Archives for category: Philosophy

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor sublime in music image

30-31st October 2015: The University of Aberdeen and the SOUND festival, Aberdeen, Scotland.

Theodor Adorno noted the difficulty of creating new art that can be beautiful in a truthful way, eschewing any response to musical modernity that would allow its easy assimilation in terms of the traditionally beautiful. For Jean-François Lyotard, the arts for the last century have no longer been concerned primarily with the beautiful but rather with a renewed concept of the sublime. This dissociation of the beautiful from the modern in Adorno and Lyotard contrasts strikingly with Helmut Lachenmann’s revalorisation of the beautiful and his distinction of ‘humanity’s legitimate and profoundly rooted demand for art as the experience of Beauty, and its false satisfaction and alienation in the form of art “fodder” manufactured by the bourgeoisie and preserved in a society of repressed contradictions’ (Lachenmann 1980, 20). Out of this polarity of the modern as the moment of the sublime (Lyotard) and the possibility of a ‘rescued’ concept of the beautiful (Lachenmann), participants are invited to offer twenty minute papers on any aspect of musical modernity in relation to the beautiful and/or the sublime. The sublime has become a rich source of reflection in critical theory, with alternative conceptualisations from Lyotard, Derrida, Lacan, Zizek, Marion and others, and following Simon Morley’s categorisation, the contemporary sublime has been related to the unpresentable, transcendence, nature, technology, terror, the uncanny and altered states. While the sublime has not enjoyed attention in music studies comparable with what it has stimulated elsewhere in the humanities, this conference will provide a forum for musicological, theoretical and philosophical reflection in conjunction with a series of musical performances.

Proposals considering any of the following are welcomed:
• Musicological papers considering any aspect of contemporary music in relation to the sublime and/or the beautiful.
• Philosophical/Critical theory papers developing thinking on the beautiful and/or the sublime in relation to music.
• Papers considering musical modernity, politics and the sublime.
• Papers considering the extent to which music concerns the sublime or a reconstituted notion of beauty.

Abstracts should be c. 400 words and should also contain first and last name of presenter, title of proposed presentation, institutional affiliation, mailing address, telephone number and email address.
Proposals must be received no later than 20th April 2015 and should be posted

Confirmed performers include: Ensemble Alternance (Paris, France) and Ian Pace (piano)

In collaboration with Studium Generale of Leiden University and several others, I am organizing 6 meetings between Dutch artists and scholars to talk about the role, function, and position of both the arts and the sciences in our contemporary society.

April 14: Ramsey Nasr (poet/writer/actor/director) and Hans Clevers (geneticist/physician/Professor of Immunology)
April 28: Hans van Houwelingen (painter/visual artist) and Maarten Janssen (Professor of Archaeology)
May 12: Barbara Visser (photographer/visual artist) and Frans-Willem Korsten (Professor of Literature and Society)
May 26: Johan Simons (theater director) and Carel Stolker (lawyer and Rector of Leiden University)
June 9: Francine Houben (architect) and Marileen Dogterom (bionanoscientist)
June 23: Colin Benders aka Kyteman (musician) and Bas Haring (philosopher/writer)
Live music by Juan Parra and Henry Vega. Panel chairman Andrea van Pol. Location: Het Paard in The Hague. Official language: Dutch. More info at:
We’re delighted to announce that our 2015 Annual Conference will take place at King’s College London on 17-18 July 2015. The event will be co-hosted by the Departments of Music and Philosophy at King’s College London and the Institute of Musical Research, University of London. As part of our first ever tri-continental partnership, the event is being held in collaboration with the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society and De Musica – Laboratório de Estética e Filosofia da Música (Brasil).
The optional theme for the event is “Music and the Senses.” The call for papers is now open!
The deadline for proposals is 7 March 2015. Outcomes will be communicated to all authors by 21 March 2015 in order to allow plentiful time to make travel arrangements for those coming from further afield who may only be able to attend the event if a paper is accepted.
Keynote speakers will include:
  • Professor Christopher Peacocke (Columbia University)
  • Professor Kay Kaufman Shelemay (Harvard University)
There will also be a plenary panel discussion on the theme of “Absolute Music,” featuring panelists:
  • Professor Mark Evan Bonds (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • Professor Simon Frith (University of Edinburgh)
  • Professor Hannah Ginsborg (University of California at Berkeley)
Further information on these speakers is available here: 
For more information on all aspects of the conference, please visit the conference website: 


The 4th Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group (in collaboration with the Music and Philosophy Study Group of the American Musicological Society) will be co-hosted by the Departments of Music and Philosophy at King’s College London, 27-28 June 2014.

