MPSG 2017


6th Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group

Department of Music and Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, Thursday and Friday, 13-14 July 2017

The RMA Music and Philosophy Study Group’s biennial conference offered 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.

The final conference programme can be found here.

The conference was conceived as a hub of interaction where people can meet and discuss work informally as well as formally. This was our first biennial conference: previous events have been annual. With this change in timing, we changed the overall format in order to continue our mission to maximise diversity and inclusivity, whilst upholding the highest scholarly standards. The RMA MPSG 2017 Conference featured five types of sessions:

Keynote session

Martha Feldman, Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Chicago, is a cultural historian of European vernacular musics, ca. 1500-1950, with a concentration on Italy. Her projects have explored the senses and sensibilities of listeners, the interplay of myth, festivity, and kingship in opera, issues of cinema, media, and voice, and various incarnations of the musical artist. Running throughout her work are questions about mediations between social, political, and artistic phenomena. Her first monograph, City Culture and the Madrigal at Venice (University of California Press, 1995; winner of the Bainton Prize of the Sixteenth-Century Society and Conference in conjunction with the Centre for Reformation Studies), dealt with madrigals within the civic culture of Renaissance Venice. Her Renaissance interests have extended to the music of courtesans, with results published in conjunction with an international team of scholars together with her graduate students in The Courtesan’s Arts: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (co-edited, Oxford, 2006; winner of the 2007 Ruth A. Solie Award of the American Musicological Society). In 2007, she published a book on 18th-century opera seria as a manifestation and refraction of changing notions of sovereignty and festivity during the later eighteenth century. That work, Opera and Sovereignty: Transforming Myths in Eighteenth-Century Italy, won the Gordon J. Laing Award of the University of Chicago Press (2010) for the faculty book “published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction.”

Feldman’s most recent book on castrati is based on her Bloch Lectures at Berkeley, given in fall 2007 while teaching as Ernest Bloch Visiting Professor of Music. Entitled The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds (University of California Press, 2015), the book investigates different relationships of castrati over time to the natural and to innate kinds, viewing them as indices of European cultural exchange. Her current book project The Castrato Phantom: Moreschi, Fellini, and the Sacred Vernacular in Twentieth-Century Rome deals with the life and afterlife of the castrato phenomenon in Rome, in cinema, literature, and psychoanalysis.  She is also preparing a co-edited volume on voice studies under the rubric A Voice as Something More for the University of Chicago Press, which emerges from The Voice Project, sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, an interdisciplinary collaborative faculty research venture on which she has been a principal investigator since 2013.

Feldman was awarded the Dent Medal from the Royal Musical Association for outstanding work in musicology in 2001 and the Graduate Teaching Award of the University of Chicago in 2009. She is a Resource Faculty member in the Committee on Cinema and Media Studies (1995-), and Affiliated Faculty with the Center for Gender Studies (1995-). In 2012, she was inducted as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is pivoting in November 2016 from President-Elect to President of the American Musicological Society.

Jerrold Levinson is Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the University of Maryland. His main philosophical interest is aesthetics, with secondary interests in metaphysics, ethics, and philosophy of mind. Among the arts he is particularly concerned with philosophical problems arising in connection with music, film, and literature. Levinson has written extensively on the definition of art, expression in music, emotional response to art, the nature of literary interpretation, and the ontology of artworks. Topics of recent interest include intrinsic value, the nature of humor, sexual morality, jazz improvisation, the expressive specificity of jazz, the ethics of jokes, the analysis of artistic achievement, and the varieties of visual beauty.

Levinson has been visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, the University of London, the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), the Universite de Rennes (France), the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), the Unversidade de Lisboa (Portugal) and the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana (Switzerland). Levinson is Past President of the American Society for Aesthetics, 2001-2003, was general editor of the Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics(Oxford UP, 2003), and was an invited fellow of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University in September 2007. During academic year 2008-2009 Levinson was Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Kent in Canterbury (England), and during academic year 2010-2011 Levinson held an International Francqui Chair in the Institute of Philosophy of the Katholieke Universitet Leuven (Belgium). In 2010 Levinson was awarded the International Prize of the Societa Italiana d’Estetica. Professor Levinson is also an Affiliate Faculty Member of the School of Music at the University of Maryland.

Roundtable sessions

The conference featured two exciting roundtable sessions consisting of responses to the work of individual authors.

  • Responses to Jean-Luc Nancy; this session featured a video address from Nancy and respondents to include Julian Johnson as well as Naomi-Waltham Smith.
    Convened and chaired by Tomas McAuley.
  • Responses to Roger Scruton’s new book on Wagner, The Ring of Truth; this session featured Roger Scruton, Paul Boghossian, John Deathridge and Andreas Dorschel.
    Convened and chaired by Andrew Huddleston.

In addition to these sessions, there were two plenary debates with invited speakers, one at the start of the conference and one at its close. All other conference time were devoted to Associates, Themed, and Free Sessions.

Themed sessions

Themed Sessions were organised by individual session convenors, who selected papers themselves. Please find below further details of each session, including the original call for papers for each session, as well as speakers and paper titles.

Free sessions
Free sessions were comprised of papers submitted to a general call for papers. So long as there was a clear connection to the area of music and philosophy, free paper submissions were assessed without recourse to thematic considerations.

Find an overview over the free sessions here

6th Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group

13-14 July 2017
King’s College London

Closing date for submissions: Thursday 8 December 2016

We are delighted to open the Call for Papers to Free Sessions at the two-day international conference, to be held in London on 13-14 July 2017. 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. Departing from the practice in previous years, this year will feature three types of session: Associates Sessions, Themed Sessions and Free Sessions.  More information on Associates and Themed Sessions is available here.

For Free Sessions, we invite proposals 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, 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.

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

Proposals are invited for:

  • individual papers (20 minutes) – up to 350 words
  • collaborative papers (up to 30 minutes) – up to 500 words
  • paper sessions of three or four individual (20-minute) papers addressing a single topic – up to 350 words per paper plus 350 words outlining the rationale for the session (please note, these are different from Themed Sessions, for which the Call for Papers has closed)
  • Lecture recitals (30 minutes) – up to 350 words

Please submit proposals by email in a Word document attachment to:

The deadline for proposals is Thursday 8 December 2016.

All paper submissions will be considered by the programme committee:

  • Dr Jeremy Coleman (University of Aberdeen)
  • Dr Andrew Huddleston (Birkbeck, University of London)
  • Professor Julian Johnson (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  • Professor Derek Matravers (Open University)
  • Dr Tomas McAuley (University of Cambridge)
  • Dr Nanette Nielsen (University of Oslo)
  • Dr Hannah Templeton (King’s College London)
  • Oren Vinogradov (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Reasonably priced university accommodation will be available.

The Free Sessions Call for Papers may also be consulted in full here.

With the move to biennial conferences, we have changed the overall format in order to continue our mission to maximise diversity and inclusivity, whilst upholding the highest scholarly standards. With that in mind, we hope that the following information will be of interest, and that you will consider the possibility of hosting an Associates or Themed session, or, in due course, of submitting a paper proposal.

The 2017 RMA MPSG Conference will feature three types of session:

  • Associates sessions will be hosted by other organisations with related interests;
  • Themed sessions will be organised by individual session convenors, who will issue a call for papers on a specific topic, and select papers themselves (in conjunction with the central programme committee);
  • Free sessions will consist of papers submitted to an open, unthemed, call for papers.

In addition to these sessions, there will be two plenary debates with invited speakers, one at the start of the conference and one at its close. All other conference time will be devoted to Associates, Themed, and Free sessions.


Sign up for periodic announcements via our Newsletter!