Music and the myth of intelligibility (programme)

'Ralph Vaughan Williams' by William Rothenstein

‘Ralph Vaughan Williams’ by William Rothenstein

Music and the myth of intelligibility: An ICE Workshop

Friday 17 May 2013, Wadham College, Oxford

In his 1938 poem, ‘The Composer’, W. H. Auden praises the immediacy of music, juxtaposing it with painting and poetry as arts that require mediation (‘All the others translate’) and reception (‘by painstaking adaption’). Auden’s poem is just one of the most famous articulations of the idea that, of all the arts, music is the one that requires no intervention to render it intelligible across time and space (as suggested equally by Longfellow’s reference to music as ‘the universal language of mankind’). This workshop aims to scrutinise this influential yet problematic myth with a particular focus on the period 1870-1920.


1000            Registration and coffee

1030            Welcome and introductions

1100-1230: Panel 1: Music: between the National and the International

Fabian Huss (University of Bristol): Some interrelations between local, national, imperial and cosmopolitan identities in early 20th-century British music and criticism

Jochen Eisentraut (Bangor University)Vaughan Williams’ English Music: Nationalism, Modernism and Accessibility

1230-1330      Lunch

1330-1500      Panel 2: Music and Myth

Anne Leonard (University of Chicago)The Universal Language as Romantic Echo: Representing Musical Creation

Diane Silverthorn (Birkbeck College, University of London) Music, Myth and the ‘Beethoven Exhibition’: Nietzsche’s immanent art 

1500-1530     Tea

1530-1700     Panel 3: Music and the Forms of Internationalism

Helena Capkova (Waseda University) The Hawk Princess at the Hawk’s Well – circuits of translation connecting Japan and Euroamerica through the myth of universal language of the Noh theatre

Daniel Laqua (Northumbria University) Exhibiting and Debating Music after the Great War: The (Dis)Continuities of Internationalism 

1700-1800    Final discussion, drinks

1900              Dinner

See here for more information.

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