Wednesday, 22 October 2008

CFP: Music and Morality (IMR, London)



16 - 17 JUNE 2009


Keynote speakers: George Benjamin, John Deathridge, Deirdre Gribbin, Jerrold Levinson, Susan McClary, Roger Scruton

Convenor: Guy Dammann, Institute of Musical Research

Music has commonly been considered the most elusive of art-forms and yet throughout history there have been frequent assertions of its strong links with our moral sensibilities. While this situation may suggest a contradiction between shifting views and expectations of art and music, it may also point to some deeper questions about the nature of music and morality.

In the context of increased academic and practical interest in the question of music’s moral value and potential, we are seeking contributions from academic and practical musicians, philosophers, psychologists and historians of ideas, offering critical reflections on questions or cases that touch on the theme of music and morality.

Interested contributors should send, in a first instance, a 300 word abstract for a proposed paper of not more than 20 minutes reading time to Valerie James, Institute of Musical Research, by the deadline of 31 January 2009. Notice of acceptances of submissions will be announced within one month of this deadline.

General questions of interest include but are not limited to the following:
--Can music yield moral knowledge or understanding?
--Must good music have a moral value?
--Is there such a thing as immoral music?
--Is the idea of morality in music compatible with aesthetic formalism?

Musical experience plays a prominent and important part in our lives. While our musical tastes seem to attach themselves strongly to our individual sense of identity (to a greater degree, even, than in other artforms), our musical encounters also appear greatly to deepen our emotional relationship with others. However, the question of whether our musical experience bears relation to our existence as moral agents, and to our conception of morality more broadly, remains wide open. Should - and perhaps must - musical experience have a moral dimension?

Within Western traditions of thinking about music and art during the last century or so, the answer to this question was by and large a strongly negative one. For much of Western history, however, the link between morality and the arts was widely construed as strong, and, at times, even as necessary. Eighteenth-century thinkers and philosophers, such as Kant, Schiller and Rousseau conceived of powerful links between beauty, aesthetic value in general, and the moral sphere. Moreover, in the classical world, not only was a strong connection between the arts and morality widely assumed, but of all the arts, music was held to be the most morally powerfully of all.

During recent years the relation between art and morality has again come under critical and philosophical scrutiny, perhaps in answer to a pervasive social re-evaluation of the meaning of artistic experience and practice. But while musicology has seen a huge increase in emphasis on the social and cultural aspects of music and its making, and philosophers have reassessed notions of the moral content of the literary and pictorial arts, the precise question of music’s moral value has yet to be adequately posed.

The proposed conference intends to offer a comparative examination of this subject by bringing together academics and scholars from within musicology, philosophy, and neighbouring disciplines to explore the relation between music and morality, from a variety of historical, interpretative and analytical perspectives.

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