Noel Lobley (Ethnomusicologist and Research Associate, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford)
Michael Bull (Professor of Sound Studies and Co-Director of the Centre for Material Digital Culture, University of Sussex) (tbc)
Music, while summoning notions of intangibility, transience and loss, is also associated with material objects that serve to ground the musical, make the transient permanent and defer loss. Unearthing music’s association with materiality reveals a fascinating array of artefacts, including instruments, scores, transcribing devices, sound recordings and much more. Such artefacts provide vital reference points for historical research as well as inviting new creative uses, rediscoveries and (re)mediations. They also add to the ever-growing archives of past objects, whether stored in ‘physical’ or digital forms. Music’s material traces serve as vital ways of mediating memory, whether in private collections or public exhibitions. Furthermore, the use of musical ‘ephemera’ such as record sleeves, programmes, flyers and posters as a primary means for putting the popular musical past on display in museums and galleries has highlighted the ways in which such objects are not so ephemeral after all.
The persistence of musical artefacts and musical materialities following the period of their initial use value poses interesting questions. What is the fate of musical artefacts once they become obsolescent? What becomes of music and its objects once relegated to archives? What is the role of musical artefacts in helping us to understand the past? What is the relationship between the physical and the digital in terms of music’s objects? To what extent does a focus on music’s objects challenge the idea of music as a social process? Conversely, what role does musical materiality play in the maintenance and development of rituals long associated with music? What rituals reformulate musical materiality? What does the remediation of the musical past via ‘media archaeology’ have to tell us about present desires, anxieties and needs? What is the role of museums, galleries, sound archives and libraries in these processes?
Working from the premise that musical materiality matters, the aim of this two-day interdisciplinary conference (welcoming papers from media studies, music studies, cultural studies, museum studies, memory studies and other cognate disciplines) will be to reflect upon the materialities of music objects/technologies in the digital age, with an emphasis on:
– Processes of remediation
– Residual media of ‘dead media’
– Cultural waste
– Media archaeology (and particular manifestations relating to sound and music, e.g. ‘vinyl archaeology’)
– The recycling of memory and material culture
– The digital archive
– The future of music creation and consumption
– Nostalgia and ‘retromania’
– Music as ‘thing’ and/or ‘process’
The contexts of reception, production and circulation of digital objects as well as existence of residual media and formats (playback devices, vinyl records, etc.) could be examined. We would welcome papers focusing on theoretical approaches (considering for instance the meanings and implications of digitisation), but also papers on particular case-studies (for instance on specific formats and devices i.e. MP3s, iPods, etc. or specific creative and consumptive practices). A broader contextualisation of the historical and technological scapes within which the issues of materiality and remediation emerge would also be very useful.
The conference organisers welcome individual papers, proposals for panels and round table discussions, and proposals for practical demonstrations/performances related to the themes of the conference. For individual papers, demonstrations and performances, abstracts of no more than 300 words should be submitted. Panels and round table proposals should include a session overview, participant biographies and description of individual contributions. Abstracts and proposals (as well as event queries) should be sent to Dr Richard Elliott (R.Elliott@sussex.ac.uk) by 14 March 2014.
Richard Elliott, University of Sussex
Elodie Roy, Newcastle University