CFP: Music, ‘Art’ and the White Racial Frame: Aesthetics and Critical Race Theory

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CFP for contributions to a Themed Session at the #MPSG21

Convener: Alexander Douglas, University of Wolverhampton

Since the firestorm we know as #Schenkergate erupted, academic music studies have been forced to reckon with the way Philip Ewell has appropriated Joe Feagin’s concept of the ‘white racial frame’. The starting point for this session is the understanding that the field of music philosophy can legitimately be charged with operating through such a frame. A major role is played here by the concept of music – or that music which is considered worthy of (philosophical-aesthetic) theorization – as ‘art’, to whose ‘dignity’, claimed the musicologist and white supremacist François-Joseph Fétis in 1869, ‘no music has been elevated…apart from among peoples of the white race’. As such, ‘art music’ co-exists alongside the concept of a ‘musical work’, and therefore music as ‘property’, existing within what critical race theorist Cheryl Harris has called an ‘entangled relationship’ with the history of whiteness; but also concepts of music as ‘symbol’, differently articulated by, say, Susanne Langer and Nelson Goodman – a symbol needing to be interpreted or ‘understood’ (not least by those in positions of epistemic authority); as well as persistent interpretations of art as ‘technique’ subject to historicist teleological imperatives of technical ‘progress’.

In sum, what is the concept of ‘art’ when considered against the background of racial ideologies, structures and histories, and what is its usefulness to our understanding of music as both ontological entity and lived experience, inside and outside the West? Contributions are sought from various disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives – from aesthetics to ethnomusicology, music psychology, creative practice and beyond – that will explore these and other potential dimensions of an encounter between music aesthetics and critical race theory, enabling BAME researchers to question (without totalizing or foreclosing the issues) just what place certain concepts surrounding ‘art’ music might have in a critically informed, antiracist aesthetic discourse.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words to Alexander Douglas, alexander.douglas@wlv.ac.uk, by October 30, 2020

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