The 7th biennial conference of the Music and Philosophy Study Group

Thursday 11th and Friday 12th July 2019Strand Campus, King’s College London

Full programme with abstracts - web version Full programme with abstracts - PDF version for download

Our main, multi-day conferences are held biannually at King’s College London, and this year’s conference will be the largest yet with over 80 speakers. This year’s invited keynote speakers are

Professor Jenefer Robinson (University of Cincinnati)
Professor Alexander García Düttmann (Universität der Künste, Berlin)
Professor Julian Johnson (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Panels are organised according to three types of sessions:

Themed sessions are organised by individual session convenors, who issued their own CfP and selected papers themselves
Associates sessions are hosted by other organisations or research groupings with related interests
Free sessions are made up of papers submitted to an open, unthemed CfP

conference sponsors


Thursday 11th July

8.45-9.20 Registration and coffee | Great Hall

9.20-9.30 Introductory words | Safra Lecture Theatre

9.30-11.00 Keynote I | Safra Lecture Theatre

<strong>Professor Jenefer Robinson </strong>(University of Cincinnati)

‘Musical Emotions’ as Aesthetic Emotions

Chair Andrew Huddleston

11.00-13.00 Parallel Sessions I

Session overview
Themed Session | SWB21
Philosophies and Theories of Musical Transcription and Arrangement
Themed Session | SWB20
A Musical Matter of Mind
Themed Session | SWB18
Is There a Medieval ‘Music and Philosophy’?
Associates Session | River Room
Eduard Hanslick’s Concepts – Meaning, Translation, Reception
Free Session | Room -1.56
Musical Thought in the Enlightenment

13.00-14.00 Lunch | Great Hall

14.00-16.40 Parallel Sessions II

Session overview
Associates Session | SWB21
Music, Muse, Mimesis: Figures of Deconstruction
Free Session | SWB20
Evaluative Terms and Metaphors for Music
Free Session | SWB18
Perception and Meaning
Free Session | River Room
Matter, Process and Product
Free Session | Room -1.56
Musical Works, Musical Objects

16.40-17.15 Coffee | Great Hall
Including an opportunity to meet committee members to discuss involvement in or collaboration with the study group

17.15-18.45 Keynote II | Safra Lecture Theatre

<strong>Professor Alexander García Düttmann</strong> (Universität der Künste, Berlin)

Why Opera Is A Bit Much

Chair Peter Osborne ( Kingston University, London)

19.15 Dinner | Masala Zone

Friday 12th July

9.00-10.00 Registration and coffee | Great Hall

9.00-10.00 Early Career Session (plus registration and coffee) | River Room

This session will involve a Q&A session with Peter Nelson, editor of Contemporary Music Review, and Maria Witek, Senior Birmingham Fellow in the music department at the University of Birmingham, on interdisciplinary research, successful journal submission and navigation of the early career process.
Chair: Férdia Stone-Davis 

10.00-12.40 Parallel sessions III

Session overview
Themed Session | SWB21
From 1945: Philosophy and New Music
Themed Session | SWB20
Reconceiving Musical Notation
Associates Session | River Room
What Is a Music-Philosophical Argument?
Free Session | SWB18
Set(ting) Texts: Music and Literature
Free Session | Room -1.56
Autonomy, Biographism, and Formalism

12.40-13.30 Lunch | Great Hall

13.30-16.20 Parallel Sessions IV

Session overview
Associates Session | SWB21
Unhearing the Absolute: Theorizing Music after Absolute Music
Associates Session | River Room
The Philosophy of Rhythm: Relation and Temporality in Music
Free Session | SWB18
Quotation – Restoration – Homage
Free Session | SWB20
Temporality and Cultural Influence in Music after World War II
Free Session | Room -1.56
Voice and Embodiment

16.20-16.50 Coffee | Great Hall
Including an opportunity to meet committee members to discuss involvement in or collaboration with the study group

16.50-18.20 Keynote III |Safra Lecture Theatre

<strong>Professor Julian Johnson </strong>(Royal Holloway, University of London)
Language, Sense, and the Muteness of Music

