MPSG 2015


The Fifth Annual Conference of the MPSG took place on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th July 2015 at King’s College London.

Music and the Senses

The conference was co-hosted by the Departments of Music and Philosophy at King’s College London and the Institute of Musical Research, University of London. As part of our first ever tri-continental partnership, it was held in collaboration with the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society and De Musica – Laboratório de Estética e Filosofia da Música in Brazil.

The event was generously supported by King’s College London, the Institute of Musical Research, Trinity Laban Conservatoire, the University of Hull, the British Society of Aesthetics, the Royal Musical Association, and Mind Association.

Download the conference programme here

Professor Christopher Peacocke (Columbia University)

Christopher Peacocke taught philosophy at Oxford for many years, for twelve of them as Waynflete Professor of Metaphysical Philosophy, before moving to New York in 2000. He was previously a Prize Fellow at All Souls College (1975-9), a Fellow of New College, Oxford (1979-85), and the Susan Stebbing Professor of Philosophy at Kings College London (1985-88). He is currently the Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, and Chair of the Philosophy Department. He has written on perception, representation, thought, concepts, and rationality. His books include Sense and Content (1983), A Study of Concepts (1992), Being Known (1999), The Realm of Reason (2004), Truly Understood (2008), and The Mirror of the World: Subjects, Consciousness, and Self-Consciousness (2014). Like many philosophers of perception, he thinks on weekends about the issues involved in the perception and understanding of music, one of the hardest topics in the philosophy of perception. The weekend thought eventually graduated to weekday activity, and he has written several papers on the perception of music – and hopes to do more.

Professor Kay Kaufman Shelemay (Harvard University)

Kay Kaufman Shelemay is the G. Gordon Watts Professor of Music and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. An ethnomusicologist who regularly crosses cultural and disciplinary boundaries, among her recent publications are Pain and its Transformations.The Interface of Biology and Culture (2007, with Sarah Coakley); Creating the Ethiopian Diaspora, a special double, interdisciplinary volume of the journal Diaspora (2011, with Steven Kaplan), and the textbook Soundscapes. Exploring Music in a Changing World (3rd ed., 2015). A past-president of the Society for Ethnomusicology, Shelemay’s article, “The Power of Silent Voices: Women in the Syrian Jewish Musical Tradition,” won the Society for Ethnomusicology’s 2010 Jaap Kunst Prize.  Shelemay was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2000), the American Academy for Jewish Research (2004), the American Philosophical Society (2013), and the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences (2014). She has been awarded numerous fellowships, including from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies. Chair of Modern Culture at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress during 2007-2008, she was named the national Phi Beta Kappa/Frank M. Updike Memorial Scholar for 2010-2011. Shelemay is currently writing a book about musicians from the African Horn in global motion.


To keynote paper by Christopher Peacocke:

Professor Nicholas Cook (University of Cambridge)

Nicholas Cook is 1684 Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge. He was formerly Professorial Research Fellow at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he directed the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (CHARM), and before that taught at the universities of Hong Kong, Sydney, and Southampton, where he also served as Dean of Arts. He works across many areas of music studies, and his books include A Guide to Musical Analysis (1987), Music, Imagination, and Culture (1990),Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (1993), Analysis Through Composition (1996), Analysing Musical Multimedia (1998), and Music: A Very Short Introduction (1998), which is published or forthcoming in fifteen languages. The Schenker Project: Culture, Race, and Music Theory in Fin-de-siècle Vienna won the SMT’s 2010 Wallace Berry Award. Recent publications include a collection of essays coedited with the dramaturgue Richard Pettengill, which brings together approaches from musicology and interdisciplinary performance studies, and a monograph, Beyond the Score: Music as Performance (2013). He has recently completed a study of recordings of Webern’s Piano Variations Op. 27, carried out with the support of an AHRC Fellowship. His current project, for which he was awarded a British Academy Wolfson Professorship, is entitled “Music encounters: studies in relational musicology”: it combines the perspectives of social and intercultural musicology. A former editor of Journal of the Royal Musical Association and recipient of honorary doctorates from the University of Chicago and Gheorghe Dima Music Academy, Cook is a Fellow of the British Academy and of Academia Europaea.

