Conference feedback

Conference report from the committee

The RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group committee is very grateful to those who provided feedback on our 2012 Conference. The majority of those who responded were musicologists (73%), and respondents describing their primary disciplinary area to be Analytic Philosophy and Continental Philosophy amounted to 17% and 10% respectively. The respondents were almost equally divided between being non-speaking delegates (49%) and speaking/chairing delegates (51%). The questionnaire included 15 questions, and this brief summary will point to areas that worked well, and areas that could be improved.

On overall conference experience, 91% of delegates ranked the conference ‘very good’ or ‘good’, and the remaining 9% ‘satisfactory’. Areas for improvement here included ‘food/refreshments at the conference venue’, ‘suitability of conference rooms’, and ‘ease of navigating between conference rooms’, each of which had minor scores in the ‘unsatisfactory’ bracket (17%, 14%, and 11% respectively). The highest ‘very good’ scores went to ‘ease of registration’ (71%) and ‘pre-conference information/communication’ (64%). From questions about accommodation and cost, it was clear that most delegates appreciated both the location and the low cost of the conference overall. Given the intensity of a two-day conference, the organisers are pleased that 81% of the respondents found that the number of parallel sessions was ‘about right’. On a similar note, when asked about whether the conference should be expanded to become a three-day event, a small majority of respondents answered yes, but there were also a notable number of strong objections against, and a large number who did not have a preference for either. Bearing all sides of the argument in mind, the committee has decided to make the 2013 conference a two-day event (19-20 July), but with an added day of extra activity (18 July) prior to the conference.

For this year’s experimental PechaKucha session, some respondents deemed it unsuccessful, but many thought the format was promising, and ‘potentially excellent’. Respondents noted that for the format to be successful in the future, it would be key to ensure that all papers are specifically designed for the purpose, rather than condensed versions of 20 minute papers. Although happy to consider including a PechaKucha session in future years, the organisers will prioritise for 2013 to respond to a general consensus from the feedback to allow more time for discussion. Therefore, the 2013 conference will see regular 20 minute papers followed by 20 minutes of discussion (rather than 10 minutes, as was the case at this year’s conference). Plenary sessions will also see more time given over to discussion and the time allocated to keynote respondents will be increased.

In general, the organisers are very grateful for the many suggestions made by the survey respondents, and we are planning the 2013 conference in light of these. We have taken care to choose a theme that allows participation from scholars working on a wide variety of topics, including, for example, from within sound studies, contemporary music, and ethnomusicology. On a practical note, we will aim to tighten up timings and technology, and we will explicitly invite proposals for lecture recitals and live performances in the call for papers. Most encouraging is the general sense that this conference is a worthwhile venture both for students entering the field and for more established scholars, and that it provides an atmosphere where fruitful dialogue and sharing of ideas across disciplinary boundaries is possible.

The aim of the Study Group is ‘to provide a distinctive long-term forum offering opportunities for those with an interest in music and philosophy to share and discuss work, in the hope of furthering dialogue in this area’. In the spirit of collaboration, the aim with our annual conference is to try to make space for quite a few voices from a wide variety of sub-areas within the three major areas of musicology, continental philosophy, and analytical philosophy, in the hope that scholars within each area might inspire each other. Our paper acceptance remains very competitive (with an acceptance rate of under 25% in 2011 and 2012), but the committee is dedicated to being as open-minded as possible towards methodologies from the three disciplines. Proposals are selected according to the quality of the proposal, rather than the topic of investigation. Refusal of a paper on any given theme does not reflect any bias against that area, but stems from the necessity of making difficult decisions in such a competitive field.

Since its formation in May 2010, the RMA MPSG has attracted a continually growing level of interest: from 72 abstract submissions and 95 delegates for the 2010 Music and Philosophy Study Day (on the back of which the Study Group was founded); to 140 abstract submissions and 160 delegates for its inaugural annual conference in 2011; to 177 abstract submissions and 235 delegates for its 2012 conference. The committee takes the rapid development of these conferences as a positive sign of increasing interest in the area of music and philosophy, and we hope that these events will continue to provide a venue for high quality research and a hub of interaction for scholars and students in the field.

Feedback is always appreciated, so we would welcome anyone with further thoughts to get in touch. Furthermore, if you are interested in organising a music and philosophy event, we are always happy to receive proposals and to discuss ideas, and would encourage you to get in touch with our Events Coordinator (Nanette Nielsen) or any other committee member. We very much look forward to continued dialogue and stimulating interaction at our 2013 conference.