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Seminar Series

Research Seminar Series 2023-24

This year’s Research Seminar Series will take place in room J307, UCD School of Music, Newman Building, UCD Belfield Campus on Thursday evenings, 5pm. These seminars seek not only to serve as a focal point for the School’s research community, but also to welcome music scholars and interested parties from across Dublin and beyond. All are warmly invited to attend. Each seminar will also be followed by a drinks reception.

UCD is committed to continually improving campus accessibility and equality, diversity and inclusion. Enquiries regarding access or any other matters may be sent to music@ucd.ie.

This year’s programme is convened by Emma Gregg and Subhashini Goda Venkataramani with support from Dr Tomás McAuley and Dr Sarah Raine. Details of previous seminar series may be found in the Seminar Archives.

We look forward to welcoming you to the School for our Autumn Seminar Series. 

Autumn 2023

When is music not music?

Presented by Professor Kevin Donnelly (University of Southampton)


When is music not music? This might be the start of a joke. An antecedent but with uncertain consequent. Film and other media music was regularly decried as something ‘less than music’ and perhaps still is in some quarters. I partially agree with the old reactionaries who declared it was ‘not music’. However, I would suggest to the contrary. That it is in fact ‘more than music’, indeed a different animal entirely.

This paper will engage with the notion of ‘Audiovision’ as something that transforms music and has its other components transformed by music. While Michel Chion (who coined the term, 1994) acknowledges this he still retains something of an ‘additive’ understanding of the two channels. Yet, rather than an additive process I would argue that this is a more profound process of genetic fusion, as attested to by ‘the McGurk Effect’ (2022).

Chion, Michel, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, translated by Claudia Gorbman (Columbia University Press, 1994).
Donnelly, K.J., The McGurk Universe: The Physiological and the Psychological in Audiovisual Culture  (Palgrave, 2022).

Voice, Silence, and Noise: Sonic accounts of life in refugee reception centres

Presented by Dr Chrysi Kyratsou (University College Dublin)


Sound is a fundamental medium to get to know the world, our positionality within it and the interrelations shaping its nexus. As Feld has argued, conceptualising as ‘acoustemology’ this way of acquiring knowledge, ‘sounding and listening [can be understood] as a knowing-in-action: knowing with and knowing through the audible’ (2015: 12). This phrase indicates that not only sound per se is a source of knowledge, but the ways in which people relate with sound (through listening and interpreting what audible) are equally or even more insightful. Accordingly insightful turn out to be the ontologies imbuing sound with meaningfulness, as well as sonic representations, as exemplifying entities and conditions distilled in specific sonic qualities.

Sound pertains representations of refugees and refugee reception centres in official and vernacular discourses, merging their audibility with their attributed sociopolitical status. More specifically, refugees tend to be primarily represented as ‘speechless,’ and ‘silent,’ sonic paradigms that have been heavily criticised as suggesting refugees’ lack of agency (see respectively Nyers 2006 and Pistrick 2020). The political underpinnings of these sonic representations are framed as forms of ‘silencing’ (see Western 2020; also Cabot 2016), thus further criticising the violence they entail. In the same line of thought, reception centres, are represented as wrapped in silence, spatially projecting their residents’ presumed ‘voicelessness’ and exemplifying their marginality to the host society.

This talk employs ‘voice,’ ‘silence’ and ‘noise’ in a twofold manner. First, literally, as distinct areas of the sonic spectrum that indicate certain modes of action unfolding within space and enlivening it, and thus establishing an encounter with life in reception centres. Second, metaphorically, as analytical lenses that offer alternative viewpoints that challenge the established paradigm of refugeehood and asylum-seeking. In this sense, the talk highlights the privileged understandings that someone can get by exploring sound as a source of knowledge and devising it as a means to get insights outside sound itself.

Dramma in Musica: is an alternative narrative about its origin possible?

Presented by Dr Antonio Cascelli (Maynooth University)


The narrative about the origin of dramma in musica has been explored multiple times. Courtly festivals, intermedi, sacred representations, development of solo music, affects, ancient and modern music, are the constituent elements of the various narratives. However, without discarding them, I would like to look at the possibility of considering the development of dramma in musica from the point of view of how music and images are linked and how their connection was perceived in the sixteenth century. My hypothesis is that the paragone of the arts in renaissance culture – the idea that it is possible to illuminate one art through the other/s – constitutes the framework to comprehend the links between the senses, which are central to the way that music and images work together. From Leonardo – for whom painting is superior to its sister art, music – to Comanini’s treatise Il Figino, where ultimately the arts are placed on a more equal plane – the paragone undergoes a process of transformation which ultimately reshapes the relationship between the senses in a web of fully embodied affects and emotions. In particular, I will focus on few key moments that highlight the transformations: from Leonardo to Figino, through Vasari and the elements of rhetoric that compound a shared space between visual and aural imaginations in a performative space, whose traces can be tracked in the Counter-reformation milieu, contributing to the formation of the world of opera and its spectatorship.

Enacting musical aesthetics: the embodied experience of live music

Presented by Dr Nanette Nielsen (University of Oslo)


The vitality and affective potential of the live concert experience is a result of rich, cross-sensory interactions and varied participatory practices. The complexity of such entanglements has recently led philosophers to argue for an enactive, affordance-based approach that interrogates a variety of perceptual and sensory possibilities inherent in aesthetic experiences (Noë, 2015; Burnett and Gallagher, 2020). Further, Shaun Gallagher’s recent addition of the 4As (Affect, Agency, Affordance, Autonomy) to the 4Es (Embodied, Embedded, Enacted, Extended) for clarifying mind-world relations seem to have potent explanatory power for these kinds of encounters (Gallagher, 2021).

Building on such current philosophical approaches while examining specific (and actual) live musical engagement, this paper offers an interpretation of selected audience data from the MusicLab Copenhagen with the Danish String Quartet research concert to discuss particular responses from the audience physically present at the venue. Responding to neuroaesthetic approaches, I clarify the audience members’ individual and collective aesthetic experience through an enactive, affordance-based approach. I suggest that what is at play in the live concert environment is a mode of attentive dynamic listening. Rather than seeking to characterise the audience as passively responding to music, a 4Es/4As approach to aesthetic experience seeks to clarify embodied-enactive audience engagement for which anticipation is a dynamic factor that enables further musical action and resonance, also for the musicians on stage.

Dancing Divas: La sonnambula on Video in 1950s Italy

Presented by Professor Emanuele Senici (University of Rome La Sapienza)


1950s Italy was an extraordinarily fertile ground for opera on video. The first half of the decade saw the release of several films of repertory works, while in 1954 Italian state television began studio broadcasts of up to a dozen operas a year. Television also ventured into theaters for live relays: the first time it “conquered the bastion” of La Scala – to echo the media discourse on the event – was in May 1955 for a new production of La sonnambula staged by Luchino Visconti, conducted by Leonard Bernstein and starring Maria Callas. Significantly, La sonnambula was also one of the very few operas to have been both filmed (in 1952, featuring Paola Bertini lip-synching to the voice of Fiorella Ortis) and broadcast from TV studios (in 1956, with Anna Moffo). These three Sonnambulas, differently re-mediated, together afford a prime opportunity to observe opera on video from a perspective both historical and comparative – still an unusual conjunction for this kind of study.

Taking my cue from recent work concerning opera on film and television (Esse, Morris, Ward-Griffin, Will), I will focus on a particular issue of remediation: the widely different ways in which these videos acknowledge or disavow the theatrical origins of the opera. Most curious in this sense yet common to these three Sonnambulas is their significant interpolation of dances, often involving the prima donna. I will consider the function of new “dance numbers” within the dramaturgy of the videos to reveal them as both marks and means of the processes of remediation. Placing these numbers in the context of dance in Italian film and television of the 1950s will then facilitate exploration of their cultural resonances with other screen genres, particularly the television variety show. This recontextualization will prompt wider reflections on the new kind of physical demands placed on singers, especially female singers, by the incorporation of dance, and, more broadly, on the social and cultural reconfiguration of their bodies promoted by the ever more widespread videoing of opera in the postward period, both in Italy and beyond.

UCD School of Music

Newman Building, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
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