[URBANTH-L] CFP: Music, Sound, and the Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space (Cambridge)

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Mon Feb 18 11:05:10 EST 2008

Music, Sound, and the Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space

Conference to be held at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social 
Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge University, April 18-19th 2008

Organisers: Georgina Born and Tom Rice

This conference pursues themes raised by the recent burgeoning of the 
interdisciplinary field of auditory culture studies, which has evolved at 
the interface of historical and contemporary musicology, philosophy of music 
and critical theory, ethnomusicology and anthropology of sound and senses, 
sociology and social psychology of music, cultural studies, and the new 
practices of sound art and site-specific music and sound.

The conference sits at the intersection of two related developments. First, 
it addresses the ways in which sound and music, particularly as they are 
technologically mediated, have come to play a pivotal role in re-drawing the 
boundaries between the 'public' and the 'private' by individuals, groups and 
institutions. There is growing awareness that acoustic strategies may be 
used by groups and individuals in demarcating space, and in projecting 
themselves within it, establishing new and often contested boundaries 
between the public and the private. This tendency is striking in relation to 
physical and virtual spaces, on the one hand, and to social spaces, on the 
other; music and sound are increasingly used to mark territory, place, and 
social identities. Music is employed both to humanise space and attract 
sociality, and to discourage human contact and block off sociality. Although 
some of these developments were apparent with analogue audio technologies, 
they have been greatly exacerbated by digitisation and by music's privileged 
relations with the internet, in which it leads other expressive artforms in 
the degree and scale of its remediation. The conference will therefore 
examine the manner in which musical and acoustical dynamics have become 
integral to the construction and imagination of social and physical space, 
and the ways in which they may be both constructed and negotiated.

Relatedly, the conference explores how the proliferation of sound 
technologies has resulted in a situation in which acoustic environments are 
increasingly malleable. To an unprecedented degree, music and sound are 
being employed to create a 'nesting' of the private and public, while audio 
technologies are used to effect a series of radical transformations of 
musical experience: children using sound technologies to create individual 
'private' environments within the collective, 'private' domestic space of 
the home; soldiers using individual sound technologies inside tanks in 
battle to construct a sense of intimate, affective space and identity which 
fends off and occludes the 'public', ambient sounds of violent warfare; the 
mobile phone used to create a new genre of private-in-public communication; 
and real-time, embodied intersubjective musical practices being replaced by 
virtual, disembodied music-making and virtually-distributed musical 

Understanding these developments requires that we make use of the conceptual 
tools of musicology, the social sciences and critical theory, while also 
necessitating that they be re-worked for the more complex, pervasive and 
ramifying mediations of contemporary life. The conference therefore brings 
together leading theorists of music, sound, mediation and modernity, as well 
as those engaged in rich empirical research - historical, contemporary and 
cross-cultural - to debate these developments and outline new perspectives 
to advance the given coordinates bequeathed by Adorno, Benjamin, Murray 
Schafer, as well as contemporary scholars such as Michael Bull, Tia DeNora, 
Steve Feld and Jonathan Sterne.

A feature of the conference will be to integrate perspectives from those 
working creatively with the new soundscapes: composers and sound artists, 
some of them also engaged in empirical research, who are concerned to 
reflect the new sonic environments in their creative work.  We hope to have 
a couple of performances or sound installations running alongside the event, 
and we will ask a composer to produce a piece to illustrate the new 
soundscapes in relation to changing private and public boundaries. The 
conference will include speakers from several of the fields mentioned above; 
it will be international in scope, involving speakers from the US and from a 
number of universities within the UK. It will innovate in bringing 
theoretical, historical and empirical perspectives together with composers 
of sound art and site-specific music. One aim of the conference is to 
produce papers towards an edited book. We are in dialogue with Duke 
University Press to publish the collection, and intend to develop a volume 
on the acoustic politics of space.

Speakers -
Philip Bohlman, Chicago
Michael Bull, Sussex
Eric Clarke, Oxford
Nicholas Cook, RHUL
Suzanne Cusick, NYU
Tia DeNora, Exeter
Nicola Dibben, Sheffield
John Drever, Goldsmiths

Further information and registration are available at the CRASSH
website:  www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/2007-8/musicsoundspace..html 

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list