cfp: Imperfection as an Aesthetic Idea in Music

Imperfection as an Aesthetic Idea in Music: Perspectives from Musicology and Artistic Research

Venue: University for Music and the Performing Arts, Graz, Austria (Kunstuniversität Graz)
Dates: May 6 and 7th, 2020
Submission Deadline: 15 October 2019
Languages: English and German
Keynote Speaker: Prof. Seth Brodsky (University of Chicago)
Web address:

When we look to music, are we looking for perfection? Or does imperfection ultimately have more aesthetic value for us as practitioners and researchers? Historically, perfection has been treated with suspicion as an aesthetic idea in general. Already in the 1757 On the Sublime and the Beautiful, Edmund Burke mused that “beauty in distress is the most affecting beauty”; Heinrich Kleist, in his 1810 On the Marionette Theater, further suggested that perfection in art only resided beyond the domain of the properly human. In recent discussions of aesthetics in the more specific realm of music, however, the issue of imperfection has most often been discussed with primary reference to musical improvisation, although additional topics have sometimes been part of the discourse in musicology and artistic research.
Coming from the dual perspectives of artistic research and musicology, this conference aims to broaden our perspectives on how imperfection can inform our aesthetic understanding of music, historically and in current practice. We are especially interested in the aesthetic implications of musical imperfection from two contrasting points of view: 1) imperfection as a manifest goal of music and musical practice, and 2) imperfection that occurs primarily by accident, but nevertheless has aesthetic significance. Some possible themes include, but are not at all limited to:
• Imperfection as a compositional goal or effect
• Imperfection as a goal or effect of improvisation
• Imperfection as a goal or effect of performance
• Imperfection as an aesthetic attitude or ideology
• Imperfection in amateur musical practice (composing, performing, listening)
• Imperfection and corporeal aspects of music and music-making (i.e., voices and approaches to instruments)
• Imperfection in recorded music, electronic music, and electroacoustic music
• Imperfection and chance
• Imperfection and the glitch
• Critiques of an aesthetic of imperfection (gender studies approaches, disability studies, posthumanist approaches, etc.)
The languages of the conference are English and German; artistic research presentations will be granted a total of thirty minutes, and more strictly musicological papers will be twenty minutes in length.
Application Instructions:
The deadline for the receipt of applications is 15 October 2019. We will communicate the results of the application process by 15 November 2019. Please submit all materials to Maria Klinger:
To be considered as a contributor in musicology or related disciplines:
Please send an application email including your personal contact information and the title of your paper. To this email please attach an abstract of no more than 350 words (using the title but no personal information).
To be considered as a contributor in artistic research, please contact Jennifer Ronyak at
We look forward to your submissions.

The Program Committee
Dr. Jennifer Ronyak
Prof. Dr. Andreas Dorschel
Márcio André Silva Steuernagel