cfp: Online conference on “Toddlers/Children’s Songs – The Popular Music of the Youngest?”

Call for Papers:
Online conference on “Toddlers/Children’s Songs – The Popular Music of the Youngest?”
on Friday, November 4, 2022

organized by the Klaus Kuhnke Institute for Popular Music at the Bremen University of the Arts

About the conference topic:
The music industry focuses primarily on adolescents and young people and targets the majority of its pop music productions at them (Moser & Scheuermann 2003, Limper & Lücke 2013, Endreß & Wandjo 2021). Popular music studies also often assume that the most influential or formative phase for individual musical taste is to be found in the teenage years (Dollase 1997, Hoffmann 2008, Heyer, Wachs & Palentin 2013). Even the pedagogical engagement with popular music primarily focuses on children of school age (6 to 18 years) (Terhag 1994/1996, Maas & Terhag 2010, Ahlers 2015). Exceptions are isolated concepts of elementary music pedagogy, some of which even start with babies (keyword: baby concerts from the age of 0). However, the aim is usually to attract young listeners to classical music (in the broadest sense), which is considered comparatively unpopular (Stiller 2008, Wimmer 2010, Weber 2018).

On the other hand, traditional songs and new songs for toddlers/young children that have been prepared for the media are very popular in some cases. It is not uncommon, for example, for corresponding YouTube videos to reach many millions of clicks. Accordingly, this supposedly niche music is extremely widespread when viewed in the light of day.

The online conference is therefore dedicated to the complex of topics of toddlers/children’s songs and explores the question whether songs for young children aged 0 to 6 years can be understood as something like “the first popular music” with which they come into contact – namely, before adolescence, with the ascribed youth and subcultures. If this is the case, (small) children’s songs should henceforth be given more attention by popular music studies.

The following partial aspects can be discussed in this context (examples):

  • Are children’s songs the same as folk songs? What are the similarities and differences?
  • Are children’s songs necessarily ethnically bound music, i.e. linked to a language, region or ethnic group? Are there transnational/transcultural children’s songs that enjoy worldwide popularity?
  • What is the relationship between traditional and contemporary children’s songs? Which genuine popular songs/standards/hits do we know? When and where did they originate? Who composed them? Why are well-known children’s songs so often covered and closely associated with modern musical styles?
  • Who produces children’s songs nowadays? Are they usually specialized artists or bands? Which labels and (music) publishers release children’s songs?
  • Are there more commercial children’s song productions sung by children than by adults?
  • Which musical construction features can be identified – apart from the lyrics – in children’s songs?
  • What is the music-text relationship in children’s songs?
  • Which topoi are usually negotiated in the lyrics of children’s songs?
  • Which artistic “by-products” can be found in connection with children’s songs (keywords: illustrated children’s song books, music videos, theater performances)? How important were/are such “by-products” for the popularity of children’s songs? Were/are sheet music/text-only editions equally successful?
  • How were/are children’s songs marketed? Who was/is the main target audience: parents or children? What merchandise did/do children’s songs bring? Are contemporary children’s songs mostly part of an overarching product strategy (keywords: animated movies, musicals or toy figures)?

    Type of conference:
    online (via Zoom)

    Date of the conference:
    Friday, November 4, 2022, in the morning, in the period from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., maximum 4 hours (incl. breaks)

    Conference languages:
    German & English

    Presentation durations:
    20 min + 10 min discussion = 30 min per speaker

    Number of presentations:
    4 to maximum 6

    Abstract for presentation:
    Topic with brief description (approx. 350 words) and short biography with contact information (approx. 150 words)

    Deadline for abstract submission:
    September 11, 2022

    Announcement of accepted presentations:
    September 19, 2022

    Publication of the papers after the conference:
    in the online magazine “S[æ]itenanschläge” (String/Site stops) of the Klaus Kuhnke Institute for Popular Music (will be published for the first time as a PDF annual journal at the end of 2022);
    by December 2, 2022 at the latest, the elaborated manuscript of the presentation should be submitted

    Participation fees:
    None, neither for presenters nor for other participants

    Registration for participants:
    by e-mail no later than November 2, 2022
    Sending of the zoom access link:
    November 3, 2022

Those wishing to present papers as well as those interested in participating should contact the following e-mail address: