CFP (conf): Musical Modernity, the Beautiful and the Sublime


Conference: Musical Modernity, the Beautiful and the Sublime

The University of Aberdeen and the SOUND festival, Aberdeen, Scotland.
30-31st October 2015

Theodor Adorno noted the difficulty of creating new art that can be beautiful in a truthful way, eschewing any response to musical modernity that would allow its easy assimilation in terms of the traditionally beautiful. For Jean-François Lyotard, the arts for the last century have no longer been concerned primarily with the beautiful but rather with a renewed concept of the sublime. This dissociation of the beautiful from the modern in Adorno and Lyotard contrasts strikingly with Helmut Lachenmann’s revalorisation of the beautiful and his distinction of ‘humanity’s legitimate and profoundly rooted demand for art as the experience of Beauty, and its false satisfaction and alienation in the form of art “fodder” manufactured by the bourgeoisie and preserved in a society of repressed contradictions’ (Lachenmann 1980, 20). Out of this polarity of the modern as the moment of the sublime (Lyotard) and the possibility of a ‘rescued’ concept of the beautiful (Lachenmann), participants are invited to offer twenty minute papers on any aspect of musical modernity in relation to the beautiful and/or the sublime. The sublime has become a rich source of reflection in critical theory, with alternative conceptualisations from Lyotard, Derrida, Lacan, Zizek, Marion and others, and following Simon Morley’s categorisation, the contemporary sublime has been related to the unpresentable, transcendence, nature, technology, terror, the uncanny and altered states. While the sublime has not enjoyed attention in music studies comparable with what it has stimulated elsewhere in the humanities, this conference will provide a forum for musicological, theoretical and philosophical reflection in conjunction with a series of musical performances.

Proposals considering any of the following are welcomed:

• Musicological papers considering any aspect of modern/contemporary music in relation to the sublime and/or the beautiful.

• Philosophical/Critical theory papers developing thinking on the beautiful and/or the sublime in relation to any aspect of musical modernity.

• Philosophical/Critical theory papers which do not deal explicitly with music but which develop thinking on the sublime and the beautiful in ways that may relate interestingly to musical modernity.

• Papers considering musical modernity, politics and the sublime.

• Papers considering the extent to which musical modernity concerns the sublime (Lyotard) or a reconstituted notion of beauty (Lachenmann).

Abstracts should be c. 400 words and should also contain first and last name of presenter, title of proposed presentation, institutional affiliation, mailing address, telephone number and email address.

Proposals must be received no later than 1 June 2015 and should be posted to

Proposals will be blind reviewed by two or three members of the conference committee, depending on the areas covered in the proposal. Notification of acceptance will be sent to applicants by 12th June 2015.

Keynote Speakers:
•James Williams (Professor of Philosophy, University of Dundee)

•Brice Pauset (Composer, Lecturer in Philosophy at Berlin’s Freies Universität and Professor of Composition at the Institute for New Music in the Musikhochschule Freiburg im Breisgau)

Confirmed performers:

•Ensemble Alternance (Paris, France) featuring works by Brice Pauset, Raphaël Cendo and Ricardo Nillni.

•Ian Pace (piano) featuring works by Helmut Lachenmann and Pascal Dusapin.
Conference Committee:

Edward Campbell
Fiona Robertson
Peter Nelson
Björn Heile
Phillip Cooke
Pete Stollery

By admin

Sign up for periodic announcements via our Newsletter!