Imagining Sound in the Early Nineteenth Century: April 5-6 2013

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An Interdisciplinary Conference Hosted by the Department of Music at Cornell University

The present conference seeks to think creatively about how traces of the nineteenth-century sonic imagination might be sought and in turn provide an opportunity to reassess the musical thought of that period. The organizing committee invites work that addresses the conference theme through art history, literature (criticism and creative writing), philosophy, and other disciplinary perspectives. More information provided below:

"The nineteenth century exhibited a particular fascination with sound and its powers of suggestion. Musicians expanded and redefined the sonic palettes that were available to them, spurred by their inner hearing to explode the limits of orchestration and virtuosity. There often existed a tacit understanding between musicians and audiences that their respective musical activities might lead them to a destination beyond the audible. Such an attitude was shared and shaped by literary writers and visual artists who probed musical sound through their own media. Evidence of this resides not only in the suggestive notation and instrumental textures exploited by musicians of the time, but also in exuberant accounts of music by contemporary listeners, in visual representations of musicians and music making, and in music-themed fiction by such writers as Balzac, Novalis, Tieck, Wackenroder, and E. T. A. Hoffmann.

Keynote addresses will be given by Scott Burnham (Princeton), Thomas Grey (Stanford), John Hamilton (Harvard), and Roberto Poli (New England Conservatory). It is our hope that the conference will generate a wide-ranging yet focused dialogue. To this end, we will ask presenters to share their papers with other participants three weeks before the conference in preparation for a panel discussion.

Abstracts for 20-minute presentations must not exceed 500 words and be submitted to by January 15th. We also welcome recitations of original poetry and short fiction that relate to the conference theme. Acceptance notices will be sent around February 1st. Drafts of accepted papers must be submitted by March 15th. For more information, please visit our website: