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Music and Pleasure before the Law

International Conference
28 - 29 June 2023


Registration is now open!

There is no attendance fee for this conference, but please register at the following link: https://forms.gle/uXiHdTuk49Vg6hfs8.

We are intending that non-speaking participants will be attending in-person. Please contact the organisers (music.pleasure.law@gmail.com) if you have any questions.

Conference Details

Date28th & 29th June 2023

LocationUCD Humanities Institute, University College Dublin

OrganisersDr Kyle Kaplan, Dr Matthew Thomson, music.pleasure.law@gmail.com

Sponsors UCD School of Music, Society for Musicology in Ireland and UCD Arts & Humanities Threshold of Knowledge

Register here


Today, scholars interested in expanding and diversifying the way we think music and sex together are faced with a rift between intellectual and political landscapes. On the one hand, such inquiry has been legitimized by more than thirty years of scholarship that has celebrated music’s capacity to represent myriad sexual experiences and identities, as well as its ability to engender radical, destabilizing forms of sonic pleasure. On the other, recent successful political and legal efforts to curtail sexual rights in the name of moral or religious objection are unwinding gains made from identity-based political action. To better navigate this climate, we seek to step back from the traditional focus on how musicians or musical works represent specific sexual desires and identities to interrogate the larger institutional, administrative, and discursive forces that conterminously shape the history of music and sexuality.

Intentionally returning to Foucault’s interest in the emergence and productivity of disciplinary practices, this conference aims to examine moments where music and pleasure have been brought together before the law or, more generally, any authoritative discourse which purports to regulate human behavior. Inviting scholars to share diverse historical and cultural situations, we intend to collectively and investigate the following questions:  To what extent have legal or doctrinal discourses considered music and sexuality as analogous issues? What are the shared tactics used to regulate or manage musical and sexual behaviors? What actions have been taken by marginalized individuals or groups to undercut, evade, or reform discourses that limited musical and sexual freedom? What methodological, theoretical, or conceptual resources are needed to tackle such issues? Responding to these questions, we hope to consider how our reactions to contemporary sexual politics can draw from those who have previously encountered the varied, but historically persistent forces that attempt to bring order to the unruly world of sexual and musical experience.

The conference will be held at University College Dublin on 28 - 29 June 2023. Our discussion will culminate in a keynote address given by Professor Suzanne Cusick (New York University).

Keynote Speaker | Professor Suzanne G. Cusick

The keynote address, "'Coito', Music, and the Erotic before the Law: A Case from Florence, 1621", will be given by Professor Suzanne G. Cusick on Wednesday, 28th June 2023.

 An image of Professor Suzanne G. Cusick

Suzanne G. Cusick is Samuel Rudin Professor in the Humanities at New York University and Honorary Member of both the American Musicological Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology; she has published extensively on gender and sexuality in relation to the musical cultures of early modern Italy and of contemporary North America. Her 2009 book Francesca Caccini at the Medici Court: Music and the Circulation of Power received the ‘Best Book’ award for 2010 from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women. More recently, she has studied the use of sound in detention and interrogation of prisoners held during the twenty-first century’s ‘war on terror’, work for which she won the Philip Brett Award of the American Musicological Society. Cusick is currently at work on a monograph on gendered, eroticized, and politicized modes of hearing in Medicean Florence. Cusick served as President of the American Musicological Society from 2018 to 2020. 


Conference Programme and Abstracts

  • The full conference programme is available to view here
  • Abstracts for the conference are available to download below. 

On Campus Accommodation Booking

Speakers who have already booked accomodation can now pay for it below. Communication regarding this booking will be sent from the UCD Summer Accommodation office.  

Unfortunately, we don't have any more availability for accomodating delegates who haven't already booked accommodation. 

When booking, if you do not have a UCD Connect Account please select the 'Create a New Account' option. 

Accommodation Options available:

  • Accommodation for 1 night: 99.00 EUR
  • Accommodation for 2 nights: 198.00 EUR
  • Accommodation for 3 nights: 297.00 EUR
  • Accommodation for 4 nights: 396.00 EUR
  • Accommodation for 5 nights: 495.00 EUR

With thanks to our Conference sponsors

SMI LogoThresholds of Knowledge Sponsor Logo

UCD School of Music

Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8178 | E: music@ucd.ie