CFP: Sounding Out Musical Ethics


CFP for contributions to a themed session at the #MPSG21

Convener: Ariana Phillips-Hutton, University of Cambridge  

Contemporary musical life is saturated with ethically significant issues, from evaluating Spotify’s business practices to the function of copyright and intellectual property law, from distinguishing cultural appropriation to confronting structural inequality in music, and from choosing to perform Wagner in Israel to choosing to perform in Israel at all. Despite this interweaving, working out the relationship between music and ethics has historically been fraught with questions: does music carry ethical content? If so, how and in what ways could it be said to be ethical? Alternatively, how might the structures and relations of music influence conceptions of ethics?

The challenge of bringing ethics and music together has been addressed with increasing frequency in recent years by authors such as Marcel Cobussen and Nanette Nielsen (Music and Ethics, 2012), Michael Gallope (Deep Refrains, 2017), and Jeff Warren (Musical and Ethical Responsibility, 2014). A recent essay by Kathleen Higgins (‘Connecting Music to Ethics’, 2018) suggests strategies for applying music to ethically positive ends, yet questions over the viability and desirability of such a project remain unexplored. This seminar-style session welcomes submissions from both philosophy and music studies that engage with broad questions of music and ethics in the contemporary world, including how ethics and music might be brought more fully into conversation with each other, as well as focused studies of particular repertoires, events, or ethical questions. Potential areas of investigation include:

  • Ethics and the (musical) academy
  • Ethical judgement and music aesthetics
  • Listening as ethical encounter
  • Non-western ethics, non-western musics
  • Performance as ethical relationship
  • Social justice, ethics, and music in the 21st century

The aim of this session is to cut across lines of disciplinary inquiry by facilitating discussions. To that end, it will consist in short presentations followed by moderated discussion. Interested participants should submit an abstract of 250 words by 30 October 2020 to Ariana Phillips-Hutton,

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