To keynote paper by Kay Kaufman Shelemay:

Professor Stephen Mumford (University of Nottingham)

Stephen Mumford is Professor of Metaphysics in the Department of Philosophy and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nottingham, UK, as well as Professor II at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB). He is the author of Dispositions (Oxford, 1998), Russell on Metaphysics (Routledge, 2003), Laws in Nature (Routledge, 2004), David Armstrong (Acumen, 2007), Watching Sport: Aesthetics, Ethics and Emotion (Routledge, 2011), Getting Causes from Powers (Oxford, 2011 with Rani Lill Anjum), Metaphysics: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2012) and Causation: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2013, with Rani Lill Anjum). He is editor of George Molnar’s posthumous Powers: a Study in Metaphysics (Oxford, 2003) and co-editor of Metaphysics and Science (Oxford, 2013 with Matthew Tugby). His PhD was from the University of Leeds in 1994 and he has been at Nottingham since 1995 having served as Head of the Department of Philosophy and Head of the School of Humanities.

Plenary panelists

Professor Mark Evan Bonds (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Mark Evan Bonds is the Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has taught since 1992. He holds degrees from Duke University (B.A.), Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel (M.A.) and Harvard University (Ph.D.) His books include Wordless Rhetoric: Musical Form and the Metaphor of the Oration (1991), After Beethoven: Imperatives of Originality in the Symphony (1996), Music as Thought: Listening to the Symphony in the Age of Beethoven (2006), and Absolute Music: The History of an Idea (2014). He has served as editor-in-chief of Beethoven Forum and has published widely on music and musical aesthetics from the eighteenth through twentieth centuries. His current project is Music as Autobiography, a monograph that will examine the rise, fall, and lingering persistence of the idea of music as an expression of the composer’s innermost self, from the Enlightenment to the present.

Professor Hannah Ginsborg (University of California, Berkeley)

Hannah Ginsborg is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. She received a B.A. in Philosophy and Modern Languages (French) from the University of Oxford, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Harvard University.  She is the author of The Normativity of Nature: Essays on Kant’s Critique of Judgement (Oxford University Press, 2015), which argues for the centrality of Kant’s aesthetics and philosophy of biology to the understanding of human thought and cognition.  Her other publications include articles on Kant’s theory of knowledge in the Critique of Pure Reason, as well as on contemporary issues such as rule-following skepticism, the normativity of meaning, the content of perception, and the relation between perception and belief.  She also has an active interest in aesthetics, especially the philosophy of music.

Professor Tamara Levitz (University of California, Los Angeles)

Tamara Levitz is Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she has taught since 2002. She holds degrees from McGill University (B.Mus), the Technische Universität Berlin (M.A. in Musicology, German literature and French literature), and the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester (Ph.D.). She has lectured and published widely on transnational perspectives on musical modernism, including most recently book chapters on the politics of Cuban experimentalism in the late 1960s and racism at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps. She is the author of  Modernist Mysteries: Perséphone (2012), which received the Prose Award for Excellence in the Humanities and the Otto Kinkeldey Award of the American Musicological Society. Through her microhistorical analysis in this monograph of the premiere by Ida Rubinstein of André Gide’s and Igor Stravinsky’s melodrama Perséphone on 30 April 1934, she aimed to question and revise current beliefs about the historiography and history of musical modernism. As the scholar in residence for the Bard Festival in August 2013, she continued her work of questioning the national foundations of musical modernism by contributing to and editing the volume Stravinsky and His World. She is currently working on a new book tentatively titled “Musical Modernism and Empire,” in which she will synthesize her decade-long comparative research on modernism into a coherent theory of how early twentieth-century music functioned as a product and practice of empire.  She is on the board of the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society, and remains deeply invested in all her work in questions of musical aesthetics.

5th Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group, in collaboration with the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society and De Musica – Laboratório de Estética e Filosofia da Música (Brasil).

(Optional) Theme: Music and the Senses

Co-hosted by the Departments of Music and Philosophy at King’s College London and the Institute of Musical Research, University of London

17-18 July 2015

Keynote speakers include:

Professor Christopher Peacocke (Columbia University)
Professor Kay Kaufman Shelemay (Harvard University)

Plenary panellists:

Professor Mark Evan Bonds (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Professor Hannah Ginsborg (University of California at Berkeley)

The RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group warmly invites paper submissions for this two-day international conference. The event, the fifth of an annual series of conferences run by the Study Group, will offer an opportunity for philosophers, music scholars, and others interested in philosophically-oriented research about music to discuss and debate their work in a collaborative setting. 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, raucous and refined, 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.

The optional theme of this year’s conference is “Music and the Senses,” however submissions on all topics relating to music and philosophy are welcome.