Chair Naomi Waltham-Smith

18.20 Acknowledgements | Great Hall

18.30 Drinks reception | Great Hall


2019 Biennial Conference:
Call for

7th Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group  

Department of Music and Department of Philosophy
Strand Campus, King’s College London
Thursday and Friday, 11–12 July 2019

The RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group warmly invites session and paper proposals for this two-day international conference, to be held in London on 11–12 July 2019. The event will offer an opportunity for those with an interest in music and philosophy to share and discuss work, in the hope of furthering dialogue in this area. Following the success of last year’s format, we will run three types of session:

Call for Associates Sessions - now closed

Related organisations, including scholarly societies, study groups and institutional departments, are warmly invited to host a session at the conference. The topic and organisation of such sessions is left to the host: sessions may feature invited speakers. All formats will be considered.

If you would like to be involved in this way, please upload your session abstract and the abstracts of and information about all contributors to the Associates Sessions form by 15 December 2018:

Submitted paper abstracts may be up to 350 words (if an individual paper of 20 minutes), up to 500 words (if a collaborative paper of 30 minutes), and abstracts outlining the rationale for the session may be up to 350 words.

Call for Free Sessions - now closed 

We invite submissions for papers on any topic relating to music and philosophy. The conference presumes inclusive definitions of both music and philosophy. We take music to include all forms and genres of music, art music and popular, secular and sacred, from any and all historical and geographical locales. We take philosophy to include analytic, continental, classical, and non-Western thought, as well as critical theory. Regardless of disciplinary affiliation, the committee seeks conceptually rigorous and clearly articulated research that presents a novel argument and advances understanding of its topic.

Collaboration between persons from different disciplines (including music studies, philosophy, performance, composition, psychology, history, literary studies, art history, anthropology, and others) would be especially welcomed.

Proposals are invited for:

  • individual papers (20 minutes) – up to 350 words
  • collaborative papers (30 minutes) – up to 500 words
  • lecture recitals (30 minutes) – up to 350 words

Please submit proposals by 15 December 2018 using the Free Sessions form.

Themed sessions

The following focused sessions are convened and organised by individuals who have produced their own CFP. If you would like to submit an abstract to one of these sessions send your abstract directly to the session convenors by 21 December 2018. Decisions about acceptance will be made in collaboration with the session convenors and the MPSG 2019 programme committee.

A Musical Matter of Mind

Dr Simon Høffding (University of Oslo)
Dr Nanette Nielsen (University of Oslo)

For recent “4E” approaches within cognitive science the mind is embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended, and cognition is shaped by dynamic interactions between the brain, the body, and physical and social environments. Part of this shaping occurs by a process of “mental offloading”: once we “scaffold” know-how into our physical surroundings we engage in such offloading. Examples include tilting our heads to perceive a rotated image, or storing knowledge into our memory-supporting smartphone such that we receive a reminder of an upcoming event. In accounting for the materiality of musical encounters, Joel Krueger (2017) argues that music can serve as a tool for offloading in a similar way as other tools and technologies. Via this offloading, “music can (at least potentially) scaffold access to new forms of thought, experience, and behaviour” (Krueger 2017, 2).

Considering musical engagement and experience as fundamentally embodied allows us to ask the question of what possible mental transformation can occur through listening and/or performing. For instance, Krueger’s work shows how people listen to music to regulate their emotions and open new spheres of emotion (2014). Further, music performance at expert levels seems to enable new forms of reflection, in which reflective and pre-reflective modes of self-awareness combine in unusual ways (McGuiness 2014) or in which one develops a simultaneous multiplicity of first-personal perspectives (Hurlburt 2011). Tout court, expert musical performance seems to scaffold new forms of consciousness (Høffding 2019). For this session we seek to foster further music-philosophical dialogue about these recent approaches and invite papers from musicologists and/or philosophers that interrogate and discuss how musical offloading – as listening and/or performing – might enable new forms of thought, experience, and behaviour.

Abstracts of up to 350 words (or 500 for collaborative papers) should be sent to Simon Høffding: by 21 December 2018 with the subject “A Musical Matter of Mind.”

