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Classical music as contemporary socio-cultural practice Conference

The Council Room (K2.29 King's Building)
23/05/2014 (09:15-18:15)

Registration is free but places are limited, allocated on a first come, first served basis. 
Please email to reserve your place
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Classical music as contemporary socio-cultural practice: critical perspectives, is a one day conference taking place on Friday 23 May 2014, at King's College London. 

The conference is supported by Goldsmiths College and the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant Reference: ES/K008765/1): Young, female and entrepreneurial? Exploring the working lives of young women in the classical music profession’.

This event will be immediately followed by, and in association with, a Study Day on "The Construction of Music Performance Norms", that will be held at King's College London on Saturday 24 May 2014. 

See: Study Day on "The Construction of Music Performance Norms" Call for Papers.

Conference Details

Conference Programme and Abstracts: Classical music as contemporary socio-cultural practice 

Studies of contemporary practices and institutions associated with western classical music have tended to fall in between disciplinary boundaries, in the interstices of sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, ethnomusicology and musicology.  As a result, questions around the social and cultural reproduction of these practices as well as the institutional settings in which this reproduction occurs remain under-scrutinised. In the context of the on-going association of classical music with ‘high culture’ and middle class taste; the continuing lack of diversity among classical musicians and audiences; and the expansion of classical music as a middle class practice in China and India, among other developments, we seek to reinvigorate critical analyses and explorations of Western classical music.  This conference calls, therefore, for a renewed attention to the contemporary cultures surrounding classical music, asking what is being legitimated, reproduced and subverted alongside and through these practices.

We are delighted to welcome Professor Georgina Born, Professor of Music and Anthropology at Oxford University, as our distinguished keynote speaker. Professor Born's work is seminal for many of the themes of this conference, most notably the role of institutions in shaping musical practice and aesthetics, as well as broader questions surrounding the relations between music and the social, and most recently her recent edited volume, Music, Sound, and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience (2013) which opens up exciting new avenues for research in interdisciplinary music studies.  Professor Born is currently directing the research programme ‘Music, Digitisation, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies’, funded by the European Research Council, which examines the transformation of music and musical practices by digitisation and digital media through comparative ethnographies in seven countries in the developing and developed world. 


Anna Bull is an ESRC-funded PhD candidate in the sociology department at Goldsmiths College, University of London, under the supervision of Bev Skeggs and Les Back.  Her PhD project  examines musical progressions, the reproduction of tradition, and the institutional culture of classical music in youth classical music ensembles.  She completed a BA (first class) and M.Phil in social and political sciences at Cambridge, working with Georgina Born on cultures of classical music as well as a masters dissertation on political music in the UK.  Her previous career was as a pianist and cellist in New Zealand and Scotland, working with a variety of ensembles and groups as a performer and music educator, including Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the New Zealand Chamber Orchestra, and Live Music Now.

Dr Christina Scharff is Lecturer in Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London. Christina has an interdisciplinary background encompassing sociology, cultural studies and gender studies and has conducted research on engagements with feminism in the media and amongst young women from diverse backgrounds. Christina’s second area of expertise relates to the classical music profession. Most recently, Christina won the prestigious ESRC Future Research Leaders grant to conduct qualitative research on the working lives of female, early-career musicians. This international project explores several issues that relate to precarious work in the classical music profession, inequalities in the sector, and the ways in which cultural work is affected by its urban context.

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