodies

This call for papers is directed towards advanced postgraduate and doctoral students, post-docs and senior scholars. Contributions from different fields of musicology as well as transdisciplinary contributions are welcome.
Individual papers will last 20 minutes with 10 minutes of discussion. It is possible to apply with a panel proposal comprised of max. three individual 20-minute-papers. Conference languages are German and English. A conference publication is intended. Please submit a paper abstract in German or English (max. 300 words) along with a short biography (max. 100 words) until the 1st of November 2018 to one of the organisers. Contributors will be informed about paper acceptance by the end of December 2018.
Expenses for travel and accommodation may be covered depending on successful funding applications and cannot be guaranteed at this point.
We look forward to your submissions!