Works cited:

Hurlburt, Russell T (2011). Investigating Pristine Inner Experience: Moments of Truth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Høffding, Simon (2019). A Phenomenology of Musical Absorption. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Krueger, Joel (2014). “Musical Manipulations and the Emotionally Extended Mind.” Empirical Musicology Review 9 (3).

Krueger, Joel (2017). “Music as Affective Scaffolding” in David Clarke, Ruth Herbert & Eric Clarke (eds.), Music and Consciousness II. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

McGuiness, Andy (2013). “Self-Consciousness in Musical Performance.” In Experience and Meaning in Music Performance, edited by Martin Clayton, Byron Dueck, and Laura Leante, 108–34. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

From 1945: Philosophy and New Music

Max Erwin (University of Leeds)

Since its advent in the early 20th century and its international institutionalisation after World War II, New Music has often served as a proving ground for philosophical, ethical, aesthetic and ideological theorising. Recently, through a renewed focus on curatorial practices, New Music has come under scrutiny from post-colonial, feminist, and post-Deleuzian “hyperaffirmative” theorists (George Lewis, Georgina Born, and Patrick Frank, respectively). At the same time, the work of Seth Brodsky has deployed a reinvigorated Lacanian psychoanalysis to wrest deep-structural insights from both the work of Wolfgang Rihm in particular and Western culture since 1989 in general. The category of “avant-garde” itself has undergone philosophical re-evaluation – Martin Iddon has proposed that New Music now exists as a “subculture”, while Lauren Redhead instead terms it an “exform”, and Benjamin Piekut has identified a “vernacular avant-garde” which has eschewed received formal categories while enjoying institutional patronage. In response to these and many more developments, this session aims to serve as an impetus to explore the intersections of philosophy and the practices and discourses within and marginal to New Music as manifested since 1945. Potential departure points might include:

  • How do philosophical concerns—stated or otherwise—inform practitioners within the avant-garde art music tradition?
  • Which philosophies serve to legitimate certain practices—as “avant-garde,” “progressive,” “inclusive,” or otherwise—and by whom are they deployed?
  • How has the ontological status of the musical “work” changed (or not) since the post-war period?
  • How do “avant-garde” and “New Music” function as aesthetic categories today?
Abstracts of up to 350 words (or 500 for collaborative papers) should be sent to Max Erwin by 21 December 2018 with the subject “From 1945: Philosophy and New Music.”
Is there a medieval 'music and philosophy'?

Nicholas Ball (University of Cambridge)

Premodern and early-modern uses of the term ‘musica’ encompass a broad range of meanings, which include some things that we might today be happy to call music and others that we might rather call philosophy. We can turn for instance to Boethius’ famous division of musica into cosmic music, human music, and music which rests in certain instruments (Bower 1989). Indeed the influence of musica extends far into medieval natural philosophy, in which it was fundamental to the development of cosmological models (Hicks 2017). But musica was only one interface between the musical and the philosophical; in the course of a long middle ages many other disciplinary perspectives were brought to bear to differently negotiate the relationship between music and ethics, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language (for example Leach 2007).

Scholars working on music and philosophy in later centuries have made use of a capacious definition of philosophy to draw out a complex and changing set of interactions, overlaps, and relations between the musical and the philosophical. The many medieval negotiations of music and philosophy offer an opportunity to reflect upon the ‘prehistories’ of ideas more usually discussed under that subdisciplinary heading, and to occasion a productive dialogue between medievalists and scholars of later centuries about the commonalities and shared concerns as well as areas of productive difference in their work.

Papers are welcome on any aspect of music and philosophy in a long middle ages with reference to Latin, Arabic, or any other musical or philosophical tradition.

Abstracts of up to 350 words (or 500 for collaborative papers) should be sent to Nicholas David Yardley Ball by 21 December 2018 with the subject “Is there a Medieval ‘Music and Philosophy’?”

