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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 (opens in a new window)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 Spring Seminar Series. 

Spring 2024

A Primer on Issues in Black Contemporary Composition

Presented by Anthony R. Green (Composer, Performer, Social justice artist)


This talk will focus on the joys and frustrations of being a Black contemporary music composer, and will include music samples, a recommended listening/reading list, and an interactive Q&A that links the mentioned issues with other "marginalized" identities.

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.

Chopin’s Suicidal Tonal Plan? The Monotonal Exposition and the Ascendency of Secondary Parameters in the Nineteenth-Century Sonata: a Lesson from the Warsaw Years

Presented by Dr Anne Hyland (University of Manchester)


Scholarly tradition reveals a preference for reading the monotonal expositions of Chopin’s early sonatas (Opp. 4, 8 and 11) as unsuccessful attempts at a more normative dual-tonal structure owing to their lack of establishment of an expected secondary key. Writing on the Op. 11 Piano Concerto, Donald Francis Tovey dismissed the solo exposition’s harmonic scheme – which places the second theme in the parallel major – as a ‘suicidal plan’ since the lack of tonal contrast sets up potentially insurmountable problems for the remainder of the movement. This critical tendency persists in more recent scholarship, where Opp. 4 and 8 align with Sonata Theory’s concept of the ‘failed exposition’, the designation of which hinges on the absence of a Perfect Authentic Cadence (PAC) in a non-tonic key near the end of the exposition. 

Yet this critical consensus masks a considerable variation in the degree of non-modulation that these works can be said to enact and underplays the role of embedded harmonic events in their generation of a dialogue between keys. In response, this paper develops a ‘spectrum of expositional modulation’ by proposing a set of contributing criteria for classifying the stability of secondary tonal areas that builds on the work of Graham Hunt (2009 and 2014) and Aaron Grant (2022). In so doing, it challenges the prevailing monotonal reading of these and similar expositions and clarifies the alternative means through which Chopin achieves tonal and expressive differentiation in these works. Ultimately, in presenting alternative readings of these works which muddy the ostensibly clear distinctions characteristic of previous research, this paper celebrates the rich ambiguities that accompany formal classification of nineteenth-century repertoire – those that compel us to question and re[de]fine our established theoretical predispositions.

Improvising Across Boundaries: Developing a co-produced and collaborative methodology for capturing the gendered experiences of improvising musicians in Ireland

Presented by  (opens in a new window)Dr Sarah Raine (University College Dublin)

TUESDAY 27 February (4pm) in J305
*Co-hosted with UCD School of Art History & Cultural Policy*


During this talk, I will introduce Improvising Across Boundaries and track the development of this co-produced and collaborative project through lessons learnt during previous music-focused research work in both Ireland and the UK. 

Co-funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council as part of a Pathway Fellowship, and in partnership with IMC (Improvised Music Company), this four-year research project will work collaboratively with fifteen women and gender minority improvising musicians from February 2024 until August 2027. During this time, we will document experience, offer ways forward for industry, and explore the ways in which gender identity is considered through performance and everyday music-making. Five months into this project, I will reflect on emerging methodological challenges and opportunities in relation to undertaking collaborative research.

Abd al-Halim's Bicycle: A Postcolonial Nocturne

Presented by Professor Martin Stokes (King’s College London)


Abd al-Halim Hafiz (1929-1977) was the preeminent singer of the Nasserite generation in Egypt, famous for his roles in film musicals and revolutionary jamborees. This talk explores two famous song moments in the film Maabudet al-Gamahir (1963) in which Abd al-Halim cycles across the city. The second involves a duet with his fellow star, Shadia. How might this help us understand the relationships between song melodrama, the city, and revolutionary citizenship? 

Title: Labour, value and form in modern Indian music

Presented by Dr Rasika Ajotikar (Stiftung Universität Hildesheim)


This presentation examines the relationship between art and emancipatory politics with a focus on the political economy of music, labour and caste in modern western India. It does so by juxtaposing the process embedded in the systematisation or classicisation of music with the soundscape of anti-caste thought to critically look at the nature of musical labour, the question of value and the formal elements embedded in musical innovation. The impulse to contrast these two sequences emerges out of the need to understand the divergent nature of these milieus and the ensuing invisibalisation of caste on the one hand, and also to produce a dialectical, caste-based analysis of musicianship in modern India on the other: this can be traced in authorship, affect, sonic aesthetics and politics today. As nationalism and regionalism determined value in/of music in modern India, canonised taxonomies crystallised to further strengthen a counter-revolutionary cultural politics that seems to be permanently marked by caste. Yet, we find that there is more to music and performance than this historical burden. What are we left with? What cues do anti-caste movements offer towards a renewed musical thought? Drawing on ethnographic material from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, this presentation hopes to activate debates surrounding the purpose of art, its form, and how it connects to emancipatory politics whilst historically contextualising meaning-making processes in the region.

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.

Control Issues: Music and Sexuality in Thirteenth-Century Legal, Doctrinal, and Literary Discourses

Presented by Dr Matthew Thomson (Merton College, University of Oxford)


The control of sexual activity was a central concern for early thirteenth-century clerical writers, as
ensured by the church’s contemporary reform to the canon law and doctrine of marriage. As William
of Auxerre’s Summa aurea (1220s) comes to the end of what seems like another exemplar of such
sexual moral regulation, it turns to a different kind of self-restraint: the morality of listening to
music. This paper moves outwards from William’s juxtaposition in two stages. First, it examines its
underlying logic, showing that thirteenth-century clerics saw the regulation of sex as closely
analogous to the control of musical behaviours. Second, it traces the responses of authors of
vernacular French literature to such clerical attempts at control, demonstrating their sophisticated
and humorous attempts to undercut, frustrate, and satirise clerical narratives.

The similar problems posed by music and sex, as adumbrated by clerical texts from academic
theology to confessors’ manuals, stemmed from the difficulty they posed for self-control. Both had
crucial social utility: sex promoted reproduction and marital affection, while music could change
human behaviour, inspiring the faithful and calming the violent. Both music and sex, however,
produced a morally perilous level of sensual pleasure, which could impair humans’ power to control
their own behaviour, by overcoming their ability to think rationally about the morality of their
actions. Problematically, this pleasure was vital: without it, music could not change behaviour and
sex was unlikely to promote marital affection. These similar problems caused clerics to establish
closely analogous regulatory mechanisms to control musical and sexual behaviour. Some texts
required participants to retain their rational ability to judge between right and wrong. Other writers
acknowledged that such complete self-control was unlikely or impossible. They therefore described
the conditions under which sexual and musical pleasure would lead to virtue and away from vice,
even if participants’ judgement were temporarily overcome.

Although music and desire formed central themes of thirteenth-century French literature, scholars
have often seen its treatment of them as being isolated from the clerical attempts at control
considered in this paper. Through an analysis of episodes from Henri de Valenciennes’s Lai d’Aristote
(1210s) and Gerbert de Montreuil’s Roman de la Violette (c. 1227–29), I demonstrate that vernacular
authors carefully manipulated their literary narrative and the songs they inserted into it in order to
engage meaningfully with clerical narratives about the difficulty of controlling music and sex, if only
to frustrate and poke fun at them.

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

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