MPSG 2017 Themed Session: Feeling in Music and Sound: Atmosphere, Stimmung, Mood

Convener: Friedlind Riedel (Bauhaus University Weimar)


Andy MacGraw (University of Richmond), “Musical Atmospheres in Enlightenment Thought”

Anne Holzmüller (Freiburg University), “Musical Immersion and Atmospheric Sound Spaces in Eighteenth-Century Sacred Music”

Juha Torvinen (Sibelius Akademie, Helsinki University), “Atmosphere, nature, and knowledge of the births in music”

Renata Scognamiglio (Sapienza University of Rome), “Elective affinities: Atmospheres in New Phenomenology and film music studies”


Whether sung or sampled, private or alien, composed, amplified, passed down, recorded or imagined, music and sound are operative forces for shaping feelings. It seems that wherever music resounds, feelings or moods are likely to unfold as perhaps vague, but nonetheless intrusive and pervasive atmospheres. A recurrent radio-tune, a symphony, a jarring sound, a call for prayer, a soundtrack, a marching band or the hoot of an owl may all evoke, embody, radiate, alter, narrate, intensify, subvert or diffuse a situational atmosphere or Stimmung. In turn, the phenomenal spheres of music and sound have been key to the various philosophical genealogies of Stimmung, mood, or atmosphere theoriesDespite these fertile intersections of music and atmosphere, music scholarship has often referred to phenomena of atmosphere or collective mood only in passing. This contrasts with contemporary sound studies, in which notions of atmosphere along with ambience and affect have gained currency to investigate music and sound as phenomena of space and place. This panel thus invites papers that advance and challenge existing concepts of atmosphere, Stimmung or mood through music and sound. We welcome in particular contributions that go beyond a notion of atmosphere, Stimmung or mood as spatial intensity, and that widen the focus to include performance, process, duration, dynamism, tension, timbre, resonance, or rhythm. Furthermore, this panel seeks to foster dialogue between the burgeoning anglophone scholarship on atmosphere as grounded in affect theory and germanophone notions of atmosphere that bear on New Phenomenology. 


Indicative Bibliography

The below brief bibliography comprises a selection of works that may be of particular relevance to those with an interest in attending this panel, or to those seeking to orient themselves therein, but is not intended as exhaustive, prescriptive, or required for audience members.

Bille, Mikkel, Peter Bjerregaard, and Tim F. Sørensen. 2015. “Staging Atmospheres: Materiality, Culture, and the Texture of the In-Between.” Emotion, Space and Society 15:31–38.

Böhme, Gernot. 1993. “Atmosphere as the Fundamental Concept of a New Aesthetics.” Thesis Eleven 36 (1): 113–26.

Griffero, Tonino. 2014. Atmospheres: Aesthetics of Emotional Spaces. Farnham: Ashgate.

Gumbrecht, Hans U. 2012. Atmosphere, Mood, Stimmung: On a Hidden Potential of Literature. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Jankelevich, Vladimir. 2003. Music and the Ineffable. Transl. by Carolyn Abbate. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Orig. Publication La Musique et l’Ineffable, 1961).

McGraw, Andrew. 2016. “Atmosphere as a Concept for Ethnomusicology: Comparing the Gamelatron and Gamelan.” Ethnomusicology 60 (1).

Riedel, Friedlind. 2015. “Music as Atmosphere.” Lebenswelt 6: 80–111.

Schmitz, Hermann. 2014. Atmosphären. Freiburg: Alber.

Vadén, Tere, and Juha Torvinen. 2014. “Musical Meaning in Between: Ineffability, Atmosphere and Asubjectivity in Musical Experience.” j aesthet phenomenol 1 (2): 209–30.