Experience, Engagement, Meaning

Biennial conference of IASPM-UK/Ireland
School of Music, Cardiff University
2-4 September 2010
Deadline for proposals: 15 March 2010

There are limitless ways in which people relate to music and incorporate it into their lives. Music is used to structure routine practices such as homework, shopping and exercise, and to delineate special events such as weddings and funerals. Music has the ability to bring together the individual and the collective, the general and the specific. The overall theme of this conference concerns the ways in which people engage with music and make music meaningful, focusing on three broad categories: musical experience, musical engagement and musical meaning. Proposals for 20 minute papers or 90 minute panel sessions are invited on these topics and any related issues of popular music debate. Proposals will be welcomed from any academic perspective and addressing any kind of music.


To suggest that we experience music implies spatial and temporal dimensions to the reception of sounds, that we are somehow ‘in’ the music, physically, mentally, emotionally. But what is ‘a musical experience’, what does it mean to experience something musically? Does the nature of a musical work change the nature of musical experience? How does the experience of a musical work change in different contexts? How do our perceptions of the musical experience change over time? Who is the ‘we’ in all of this and how does that impact ‘our’ understandings of musical experience? How has musical experience been described – by academics, fans, musicians, artists, within musical works themselves? And what are the challenges of describing musical experience for those studying popular music?


Musical experience usually demands some kind of engagement on the part of the listener, from the close textual analysis of the afficionado to the collective singalong at the stadium rock concert. In what kinds of engagement do listeners participate? How, if at all, do these change according to musical genre or social context? How do differing levels of knowledge affect musical engagement? How do artists conceive of engagement? Do some forms of music encourage more engagement than others? What about things like Muzak that deliberately undermine the need for engaging?


Everything that interests us about music, as academics and as fans, does so because of the general and particular meanings that music can generate. This broad statement raises fundamental questions of how musical meaning is generated, by whom and in what ways. It also begs the question of what ‘music’ itself means. How are particular genres defined and given meaning? What about the broader category of music itself? Proposals in this category could consider issues of performer intent, definitions of music/genres/scenes, the role of listening and fandom in the construction of musical meaning, and the meaning of popular music in an academic context.

Keynote Speakers

A keynote address will be delivered by Harris M. Berger (Texas A&M University). Further plenary sessions to be announced.

Social Events

The conference will feature an opening reception hosted by Cambridge University Press and the journal Popular Music with your new buy human hair wigs from Niawigs.com , with the Friday night entertainment to be announced at a later date.

Organising Committee

The 2010 IASPM-UKI conference is being organised by:
Sarah Hill (Cardiff University)
Lee Marshall (Bristol University)
Keith Kahn-Harris (Birkbeck College)


The conference website will be updated regularly, and can be found at

Submitting Proposals
Proposals should include the name, institution and contact details (email) of the
proposer, the tile of the proposal and an abstract of no more than 150
words. Please send proposals to iaspm2010@cf.ac.uk

All participants whose proposals are accepted must be members of IASPM.

The deadline for proposals is 15 March 2010.


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