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Keynote | Epistemologies of Music Analysis

News from Mar 27, 2023

On March, 29-31, 2023 the international conference Epistemologies of Music Analysis: What Theories, What Methods, for What Types of Music, and in What Disciplinary and Cultural Contexts? (EMA-2023) takes place in Paris.

The globalisation of culture has led to an unparalleled interaction between people, ideas and cultural production, including, of course, music. Such interconnectedness, enabled by digital technologies, has made us more aware of the broad range of music past and present around the world. In particular, it has forced music analysis — and musicology more generally — to open up to this diversity in order to understand it both from the inside and in relation to its socio-cultural, intellectual and historical environment. By looking at music in terms of both its diversity and unity, and by drawing on a wide range of analytical theories, methods, discourses and practices according to disciplinary and cultural contexts, this conference aims at finding analytical approaches that combine the global and the local within a shared and unified intellectual framework.

On March, 29 Ariane Jeßulat, head of project A04 gives a keynote titled "The Language of the Conquerors: Music Theoretical Standards as Colonial Mimicry".

How does colonial mimicry manifest itself as a musical structure? Is there evidence of distortion with mimetic intent corresponding to what Homi K. Bhabha calls “mimicry”, a form of distortion of “original” designs? In The Location of Culture (1994), Bhabha suggests that the colonial gaze not only compromises and distorts the culture of the colonized but also ambivalently splits the foundations of its own culture with disciplinary intent (Bhabha, 122-123), using its normative energy in specific ways to “form” the colonized subjects. In his chamber opera Mare nostrum (1975), Mauricio Kagel has the colonizer recite music-theoretical concepts in a hybrid, archaic counterpoint during an ironic “exorcism.” Is this just the composer’s intuition, or can we see a link between colonial mimicry and reinforced normativity in musical style, particularly regarding gestures of “othering”?

The keynote takes up scenes of aping, discriminating, and exoticizing in tonal music. The initial hypothesis is the presence of what Bhabha calls a “forked tongue” (1994, 121) – i.e. an alienated musical idiom that is increasingly working with repetitions, exaggerations, and traces of normative sets of rules and thus falsifies itself as a free artistic expression – which is mirrored in a musical structure corresponding to colonial mimicry. The strong ties between mimicry and normativity lead to the following epistemological question: to what extent do music-theoretical norms and conceptualizations, similar to the notion of “defensive discourse” coined by Fred Maus, carry traces of a “coagulated” colonial mimicry and reproduce them in musical analysis?

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