Musical seductions

Call for contributions
Transposition. Musique et sciences sociales. – no 2

Facial expression, physical presence, fashion prowess, vocal intonation, the ways of seduction are numerous and variable. Respecting the codes adopted by the societies and cultures from which it originates, seduction is nevertheless an ‘ordinary social act’ which can be considered as universal.


Cecile Dauphin and Arlette Farge present it as ‘one of the nodal points of social architecture’, a reality from which no society or era has escaped. [cf. Dauphin, C. et Farge, A. (éd.), Séduction et sociétés. Approches historiques. Paris : Seuil. 2001]. Recently brought on the agenda by social sciences studies, the privileged relationships that seduction maintains with music will be at the core of the present issue.

1. The role of music in the process of seduction

The ritual of seduction starts beyond musical institutions, outside of concert halls: the enchanting singer in private salons, the bashful lover at the dawn serenade at the balcony, the budding guitarist who sweeps the girls off their feet. The clichés of the occidental seduction propose several aspects for us to investigate. What can they tell us about the society from which they proceed? In what way do they mirror the relationships between genders? Do these examples, taken from the occidental world, find an equivalent in other cultural areas?

2. Musical representation of seduction

In the arias of operatic theatre, in the concert of ‘pure’ music or in the repertoire of mélodie, the strategies of composers to represent seduction musically varies according to social conventions and musical and theatrical practices. How can we represent seduction with musical means? Are there any particular musical forms which allow such a representation? In addition to the study of musical cases, we encourage the contributors to propose analyses (being) based on the reception of such types of works.

3. Music to seduce

Are there compositions whose purpose is to seduce? Aside from amorous seduction, advertising music or ‘ambiance’ music – both intended to stimulate the behaviour of targets – ought to be considered. Some types of music are manipulated to serve commercial interests, others are specifically produced to induce a particular behaviour, others are re-appropriated from a musical advertising into a musical production context. Music of mechanics, ceremonial music and even propaganda music should also be analysed in the light of seduction. Case studies should allow us to know better these kinds of music which make people like such brand or institution. Is simplicity a permanent feature of these productions? How is it possible to evaluate the impact of this type of music on the listeners?

4. Musical seduction as an image of evil

From the Sirens of The Odyssey to the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, there are many literary examples where (vocal or instrumental) seduction is presented as one of the most evil attributes of sound and music. We would like contributors to analyse examples of this representation of music and to show its evolution in time and in different cultural areas. Contributors may as well want to question of the heritage of these issues in criticism addressed to (phenomena such) as “mass culture” or “cultural industry”.

5. The musician as a seducer

The stakes that seduction holds between two or more individuals is twofold: captivation and pleasure. The parallel between this action and the playing of music seems transparent. Is the musician in this way a seducer?

6. Musical place, meeting place

Concert hall or ballroom, nightclub or jazz club, opera… How do these places appear as particularly favourable to seduction games? How do the architecture encourage the act of being seen in public?

Papers, which conform to the requirements of the publication, should be addressed to the editing committee before the 15th May 2011 at this address :

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