Conference feedback

Committee report

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.