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A musical league of Nations?

Music institutions and the politics of internationalism

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Published on Wednesday, October 04, 2017 by Elsa Zotian

Summary

The role of music and musicians in forging international links either between or beyond national boundaries can sometimes seem unproblematic or even emancipatory, under the assumption that music can be socially transformative. Yet just as the project of political internationalism between and after the World Wars was not without its challenges, so too did musical initiatives sometimes find themselves in positions of compromise, ethical conflict or co-option into unintended agendas.This two-day symposium will focus on music institutions and initiatives that were explicitly shaped by the project of internationalism during the politically-charged twentieth century.

Announcement

Argument

‘What art is better adapted to form an international connecting-link, than music?—especially instrumental music, which is in a manner an international language, an expression of the most intimate, the profoundest emotions of man.’ – Guido Adler, 1925

The notion that instrumental music is either ‘universal’ or ‘international’ in any real sense has been discredited. Even as Adler’s comment draws upon an older notion of music as a ‘universal language’ and adapts it to the language of interwar political internationalism, he acknowledges the limitations of music to foster communication between nations, and writes that it should be the aim of research to discern the interaction between artistic phenomena that are ‘common property’ or the result of ‘nature’ on the one hand, and those that are the result of ‘culture’, and therefore localized, on the other.

The role of music and musicians in forging international links either between or beyond national boundaries can sometimes seem unproblematic or even emancipatory, under the assumption that music can be socially transformative. Yet just as the project of political internationalism between and after the World Wars was not without its challenges, so too did musical initiatives sometimes find themselves in positions of compromise, ethical conflict or co-option into unintended agendas.

This two-day symposium will focus on music institutions and initiatives that were explicitly shaped by the project of internationalism during the twentieth century. Organisations such as the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM), the International Musicological Society (IMS), as well as a range of smaller musical meetings throughout Europe and America during the interwar and post-war periods, subscribed to a similar set of ideological precepts. These organisations and meetings did not only involve musical composition and performance, or academic discussion, but they also often included public congresses that prompted debate around issues that went far beyond the simple celebration of international cooperation, or of music as an expression of a common humanity. They grappled with the contradiction between the idea of a non-national music or music scholarship and the decidedly national inflections of musical autonomy itself, and they struggled to reconcile the fact that music’s putative detachment from the social realm was what gave it its ‘universal’ potential, yet the project of internationalism was a political one, struck through with ideas about social justice and ethical responsibility.

The symposium will explore the musical, political and aesthetic dimensions of the discourse that surrounded the establishment of these organisations and their activities throughout the politically-charged twentieth century.

Submission guidelines

We welcome proposals (250 words) for individual papers or panels. Please send proposals to Sarah Collins at musical.league.of.nations@gmail.com

by 1 Nov. 2017.

Acceptances to be advised by early December.

Symposium : 29-30 June 2018, Institute of Musical Research, Senate House, London

Keynote Speaker: Prof. Anne Shreffler (Harvard University)

Conference Organisers and scientific committee

  • Sarah Collins (Durham University)
  • Laura Tunbridge (Oxford University)
  • Barbara Kelly (Royal Northern College of Music)

Conference Supporters

  • Institute of Musical Research, in association with the School of Advanced Study, University of London, Senate House (funding supplied by Nick Baker)
  • Additional funding from the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grants Scheme

Places

  • Institute of Musical Research, Senate House
    London, Britain

Date(s)

  • Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Keywords

  • music, internationalism, institutions, politics

Contact(s)

  • Sarah Collins
    courriel : musical [dot] league [dot] of [dot] nations [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Sarah Collins
    courriel : musical [dot] league [dot] of [dot] nations [at] gmail [dot] com

To cite this announcement

« A musical league of Nations? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, October 04, 2017, http://calenda.org/416990