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Additional symposium: 25 November 2006, The philosophy of the vernacular: Richard Middleton's Voicing the People in context

Voicing the Popular: On the Subjects of Popular Music by Richard Middleton has recently been published by Routledge (February 2006). It draws on approaches from musical interpretation, cultural history, social theory and psychoanalysis to explore key topics in the field, including race, gender, authenticity and repetition. Taking most of his examples from across the past hundred years of popular music development – but relating them to the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century “pre-history” – Richard Middleton constructs an argument that relates “the popular” to the unfolding of modernity itself. Voicing the Popular renews the case for ambitious theory in musical and cultural studies, and, against the grain of much contemporary thought, insists on the progressive potential of a politics of the Low.

The day started with a striking paper from Mladen Dolar who stunned us with an amusing, good-natured and yet challenging look at the vernacular voice, drawing on Benjamin, Freud, Lacan, John Cage and many others. Throughout the day  the level of presentation and discussion was consistently extremely erudite. Issues ranged from considering the nature of the vernacular or popular voice, to a number of case studies – conspiracy theory through considerations of canon formation to the nature of the street through to theorisations of the vernacular ‘event’ (after Badiou), reclaiming the elitist within the vernacular and voice and sickness. The day was, not surprisingly, avowedly Lacanian, with some striking attempts at strong theorisations of commitment, truth claims, fidelity, truth effects and performativity.

The round table, although inevitably slightly rambling at times (as these things always are), fell on some striking formulations and really helped both consolidate and open up the papers’ themes and orientations.

Mladen Dolar (University of Ljubljana): Vox populi [keynote]

Jodi Dean (Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York): Popular Credibility: 9/11 Conspiracy Theories

Freya Jarman-Ivens University of Liverpool): Enjoying the low Other, or, Confessions of a popular musicologist

Will Edmondes (ICMuS): Coming Straight From the Street: Keeping It Surreal

Richard Elliott (ICMuS): Hail, Hail Rock 'n' Roll: Interpellation, Identification and Ideological Transference in Popular Music

Mark Fisher (UK): The Object Speaks: Grace Jones

Ian Biddle (ICMuS): Before the people, voice

Round Table: Toward a philosophy of the vernacular? Mladen Dolar, Richard Middleton (ICMuS) and all other speakers


2006 Symposium: Music and Politics

Richard Middleton (ICMUS) Vox Populi, Vox Dei; or, Imagine, I'm Losing My Religion: Musical Politics after God

Goffredo Plastino (ICMUS) "More simply, Mafia Music". Politics, Politicians, and Songs about Crime

Nick Megoran (School of Geography, Sociology and Politics) From presidential podiums to pop music: discourses of danger in Uzbekistan

Richard Elliott (ICMUS) Reconstructing the Event: Spectres of Terror in Chilean Musical Performance

Lars Iyer (Centre for Research in Knowledge and Society) The new wave of New Wave

Máire Cross (School of Modern Languages) Singing for the Union. Flora Tristan's music for socialism.

Vanessa Knights & Paul Attinello (School of Modern Languages and ICMUS) Sexo contra muerte: AIDS and Hispanic Popular Music

Franco Fabbri (Universitŕ Statale di Milano) Five easy pieces: forty years of music and politics in Italy, from B(ellaciao) to B(erlusconi)


2005 Symposium: Jazz Worlds/World Jazz: The Globalisation of an American Classical Music 

Keith Howard (SOAS, London) 'Seoul Blues: Finding a New Tradition'

Fabian Holt (University of Copenhagen) 'African American Musics in Scandinavia: Race, Nation, and Displacement'

Rich Jankowsky (SOAS, London) 'The Medium is the Message? Jazz and the Democratic Imagination'

Goffredo Plastino (University of Newcastle) 'Coltrane on launeddas: Sardinian Music and Jazz'

Philip Bohlman (University of Chicago)  'Jazz at the Edge of Empire'

Richard Middleton (University of Newcastle) 'Concluding Thoughts'


2004 Symposium: Conserving the Classic(al)

Max Paddison (University of Durham) 'Classical Music, Reification and Subjectivity'

Ian Biddle (University of Newcastle) 'Oedipal manoeuvres: on the gender politics of canonicity'

Richard Elliott (University of Newcastle) 'Other canonicities: Rock lists and the politics of listing'

Paul Attinello (University of Newcastle) 'Radical, Classical, Oedipal: Battles over a Darmstadt Canon'

Richard Wistreich (University of Newcastle) ‘Is early music classical music?’

Magnus Williamson (University of Newcastle) 'Parochial, peripheral and popish: the English Middle Ages as marginal Other'

Richard Middleton (University of Newcastle) ''Who Put the Classic in the Classic Blues?'

Lawrence Kramer (Fordham University, New York) 'Persephone's fiddle: the cultural work of classical music'


2003 Symposium: Musical Pasts, Musical Futures: Tradition, Modernity and the Popular

Phil Bohlman (University of Chicago, Visiting Professor at University of Newcastle): 'Musical Monuments: Nostalgia, Historicism and the Old Europe as the New'

Richard Middleton (University of Newcastle): 'Oh Brother! Let's Go Down Home: Loss, Nostalgia and the Blues'

Ian Biddle (University of Newcastle): 'Losing, Wanting, Voicing: Fado/Flamenco or the Politics of Nostalg(x)ia'

Goffredo Plastino (University of Newcastle): 'Voice and/as Nostalgia in Neapolitan Song'

Vanessa Knights (University of Newcastle): 'Bridging Past and Present through Active Nostalgia in the Puerto Rican Diaspora'

Matthew Sansom (University of Newcastle): 'Tallis in the Age of Technological Reproduction'

Bennett Hogg (University of Newcastle): 'Saving Time: Phonography and Modernism - Technologies for the Recuperation of the Casualties of Modernisation'

John Potter (York University): 'You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Labels: Cross-Border Conflicts and Collaborations'

Dave Hesmondhalgh (Open University): 'Digital Technology, Intellectual Property and the Politics of Sampling'