Call for Papers


*The call for papers is now closed*

The Ethics of Musical Labor

The Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society, in collaboration with the Royal Music Association Music and Philosophy Study Group, welcomes abstracts for an evening panel at AMS 2011 in San Francisco on the topic, The Ethics of Musical Labor.

From the music of the spheres to background music in malls and restaurants, music can seem to be something without an origin, something that is simply there. And yet, music entails work, ranging from the disciplining of performers’ bodies and listeners’ ears, to the copying and revision of composers’ scores, to the efforts of editors, engineers, stage hands, promoters, and many others. Without labor in diverse areas of production and reproduction, there could be no music, even if this labor is easy to overlook.

Moreover, with questions of labor come questions of ethics: Who labors for whom? When, how long, and under what conditions? Who benefits from this labor, how, and to what degree? How is this labor motivated, or recognized, or compensated? What ethical obligations or relations pertain between the musical laborer and those who benefit from their work?

We welcome papers dealing with the relationships among music, ethics and labor from a wide range of perspectives, both historical and theoretical, including analytic philosophy, continental philosophy, sociology, critical theory, and any other relevant discourse.

Possible ways of approaching this topic include, but are not limited to, the following:

–labor and the sociology of music
–music and Arendt’s distinctions between labor, work and action
–Levinas, “the face” and musical labor
–Adorno, fetishism, phantasmagoria and the occultation of musical production
–Ranciere, musical labor and “the distribution of the sensible”
–critical theory about performers’ health, especially their risk of injury
–systems of musical education and discipline, the philosophy of music pedagogy
–rethinking the subsistence of the historical composer and virtuoso vis-a-vis patrons, courts, churches, and other institutions
–Werktreue and the effects of absolute music on musical labor
–theorizing the unionization of musical labor
–the circulation, compensation, and interpretation of marginalized musical labor, e.g. musical labor in the global south or the developing world
–listening as a form of labor (structural, hermeneutic, cultural, ideological)
–analysis, scholarship, and criticism as labor
— theorizing compositional labor and its prostheses: manuscripts, machines and algorithms
–music and materialism

If you are interested in participating in this panel, please send the following to, no later than August 8, 2011: 1) an abstract of no more than 350 words describing a 20-minute paper; 2) your name, institutional affiliation, and contact information.

As a collaboration between the Philosophy Study Groups of the AMS and the RMA, this panel will be composed of speakers selected from the membership of each institution. We look forward to fostering conversation between our organizations on this rich topic, and on the study of music and philosophy more broadly.

If you have any questions about this event, please contact Stephen Decatur Smith ( ) or Tomas McAuley ( ).