Musical Materialities in the Digital Age Conference, 27-28 June 2014, University of Sussex


Registration is now open for the following conference:

Musical Materialities in the Digital Age
Conference, 27-28 June 2014, University of Sussex

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 speakers from media studies, music studies, cultural studies, museum studies, memory studies and other cognate disciplines) will be to reflect upon the materialities of music bjects and 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’
– Commodification

Scheduled papers cover a variety of topics, including contexts of reception, production and circulation of digital objects; analysis of residual media and formats (playback devices, vinyl records, cassettes, etc.); the meanings and implications of digitisation; archives, musueums and sound curating; musical materiality and digitality in education, the implications of streaming for producers and consumers of music; the evocative power and physicality of music objects. The full programme will be published on the conference wesbite later in May.

Keynotes will be provided by Professor Will Straw and Dr Noel Lobley.

Will Straw is Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and Professor within the Department of Art History and Communications Studies at McGill University in Montreal. Dr. Straw received his BA in Film Studies from Carleton University (Ottawa) and his Masters and PhD degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of Cyanide and Sin: Visualizing Crime in 50s America, and co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock. He has published widely on music scenes, the music industry and the relationship of music to media.

Noel Lobley is a sound curator who is currently working as an ethnomusicologist Research Associate at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, where he is developing the music and sound collections through a series of curated experiential sound events. His interdisciplinary research in the anthropology of sound and music explores recorded heritage as a key method for understanding the relationships between archival field recordings, culture and environment.

The conference will include a specially convened panel featuring sound curators Andy Linehan and Cheryl Tipp of the Brisih Library. This session, convened by Professor David Hendy (University of Sussex), is in collaboration with the Brish Library and the Sussex-based Public Culture Hub.

Registration and Fees
Registration for the conference is now open. Please register as follows by completing the booking form at and paying the appropriate fee using one of the payment methods listed on the registration page.

The conference fees for ‘Musical Materialities in the Digital Age’ are as follows:

Early bird rate (student): £50 *book by 21 May 2014 to benefit from this rate*
Early bird rate (non-student): £70 *book by 21 May 2014 to benefit from this rate*
Regular rate from 22 May 2014 (student): £60
Regular rate from 22 May 2014 (non-student): £80

The above fees cover conference registration, delegate fees, lunch and refreshments on both days of the conference (27th and 28th June). We are also arranging a conference dinner for the evening of the 27th, for which there will be an additional booking fee.

Conference organisers
Richard Elliott, University of Sussex
Elodie Roy, Newcastle University


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