The call for papers is now open and available here. The deadline for submissions is Friday, 7 February 2014.

Keynote speakers will include:

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ora is a monthly series of one-hour long debates and voyages into listening and writing by Daniela Cascella and Salomé Voegelin, broadcasted on Resonance 104.4 FM at 8 pm GMT on the 4th Thursday of each month. Every episode will host a debate and enact a voyage with guests, words, and sounds, compositions, recordings, voices and silences, to encounter a number of issues in today’s discourse on listening.

In the third episode of ora (Sept. 26, 2013), Cascella and Voegelin ask questions around listening, sound and ethics: between a radio broadcast from Buchenwald and the ambiguities of a tale of eavesdropping, on the slippery edge between recording and document, between assumptions of truth and practices of listening and non-listening. Special attention was paid to my co-authored book Music and Ethics (Ashgate 2012).

You can listen and get more information here

Today I will be the keynote speaker at an international conference on music, the sacred, and the profane, organized by the musicological department of the university of Ljubljana. More info about the conference can be found on and


My presentation will deal with the topic what music as music can contribute to the current thoughts on spirituality, on the spiritual discourse, and, more specifically, on the definitions of spirituality in which a clear distinction is presented between the spiritual, the rational, and the corporeal. Point of departure is the thesis that music does not simply represent certain ideas on spirituality but that it actively contributes toward giving shape to those ideas. Through music, spirituality becomes articulated; music is one medium through which the spiritual is presented, through which the spiritual can manifest itself. In other words, spirituality is not only put into words (including all the problems that this entails), spirituality also (or, perhaps, in the first place) appears outside the discursive domain, for example in, through, or together with musical sounds. What interests me here is to investigate the possibility that, through music, through music as music – that is, through the active perception of music as a sonic event – certain thoughts concerning spirituality can be questioned, brought up for discussion, and submitted to reconsiderations. More specifically, I would like to address the question whether the opposition between the spiritual and the corporeal can be deconstructed through music as music, thereby opening a space to present another spirituality, a material spirituality.


3rd Annual Conference of the Royal Musical Association Music and Philosophy Study Group. Department of Music and Department of Philosophy, King’s College London
Friday and Saturday, 19-20 July 2013.

Conference theme 2013: ‘Embodiment and the Physical’

Philosophers and musicologists have provided various ways of thinking through music in relation to its concrete particularity as sound, and its bodily nature in performance and hearing. In particular, they have paid attention to the phenomenology of listening; to the physical nature of sound and its relation to our perceptual experience; and to the bodily aspects of musical performance and their inscription in the gestures of musical scores. What exactly is the relation between sound and music? How is the body involved in the experience of sound, and of music? When answering such questions, what can philosophers learn from musicologists, and vice versa? Music is often conceived very abstractly, and music as ‘embodied thought’ both poses challenges and opens up new possibilities. This year’s (optional) theme seeks to encourage further philosophical and musicological debate about music within the area of ‘embodiment and the physical’.

More information is available on the conference website.

According to the German studio Finally one cannot understand music. One can be seduced by music, or simply enjoy it. But to understand it – that’s impossible. See their animation below.

The main idea reminds me of an interview Pierre Boulez once had on a French television station with a writer whose name I’ve forgotten. First music is a mystery, the writer told Boulez. Then, after studying it, everything becomes clear. But, finally, with the performance, it becomes a mystery again. 

The central question, however, remains: can some knowledge about music enhance the enjoyment or is knowledge sometimes obstructing certain encounters with music? Or do both statements contain some kind of truth?

On December 7, 2012 I’m organizing a small, 1-day conference on auditory culture in The Netherlands. 20-25 people dealing with sound will gather in a venue in Leiden to discuss sound: philosophers, sound artists, biologists, architects, audiologists, sound designers, psychologists, people from governmental organizations dealing with noise abatement, etc. Aim is to exchange thoughts, to transgress discourses, and to develop a common research strategy. 

Yeah! It’s there, my (co-author Nanette Nielsen from Nottingham U) new book on music and ethics. With the final answers on how music ‘as music’ might contribute to the (philosophical) discourses on ethics and to concrete moral behavior. Keywords: listening, interaction, and engagement. From Alban Berg to Jacques Derrida, from Bob Dylan to Alain Badiou, from Sachiko M to Gilles Deleuze, from the chants of football fans to Zygmunt Bauman, and from Richard Taruskin to sonic weapons … 

More info: click here