Music History and Cosmopolitanism

Fourth Sibelius Academy Symposium on Music History,

June 1–3, 2016 at Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Helsinki, Finland

Keynote Speakers (see below for abstracts)

Brigid Cohen, New York University, USA
Mark Everist, University of Southampton, GB
Franco Fabbri, University of Turin, IT

Conference Outline

The Third Sibelius Academy Symposium (2014) took as its theme the questioning of methodological nationalism in music historiography: the kind of historiography that, according to Beck and Sznaider, equates society with national society (“Unpacking Cosmopolitanism for the Social Sciences,” 2006: 2). They called, instead, for a methodological cosmopolitanism, an alternative that has gained momentum within musicology, often alongside related concepts: the last two decades have seen increased attention to the conspicuous mobility of works and musicians; to cities as sites of cosmopolitan encounter; and to the transnational and global connections created and exploited by musicians.

The Fourth Sibelius Academy Symposium takes cosmopolitanism as its theme in order to contribute to and clarify this cosmopolitan turn, which raises as many questions as it answers. The label “cosmopolitan” is easily attached to instances of diversity in performance and consumption, for example, but it has been more broadly reinterpreted as an ethical standpoint transcending the local and national. Clearly, the meaning of the cosmopolitan remains hard to define, both theoretically and in relation to particular times and places. The danger of naïve universalism is obvious enough, but how, in musicological practice, can the discourse on cosmopolitanism engage with the post-colonial experience of musicians, with diaspora and migration, or with the complexities of Creolization and métissage? Without losing sight (or sound) of nuanced case studies, we might also ask, more broadly, after the relationship between the cosmopolitan and the transnational as analytical categories. Moreover, how can the study of music and musicians contribute to our understanding of the intersection of cosmopolitanism and social class?

This international symposium will offer a forum for debate about how we might build a post-national understanding of the social in the musical past. The aim is to pursue a better understanding of the kinds of social interweaving and mutual dependence that set cosmopolitan musical processes in motion well before the mass migrations and technological changes that characterized the twentieth century, and to begin to identify features that might signal the emergence of a cosmopolitan society. We therefore invite proposals for papers and group sessions under the following themes:

  • The transnationalization of music, its import and export, its cultural transfer and exchange
  • Music and transnational mobility, migrancy and nomadism.
  • Music and belonging: the exiled musician and the stateless musician
  • Music and urban culture; cosmopolitan musical genres
  • Music and international networks of digital communication
  • Diasporic communities, music and border crossing
  • Music and non-state politics (e.g. human rights and ecological issues)
  • Music and non-state affiliations: religion, ethnicity, pan-nationalism, (Communist) Internationalism

The Conference Committee welcomes individual papers and proposals for panels and roundtable discussions. For individual papers, abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted, with a short biography of the presenter. Panels and roundtable proposals should include a session overview, participant biographies and descriptions of individual contributions.

Please send abstracts and proposals to the conference secretary, Dr. Kaarina Kilpiö, at by Wednesday 30 September 2015. Notices of acceptance will be sent by Friday 30 October 2015.

Conference Committee

Vesa Kurkela (chair) / Sibelius Academy
Philip Bohlman / University of Chicago, USA
Katherine Hambridge / University of Warwick, GB
Markus Mantere / Sibelius Academy & The Finnish Musicological Society
Tomi Mäkelä / Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
Derek Scott / University of Leeds, GB
Anne Sivuoja-Kauppala / Sibelius Academy
Kaarina Kilpiö (conference secretary) / Sibelius Academy

Keynote Abstracts

Brigid Cohen: Musical Cosmopolitics in Cold War New York

New York crystallized as an archetypal “global city” under the pressure of the early Cold War, when the U.S. asserted heightened economic and military dominance, while absorbing unprecedented levels of immigration in the wake of the Holocaust, decolonization movements, and the internal Great Migration.  During this period, the city built a cultural infrastructure that benefitted from, and sought to match, the nation’s enhanced geopolitical and economic power.  This talk examines the role of musical “migrant mediators” who navigated new patronage opportunities that arose in this setting, helping to reinforce transnational art and music networks for generations to come.  With attention to concert music, jazz, electronic music, and performance art—and figures ranging from Yoko Ono to Vladimir Ussachevsky—I highlight creators’ wildly disparate enactments of national citizenship and world belonging in the arts of the Cold War “global city,” their different cosmopolitanisms in counterpoint and contestation with one another.

Mark Everist: Stage Music and Cultural Transfer in Europe, 1814–1870

The history of stage music in the nineteenth century trades largely in the commodities of named composer and opera in the early 21st century canon. This serves our understanding of the nineteenth century badly, and in ways in which colleagues in other disciplines would find strange. Examining stage music on a European scale, from Lisbon to St Petersburg and from Dublin to Odessa, in pursuit of an understanding of the cultures that supported opera in the long nineteenth century begins to uncover networks of activity that span the entire continent, and that engage the reception of French and Italian stage music in the farthest flung regions.

Setting forth an understanding of nineteenth-century stage music that attempts to grasp the complex reality of ‘opera’ in Seville, Klausenberg or Copenhagen, opens up the possibility not only of going beyond tired notions of national identity, or even of the ‘imagined community’ but also of beginning to understand the cultural contest in terms of urban encounter or melee.

