Music Across the Ocean: Processes of Cultural Exchange in a Transatlantic Space, 1800–1950

Interdisciplinary and international symposium of the research project “Musical Crossroads. Transatlantic Cultural Exchange 1800–1950“

University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria

June 24th – 25th 2021

„As it is already known, artists (except mechanical) are among the people [in the USA] who are least in demand, and in recent times have even been cautioned against immigration.“ That is how critical a journalist of the German Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung in 1820 viewed career opportunities for European musicians in the “New World”, the United States of America. The author, who was located in the European musical culture system supported by courtly, bourgeois and sacred institutions, found it difficult to imagine that European artists could find a place in society and a financial livelihood in this relatively young state. But this is only one perspective that represents a snapshot of the transatlantic music cultural exchange between Europe and North America. Only a few decades later the journalist would have most likely revised his opinion in view of an increase in counter examples such as traveling music or singing ensembles like the Hutchinson Family Singers or the Parepa Rosa Opera Company, traveling virtuosos like Ole Bull, Louis Moreau Gottschalk or Jenny Lind, but also instrument makers like the Steinweg family. Important impulses for transatlantic exchange processes came from political upheavals and crises, but also from economic and cultural considerations.  

The international interdisciplinary conference Music Across the Ocean: Processes of Cultural Exchange in a Transatlantic Space, 1800-1950 will address music-related transatlantic cultural exchange processes in both directions, whereby culture is understood here not as a state or condition, but as a process connected with phenomena of overlapping and transmission and the interweaving and negotiation of power relations (such as cultural hegemony). The concepts of cultural exchange (Burke 2000), cultural transfer (Lüsebrink 2005) and cultural translation (Bachmann-Medick 2016) are just a few examples of possible methodological approaches. In this context, exchange processes are not only regarded as a transfer of individuals (musicians, music teachers and students, music dealers), but likewise on the levels of transferred practices (instrument making, running a musical, orchestra conducting, teaching), media (sheet music, instruments, images, film), concepts of society (heroic images, musical canon, democracy) and spatial concepts (private houses, theaters, concert halls, business premises). 

We welcome contributions from the fields of music, art, theater and media studies as well as history, American studies, (cultural) sociology, gender studies and related disciplines that investigate (music) cultural exchange processes in a transatlantic space on the basis of one or more of the five mentioned levels. Planning an international conference in these unpredictable times, in which also the scientific community must learn to deal with limited mobility, requires new ideas and creativity. Therefore, the conference scheduled to take place on site in Vienna will be extended by a “Transatlantic Web Session”. This additional web panel will explicitly include digital communication channels and especially address contributions that exploit the specifics of these channels: Possible ideas for submissions could include virtual visits to museums and archives, as well as the integration of location-bound source material and transatlantic dialogues. The conference will be held in German and English. We would also like to point out a supplementary program in which, with regard to modern science communication, the results of our research will be presented in the form of an exhibition and an intermedia theater performance.

Interested researchers are invited to submit a proposal for a 20-minute talk or an idea for a Web Session(max. 250 words) together with a short CV to the organizers by November 30th 2020. A budget is available for the support of travel and accommodation costs, especially for young researchers.


Prof. Dr. Melanie Unseld, Dr. Carola Bebermeier and Clemens Kreutzfeldt, MA

Institut für Musikwissenschaft und Interpretationsforschung 

Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien 

Seilerstätte 26
1010 Wien, Österreich
Tel.: +43/1/71155-3523