Philosophies and Theories of musical transcription and arrangement

Frankie Perry (Royal Holloway)
Peter Asimov (University of Cambridge)

Musical transcriptions and arrangements have been the subject of much philosophizing and theorizing. Within analytic philosophy, for instance, they have sparked ontological debate (for instance, Davies 1988; Goehr 1992; Kivy 1993; Thom 2007). Elsewhere Peter Szendy’s conception of arrangement as written-down listening fosters further plastic, ecological, and hermeneutic approaches. Within musicology, Liszt’s oeuvre of transcriptions have been explored through historical theories of translation (Kregor 2010); queer-theoretical models have been used to dissect the cultural workings of cover songs (Peraino; Halberstam 2007); considerations of the ethics of ethnographic transcription have spanned over half a century (see Stanyek 2014); and recently Daniel Leech-Wilkinson has provocatively argued that ‘there are no arrangements’. Arrangement studies is gaining momentum, with recent conferences and volumes forthcoming, while outside the academy, musically adaptive practices continue to be ubiquitous.

We invite speakers to reignite philosophical and theoretical discussions raised by all manner of musical reimaginings. Possible topics include – but are not limited to – the following prompts: How can arrangements complicate notions of the musical work: do they reinforce, or threaten, it? Can ontological debates be sidestepped (or re-energised) by turning to concepts from performance or adaptation studies? How should we approach the abundant repertoire of contemporary compositions that re-imagine the music of the past or of different traditions, and how do issues of ownership and copyright intersect with these approaches? What are the relationships between arrangement, understandings of style, and perceptions of musical or historical time? Can new perspectives be brought to the various historical, economic, and cultural circulations and mediations of arrangements?

This session is convened by the study group ‘TAROT’ (‘Transcription, Arrangement/adaptation, Reworking, Orchestration, and Translation’). Building on conference sessions on “Arrangements since 1900” (ICMSN, 2017) and on “Reimagining Musical Reimaginings” (RMA, 2018), as well as a conference “Rethinking musical transcription and arrangement” (Cambridge, 2018), we hope to provoke here a philosophical and interdisciplinary discussion of these transformative musical practices.

Abstracts of up to 350 words (or 500 for collaborative papers) should be sent to Frankie Perry and Peter Asimov at by 21 December 2018 with the subject “Philosophies and Theories of Musical Transcription and Arrangement.”

Reconceiving Musical Notation

Clément Canonne (IRCAM-CNRS)
Nicolas Donin (IRCAM-CNRS)
Pierre Saint-Germier (IRCAM-CNRS)

Notation arguably plays a central role in a great number of musical practices. By bringing philosophers and musicologists together in this themed session, we seek to bring theoretical resources from various approaches (e.g. material culture, relevance theory, embodied cognition, etc.) to enable a comprehensive theorizing of music notation.

Potential topics of discussion include, but are not limited to the following:

Uses of musical notations

What types of notations are used by which practitioners for what purposes? There are many cases for which notation seems to fall outside of the prescription/description dichotomy (i.e., Cardew’s Treatise), so that a widening of the repertoire of possible functions might be called for, as well as a reconceptualization of the more familiar functions.

Beyond the code

There is a tendency, inherited from Nelson Goodman, to see notations as encoding musical properties. However, the code-model of communication has been severely criticized for neglecting the role of intention and inference in communication. Stressing communication’s inferential aspects opens new avenues to discuss the traditional issues of notation’s interpretation, disambiguation, incompleteness and context-dependency.

Musical ontology and musical notation

On some views of the ontology of musical works, notation is decisive, fixing the identity conditions of works and the extension of the relation of execution between a work and a performance. But this sort of view is usually based on an idealized view of musical notations and seems to deflate music’s sonic nature. Closer attention to the details of the interface between notations and performances should therefore have an impact of the way to conceive the ontology of musical works.

Alternative notations

Proposals for reforming the standard western notation are frequently offered. This raises questions about the reasons for this growing diversification and the various criteria (cultural, cognitive, pedagogical, aesthetic, etc.) that are used or could be used to guide the choice, by particular agents, for one notational system over another.

The ear, the eye and the body

Musical notations create an interface between the ears, eyes and bodies. This suggests a reconceptualisation of such notations as cognitive artefacts, extending the processing of musical information and control of movement outside the body of the musician. How far can the currently fashionable theories of embodied and extended cognition shed light on musical notation?