Topics of interest might include (but are not limited to):

  • Music, emotion, and affect; emotion vs. perception
  • The partition and integration of the senses Philosophical approaches to auditory perception
  • Non-aural aspects of musical experience (visual, tactile, gustatory, olfactory)
  • Sound in the history and anthropology of the senses
  • Music’s relationship to technology, technique, and distributed cognition
  • Music, sex, pleasure, intimacy, and the erotic
  • Individual vs. collective musical experience
  • Attention, inattention, and altered states
  • New approaches to music and phenomenology
  • Atmosphere, immersion, Stimmung, mood, and vibe
  • Formalisms: regressive, normative, and revolutionary
  • Philosophical approaches to entertainment and distraction
  • Music, capitalism, ideology, and the senses
  • Music, movement, and dance
  • Ontologies of sounds, tones, and music

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

Themed paper sessions of three or four individual (20 minute) papers – 350 words per paper plus 350 words outlining the rationale for the session

Ninety-minute sessions in innovative formats – up to 1000 words outlining the format and content of the session

Please submit proposals by email in a word document attachment:

All proposals will be reviewed anonymously. The deadline for proposals is 7 March 2015; outcomes will be communicated to authors by 21 March 2015.

All paper submissions will be considered by the programme committee:

Bill Brewer (Department of Philosophy, King’s College London)

Michael Gallope (Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota)

Andrew Huddleston (Department of Philosophy, Birkbeck, University of London)

Tomas McAuley (Department of Musicology, Indiana University)

Nanette Nielsen (Department of Musicology, University of Oslo)

Hannah Templeton (Department of Music, King’s College London)

Mario Videira (Department of Music, University of São Paolo)

Nick Zangwill (Department of Philosophy, University of Hull)

The RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group committee is very grateful to those who provided feedback on our 2015 Conference.  There were 36 respondents in total: the majority were in Historical Musicology (57%), and those who described their primary disciplinary area as Analytic Philosophy or Continental Philosophy came to 21% and 11% respectively, Music Theory and Ethnomusicology 4% and 7% respectively.  Research students made up 38% of respondents, and permanent university lecturers or professors 29%, the rest being taught students, postdoctoral researchers, independent researchers, retired or outside academia.  The questionnaire consisted in 14 questions, and this brief summary will highlight and review what respondents thought worked well and what they thought could be improved in future.

On overall conference experience, 82% of respondents rated the conference ‘very good’ or ‘good’, with a further 12% stating ‘satisfactory’ and the remaining 6% ‘unsatisfactory’.  Areas highlighted as needing improvement concerned the suitability of conference rooms (9% unsatisfactory or very unsatisfactory) and the ease of navigating between them (12%). Several respondents noted in particular the high temperature of some rooms.  Pre-conference information/communication, the interest of the programme, the quality of research presented, and the dinner and refreshments, were rated ‘unsatisfactory’ or ‘very unsatisfactory’ by a smaller margin (6% on average), but rated ‘satisfactory,’ ‘good,’ or ‘very good’ by most respondents.  Pre-conference information was rated positively overall (94% ‘very good’ or ‘good’), as was ease of registration (88% ‘very good’ or ‘good’).

All respondents found the dates of the conference to have been ‘very convenient’ or ‘convenient’, and for a majority the central London location was ‘very important’ or ‘somewhat important’ as a factor in the decision to attend.  This year, there were up to four parallel sessions, a number that was judged to be ‘too many’ by 32% of respondents but ‘about right’ by the majority.  In response to open-ended questions, several respondents appreciated in particular the convivial atmosphere, the range of research presented and the non-hierarchical delegate list, while some equally noted the need for sessions to mix junior and senior scholars.  A number of important issues were also raised, including the length of sessions without a break and the audibility of speakers in some of the larger rooms.  About half of the respondents raised doubts about the success of the conference theme (‘Music and the Senses’) but many also said that an optional theme is worth having.

The Study Group committee is deeply grateful for this feedback, as well as for feedback from previous conferences, which continues to guide its decision making. In response, it plans to make several changes, the most dramatic of which is to move from annual to biennial conferences. This will allow us to:

  • communicate the results of paper submissions further in advance (we hope that this will be especially helpful to delegates travelling from overseas);
  • circulate general conference information sooner;
  • have better access – we hope! – to the best available rooms at the conference venue.

Our next conference has therefore been provisionally scheduled for 2017 (precise dates to be confirmed). While there will probably not be a single, overall theme for the conference, we hope to be able to schedule themed sessions that will allow close focus on specific topics.

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