Call for Proposals | “Atlantic Crossings: Music From 1492 Through the Long 18th Century”

September 26th, 2018 in Lecture, Uncategorized

David Bailly, Vanitas (ca. 1650)

AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE  at Boston University, June 7-8, 2019 
Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences &  Engineering, 610 Commonwealth Avenue, BU

Description and Proposed Conference Themes

The “discovery” of the New World had repercussions for music and musical practices on both sides of the Atlantic that have not been adequately explored.  Thinking about Atlantic crossings invites us to engage with music’s relationship to the critical issues of politics, race, class, gender, and sexuality as they relate to music in the moment and location of their emergence in their modern form(s). New work has opened up perspectives that go beyond the traditional concerns of musicology and early music studies:  focusing on the New World inevitably entails issues of colonialism, sub-alternity, slavery, and the African diaspora.

Atlantic Crossings allows us to integrate with early music studies themes that are more usually treated in contemporary music studies, for instance circulation, networks, transculturality, translation, technology, and music capitalism.  Furthermore, a focus on the Atlantic allows us to highlight the too-often neglected lives and musics of Africans, Afro-Europeans, Afro-Americans, and indigenous people of the Americas in the Early Modern period. Music studies have also largely been quiet on the subject of slavery, which this topic obligates us to reckon with. Naturally, the topic invites the (re)examination of underrecognized archives and sources – particularly in the Americas and Africa – and perhaps even requires a full rethinking of what our sources for writing early music history could or might be. Needless to say, the topic invites dialogue between musicology and ethnomusicology on the ground of some of the latter’s key theoretical interests set in historical circumstances. 

Themes of Conference
The period between the voyages of Columbus and the age of revolutions was one of dramatic change on every level – from microbes to governments – and in every region of the Atlantic basin. In the Americas, indigenous peoples negotiated the arrival of European colonizers by alliance, resistance, and migration, resulting in dramatic transformations of American cultural and political geographies. In Europe, a decaying feudal system first gave way to centralizing absolutist monarchies before these in turn yielded to liberal revolutions directed by the increasingly powerful ranks of the bourgeoisie. Jesuit missionaries were dispatched to the New World, as they were to Africa and Asia. In Africa, large empires and small societies alike faced the twin shocks of an influx of goods from afar—guns, cowrie shells, textiles, and more—and the outflux of increasing numbers of persons seized by the transatlantic slave trade. Everywhere technological innovation and “primitive accumulation” (Marx) greased the transition to capitalism, while individuals and communities came to live in new environments, often in fraught intimacy with others quite unlike themselves. Underwriting all of this were ships making their thousands of journeys through the Atlantic Ocean.

The arcs of the music histories of the period were no less dramatic. The arrival of Spanish conquistadors to Tenochtitlan in the early sixteenth century meant the destruction of the Aztec sacred precinct and the beginning of several hundred years of construction of a Catholic cathedral, a space in which would resound subtle musical negotiations of lo criollo and lo peninsular, as first New Spain and later Mexico took shape. Across the period and all around the Atlantic, musicians steeped in aural traditions practiced their arts in unfamiliar and highly regulated circumstances, negotiating situations of inter-cultural ensemble or audience, forging the vernacular styles that would in the long run become fodder for the modern culture industries. These few examples only begin to limn the range and complexity of the music-historical processes put into motion by Atlantic economies of material, human, and sonic exchange.

The Center for Early Music Studies thus invites the submission of abstracts outlining presentations on any aspect of the history of music in the early modern Atlantic world. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to, the following themes:

  • The history and theory of inter-, trans-, or multi-cultural musicking in the early modern Atlantic world
  • Material culture and the transmission of manuscripts, prints, instruments, and other musical objects and commodities
  • Performance hybridity, performance traditions, musical import and export
  • The use and politics of sacred music
  • Biography, travel narratives, archival studies, and reportage as sources for both early modern and present-day understandings of Atlantic musical cultures
  • Representation and the exotic in European works, particularly those for the stage
  • Music in the history of Atlantic slavery: in Africa, in the Middle Passage, and throughout the Americas and Caribbean
  • Musics of indigenous people of the Americas, both before and after European incursions
  • Musical aspects of colonialism, revolution, independence, and abolition in the Americas and Caribbean
  • Central and Northern Europe in the Atlantic world; musical aspects of Dutch Brazil, New Sweden, the Brandenburger Gold Coast, and other often overlooked colonial circumstances
  • Music in the Atlantic formation of the modern ideologies of race, ethnicity, and nation
  • Sacred and religious musics of the Atlantic world, from New England hymnody, to Afro-Brazilian candomblé, to Latin American cathedral schools, and beyond
  • Musical practices and subcultures of sailors, seaports, and other trading communities
  • The emergence of capitalism and industrialization and their effects on music and musiking
  • Music in the variegated and changing domestic orders of the Atlantic world; music’s relationship to the development of the modern forms of gender, social reproduction, and the family
  • Music theory in the “Age of Discovery;” proto-ethnography and the musical discourses of the Enlightenment
  • “Reverse” and “circular” crossings of the Atlantic – movement from West to East and back again
  • The “Global” Atlantic: musical connections between the Atlantic, the Pacific, and Asia

Conference Organizing Committee: Victor Coelho (Boston University) | Joshua Rifkin (Boston University) | Brian Barone  (Boston University)

Abstracts of around 300 words by Dec. 1, 2018 to Victor Coelho, Director, Center for Early Music Studies  <>

Clemens_ScheduleClemens_Schedule2Clemens_Schedule2+1 (617) 358-0628

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