Franco Fabbri: An ‘Intricate Fabric of Influences and Coincidences in the History of Popular Music’: Reflections on the Challenging Work of Popular Music Historians

What we now call ‘popular music’ isn’t simply the Anglo-American mainstream from the Tin Pan Alley era (or even the 1950s) onward, with the optional addition of a handful of local genres, styles, and scenes: it’s an extremely varied set of music events that became visible and audible almost simultaneously in many places around the world since the early decades of the Nineteenth century (the ‘third type’ of music, according to Derek B. Scott, emerging in the void created by the invention of ‘classical’ and ‘folk’ music). If we accept this idea, then a popular music historian has to face a number of challenging questions.

Which sources (sheet music, paintings, photographs, movies, recordings, memories and ethnographic research, ads, posters, reviews, demographic and economic data, objects, instruments, technologies, places, up to web-based documents, etc.) are available? How reliable are they? In which languages were they conceived, written or recorded? Within which theoretical framework can they be studied? It’s a huge work, but it must also produce a manageable output, in the form of handbooks, audio-visual products, web pages, and other material suitable for teaching and dissemination. The paper will address some of these questions and challenges, with the aim to avoid the sheer transferral of concepts from the study of the current mainstream to a cosmopolitan history of popular music(s).

Music around the Atlantic Rim

Joint conference hosted by

Saturday 19th October, 2013
hosted by THE SCHOOL OF MUSIC, CARDIFF UNIVERSITY in association with University of Liverpool and The Open University

This conference will consider the relocation of peoples and exchanges of culture, music and ideas in relation to seafaring.

We seek new approaches and theoretical frameworks for the circulation and exchange of ideas and materials related to music around the Atlantic rim specifically, and more generally, in trans-oceanic context and around large bodies of water.

We invite innovative research about multi-directional movements of musicians, musical artefacts (including instruments and recordings), repertoires and ideas within populations of free and forced migrants, seafarers, and other travellers. Research about music making on ships and in ports is particularly welcome.

We encourage an interrogation of existing theories of diaspora and call for new models of enquiry in a changing Atlantic world.

Building on representations and critiques of “the Black Atlantic” and proposing new analytical models, this conference will also include research about European forms that traverse the Atlantic but do not usually default to the transatlantic rubric.

In particular, we invite work on the “Green Atlantic”: the circa-Atlantic emigration of Celtic peoples and musics, as well as immigration patterns into Celtic sites. As well as inviting new research on past triangulated movements of people between Europe, Africa and the Americas, we seek fresh research about contemporary patterns of relocation and exchange due to changing political, economic and technological formations.

Suggested sub-themes include:

· Music in ports and ships. Prior to the mid-twentieth century, all transmission of musical cultures across oceans required ships, and seaports were the gateways for all intercontinental migration and mobility. What have been the implications of these modes of travel and dissemination? How did ocean journeys change and create music? How did multinational and transient seaport communities develop their musical identities?

· Music in and around bodies of water. As well as being historical sites of forced migrations, international port towns/cities (such as Cardiff) invite both immigrant and transitory populations, and hence become dynamic and fertile musical hubs. What is the difference between a region defined by water, and one defined by land, and how does this shape the formation of musical communities? What kinds of patterns and issues emerge from geographical areas defined by oceans?

· Popular music around the Atlantic. Does the movement of popular music products around the Atlantic differ substantially from the movements of people? While some musical forms emanate from sites of dense immigrant communities, does popular music transcend the movements of people? If so, does this render many theories of music in diaspora obsolete? What other patterns of musical production and consumption are emerging around the Atlantic?

· The cyber Atlantic. Social networking increasingly determines the formation of musical communities throughout the world. With millions of sites (e.g. YouTube, My Space, Facebook) organised around music, incalculable exchanges of ideas, knowledge and sounds take place every second. Is the Atlantic imagined differently compared to other sources on these sites? Or is the Atlantic imagined at all by a new generation of musicians and audiences in the digital age?

· Historiographical studies of transatlantic musical movements and forms. Papers critiquing past transatlantic scholarship and re-evaluating taken-for-granted historical research about transatlantic musical communities and forms are invited. New studies employing fresh theories and incorporating linguistic approaches, religious studies, musical analysis, and archival and ethnographic research are particularly welcome.

· Beyond diaspora. How far have we come since BFE’s examination of diaspora in 1997 and 2005? As we move deeper into a globalised, digitised world, how useful are notions of diaspora when theorising music around the Atlantic rim today? As musical products and ideas traverse a historically race- and class-divided Atlantic, do past theories such as Gilroy’s expansion of Du Bois’s concept of “double consciousness” continue to be relevant? What theories may be more suited to the complex patterns of movement (both past and present) of musicians, music and musical artefacts?

We welcome proposals for 20 minute papers which address any of the themes outlined above. Please send abstracts of 200 words to by Friday 21 June 2013. Decisions will be notified by Friday 9 August 2013.

You would be very welcome to attend the colloquium without offering a paper, but please email to reserve your place, as capacity is limited.

Conference Committee:

Amanda Villepastour (Cardiff University), Catherine Tackley (The Open University), Graeme Milne (University of Liverpool), John Morgan O’Connell (Cardiff University)

This conference has been timed to precede WOMEX, which takes place in Cardiff

23-27 October 2013.