26 August 2014

Call for papers - Musical instruments and Material Culture


While musical instruments are the primary medium for transmitting the intangible culture of music they also grounded in material culture.  They require specialist techniques and skills of manufacture that have been subject to adaptation, as supplies of hardwoods and other materials of which instruments were traditionally made become depleted and the potential of new materials is explored and exploited.  Musical instruments reflect cultural values ranging from current fashion to belief systems.  Although those who document musical instruments aspire to capture wide a range of information relating to the material and intangible culture of instruments, their symbolism, magical power, status, and the rituals involved in the manufacture of instruments remain to be quantified.

This one-day conference will explore the ways in which musical instruments reflect the embodied cultural values of those who produce them, play them and hear their music.  Papers are sought with a focus on the following:

  • Cultural values, collectivised memories and environmental concerns as manifest in the performance, production, recycling, abandonment or destruction of musical instruments 
  • Musical instruments and status - the status of gender, social hierarchy
  • Musical instruments and meaning
  • Determinants of diffusion in musical instrument and their sounds 
  • Epistemological aspects of the documentation of musical instruments by museums
  • The instrument as material culture during the processes of learning and passing on musical skills 



-       The conference will take place in the Pavilion of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London, and will be held in collaboration with the Royal Anthropological Institute. The Horniman Museum’s Music Gallery displays a collection of around 1,600 musical instruments from many different countries, and has a room full of instruments for visitors to play.   



Papers will be of 20 minutes duration, with 10 minutes for questions.  Abstracts of not more than 500 words for papers should be sent to: MusicalInstrumentsConference@horniman.ac.uk


The deadline for abstracts is 15th November 2014. All those submitting proposals will be notified of the outcome by 3rd December 2014.

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