Music, Sound and Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space

18 April 2008 - 19 April 2008


Deadline for Registration: 11 April 2008 

Please note that this conference is now  full.  Please contact Michelle Maciejewska with any queries.



Professor  Georgina Born (Professor of Sociology, Anthropology and Music, University of Cambridge)

Dr Tom Rice (ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow in Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge)

This conference pursues themes central to the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of auditory culture studies, which has evolved at the interface of musicology, philosophy of music and critical theory, ethnomusicology and anthropology of sound and senses, sociology and psychology of music, and the new practices of sound art and site-specific music and sound.


The conference addresses the ways in which sound and music, particularly as they are technologically mediated, have come to play a pivotal role in re-drawing the boundaries between the 'public' and 'private'. There is a growing awareness that acoustic strategies can be used by individuals and groups to demarcate space and project themselves within it, establishing new and often contested boundaries between the public and private. This tendency is striking in relation to physical and virtual spaces, on the one hand, and to social spaces, on the other. Music and sound are increasingly used to mark territory, place and social identities; they are employed both to humanise space and attract sociality, and to discourage human contact and block off sociality. Although some of these developments were apparent with analogue audio technologies, they have been greatly exacerbated by digitisation and by music's privileged relations with the internet, in which it leads other expressive artforms in the scale and intensity of its remediation. The conference therefore examines the manner in which musical and acoustical dynamics have become integral to the construction, imagination and negotiation of social and physical space.


Relatedly, the conference explores how the proliferation of sound technologies has resulted in a situation in which acoustic environments are increasingly malleable. To an unprecedented degree, music and sound are being employed to create a 'nesting' of the private and public, while audio technologies are used to effect a series of radical transformations of musical experience: children using sound technologies to create 'private' environments within the collective, 'private' domestic space of the home, articulating in this way cultural-generational tensions; soldiers using individual sound technologies inside tanks in battle to construct a sense of intimate, affective space and identity which fends off and occludes the public, ambient sounds of violent warfare; the mobile phone used to create a new genre of private-in-public communication; and real-time, embodied, intersubjective musical practices being replaced by virtual, disembodied music-making and virtually-distributed musical cognition.


Understanding these developments requires that we make use of the conceptual tools of musicology, the social sciences and critical theory, while also necessitating that they be re-worked for the more complex, pervasive and ramifying mediations of contemporary life. The conference brings together leading theorists of music, sound, mediation and modernity, as well as those engaged in rich empirical research - historical, contemporary and cross-cultural - to debate these developments and outline new perspectives. A feature of the conference will be to integrate perspectives from composers and sound artists, some of them also engaged in empirical research, who are concerned to reflect the new musical and sonic environments in their creative work.

On Friday April 18th at 7.30pm a concert of sound art related to the conference themes will be held at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge, with works by John Levack Driver (London), Brandon Labelle (Copenhagen), Cedric Maridet (Hong Kong) and John Wynne (London). Those attending the conference are invited to attend.

Expected speakers:

Philip Bohlman (University of Chicago)
Georgina Born (University of Cambridge)
Michael Bull (University of Sussex)
Eric Clarke (University of Oxford)
Nicholas Cook (Royal Holloway)
Suzanne Cusick (NYU)
Ruth Davis (University of Cambridge)
Tia DeNora (University of Exeter)
Nicola Dibben (University of Sheffield)
John Levack Drever (Goldsmiths, London)
Sumanth Gopinath (University of Minnesota)
James Lastra (University of Chicago)
Richard Middleton (University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
Tom Rice (University of Cambridge)
Jason Stanyek (NYU)
Jonathan Sterne (McGill University)
Martin Stokes (University of Oxford)
David Toop (University of London)

This conference has been organised with support from the British Academy, the Institute of Musical Research at the University of London, and CRASSH.








Music, Sound and the Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space


Location : CRASSH     Date : 18-19 APRIL 2008

Friday 18 April


9.30 - 10.00

Registration and coffee

10.00 - 10.15

Welcome and Introduction
Georgina Born and Tom Rice (University of Cambridge)

10.15 - 12.15

Urban and Mobile Music / Sound
Chair: Steven Connor (Birkbeck College)
Discussant: Byron Dueck (Open University)

Michael Bull (University of Sussex)
Seamless, Fine Tuned and In Control?: Investigating the World of iPod Users

John Drever (Goldsmiths’ College, London)
 Ochlophonics Hong Kong: everyday sound practices within the crowd

Sumanth Gopinath (University of Minnesota) and Jason Stanyek (New York University)
Digital auditory cultures and the problem of “mobile music”


12.15 - 13.15


13.15 - 15.15 

Sounding and Sensing Musical Space
Chair: Roger Parker (King’s College London)
Discussant: Nikolaus Bacht (University of  Cambridge)

Eric Clarke (University of Oxford)
An ecological perspective on music, sound and space

Martin Stokes (University of Oxford)
Sound, space, sensorium: an ethnomusicological perspective

David Toop (University of London)
Hauntings and soundings of “The Eavesdropper”

15..15 - 15.45 

Tea Break 

15.45 - 17.15

Designing Mediated Music / Sound
Chair: Ian Cross (University of Cambridge)
Discussant: Steven Connor

Jonathan Sterne (McGill University)
MP3 and mapping the mind’s interior

Georgina Born
On the privatization and publicisation of music



17.15 - 17.30 

Break and walk to Mill Lane Lecture Rooms 

17.30 - 18.30 

The Screen Media and Cultures Keynote Lecture

James Lastra (University of Chicago)
Sound design in the longue durée


Reception at CRASSH


Concert at Kettle’s Yard
Sound art responding to the conference themes from John Levack Drever, Brandon Labelle, John Wynne and Cedric Maridet


Saturday 19 April


9.00 - 11.00

Music, Sound and the Everyday
Chair: Annahid Kassabian (University of Liverpool)
Discussant: George Revill (Open University)

Jo Tacchi (University of Queensland)
Affective rhythms

Nicola Dibben and Anneli Beronius Haake (University of Sheffield)
The experience of music in office-based workplace settings
Tom Rice (University of Cambridge)
Broadcasting the body: the private made public in a London hospital

11.00 - 11.15

Coffee Break

11.15 - 13.15

Music, Identity and Othering, and the Politics of Space
Chair: Martin Clayton (Open University)
Discussant: Ben Walton (University of Cambridge)

Philip Bohlman (University of Chicago)
Music inside out: sounding the sacred in a post-secular Europe

Nick Cook (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Classical music and the politics of space

Ruth F. Davis (University of Cambridge)
Music and the re-configuration of sacred space: the pilgrimage to Djerba, Tunisia


13.15 - 14.15 



Music: Torture, Healing and Love
Chair: John Deathridge (Kings  College London)
Discussant: Ben Etherington (University of Cambridge)

Suzanne Cusick (New York University)
“You are in a place … out of the world”: sound and music in the detention camps of “the global war on terror”

Tia DeNora (University of Exeter)
Music space as healing space: community music therapy and the negotiation of identity in a mental health centre

Richard Middleton (University of Newcastle)
Faith, hope and the hope of love: on fidelity in the era of phonographic technology


16.15 - 16.45 

Tea Break 

16.45 - 17.30 

Conclusion and Final Discussion
Chair: Georgina Born


Conference dinner at King’s College, the Saltmarsh Rooms