Abstracts of up to 350 words (or 500 for collaborative papers) should be sent to Pierre Saint-Germier by 21 December 2018 with the subject “Reconceiving Musical Notation.”

All submissions to the Free Sessions and Associates Sessions will be considered by blind review by the programme committee:

Dr Jeremy Coleman (University of Aberdeen)
Dr Andrew Huddleston (Birkbeck, University of London)
Professor Derek Matravers (Open University)
Dr Matthew Pritchard (University of Leeds)
Friedlind Riedel (Bauhaus-University Weimar)
Professor Martin Stokes (King’s College London)
Dr Férdia Stone-Davis (University of Cambridge)
Dr Naomi Waltham-Smith (University of Warwick)

Please contact our chair Férdia Stone-Davis with any queries about the call for papers. All proposals must be submitted via the website. If you encounter difficulties uploading your abstract please contact our web administrator.

Reasonably priced university accommodation will be available.

Review of the 7th Biennial Conference of the Music and Philosophy Study Group
11th & 12th July 2019  | Strand Campus, King’s College London

The 7th Biennial Conference of the Music and Philosophy Study Group once again heralded a coming together of philosophers, musicologists, musicians, and artists. The conference aimed to understand, and possibly bridge, the gap between music and philosophy. With over 80 speakers, this was the largest conference in the series so far, and was packed-full of intriguing parallel panel sessions on diverse themes ranging from music history, theology, and perception, to music ontology, language, and sound art. As such, this report will form a selective overview, and will not do justice to the true extent of research conducted over the two days. The main questions addressed by the three keynote lectures and panel sessions were:

  • Can we, and should we, make music intelligible?
  • How might particular kinds of music bear on philosophical accounts of musical expression and emotion?
  • To what extent are the disciplines of music and philosophy conducted democratically?

The conference kicked off with a keynote lecture by Jenefer Robinson (University of Cincinnati) – ‘Musical emotions’ as Aesthetic Emotions – where it was argued that aesthetic emotions are ordinary emotions but with a special set of objects. Discussion raised the issue of context, and that we should be cautious about glossing over important differences in cultural, racial, and gendered analyses of musical works. This issue of universality versus particularism became a dominant theme of the conference. A selection of panels followed on topics including: medieval philosophy and music; how we talk about music; musical transcription; and music-making and the mind. The first day closed with the second keynote by Alexander García Düttmann (Universität der Künste, Berlin) – Why Opera is a Bit Much – which asked whether we can have an opera for (almost) all. 

The second day began with a very useful early-career workshop with Peter Nelson (University of Edinburgh) editor of Contemporary Music Review, and Maria Witek (University of Birmingham). More parallel sessions followed on topics including music-philosophical arguments, voice in architectural soundscapes, Sikh aesthetics, and musical notation.

The last keynote by Julian Johnson (Royal Holloway, University of London) – Language, Sense, and the Muteness of Music – formed an illuminating conclusion of the two days. It addressed how the concrete particulars of musicology, the abstract reasoning of philosophy, and the “absent bedfellow” of music itself in this discursive triangle, might be tied together. Johnson saw the ‘gap’ between music and philosophy as a vibrating site of constant negotiation, and he emphasised the importance of listening, both to music, and to one other.

The conference also drew attention to the nature of interdisciplinarity, and the importance of informal discussion. As any interdisciplinary conference participant will testify, accessibility is crucial. While it’s sometimes difficult to communicate across disciplines, several talks at this conference managed to straddle these divides, proving that research can be conducted transparently, in a way that stimulates better, and more democratic, discussion. Lastly, it was noticed that the breaks over coffee and in corridors between sessions were just as, or even more, fruitful as the formal presentations. These more intimate encounters formed a unique space in which to understand how to speak (or not speak) about music and sound; the clatter and chatter of ideas noisily whizzed around in these spontaneous moments. Now that’s how you do a music conference: as a cacophony. Luigi Russolo would have been proud.

Daisy Dixon
Peterhouse, Cambridge
July 16th 2019

Impressions from the event

Photo credit: Joseph Gabor

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