From police brutality, the global refugee crisis, and mass shootings, to PTSD, trigger warnings, and the #MeToo movement, recent discourse has concentrated on the traumatizing effects of living in and with violence in the contemporary world. Family members, loved ones, psychologists, and educators have been considering how to support people who have experienced different kinds of trauma—from psychological and physical trauma to cultural trauma and the insidious trauma of living in societies that are structurally unequal. Music and sound have long intertwined with trauma, not only in acts of mourning, resistance, and healing, but also in causing or contributing to trauma. Although music and sound scholars have begun to address these connections in articles, book projects, and conferences, there has not yet been an interdisciplinary conference in North America devoted to the topic of music, sound, and trauma.
The presentations, performances, workshops and seminars of “Music, Sound, and Trauma: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” will illuminate the current state of research on music and trauma, while also generating rich discussion of further avenues of interdisciplinary inquiry, activism, and collaboration. This conference would bring together scholars working at the intersections of music scholarship, sound studies, history, psychology, medical humanities, and other disciplines with the aim of addressing three central questions:
1) How can knowledge emerging from the humanistic discipline of trauma studies shape music- and sound-oriented fields such as musicology, ethnomusicology, music education, and sound studies?
2) How might music and sound studies research that engages with trauma studies shape the landscape of research in the arts and humanities more broadly?
3) Considering the many ways in which cultural trauma and social inequality have historically been linked, how might interdisciplinary research at the intersections of music, sound, and trauma inform knowledge, policy, and practice geared towards social justice not only within, but also beyond the academy?
Since many people work, teach, and live in the midst of music and trauma, this conference offers an opportunity to think through how examining music and trauma in tandem is important for both music studies and contemporary life. Thus, in addition to producing the concrete print and digital outcomes of this conference listed below, this conference will facilitate connections for people in and beyond the IU, Bloomington, and Indiana communities, resulting in dialogue on creative solutions to a variety of social issues that are fundamentally intertwined with trauma—from homelessness and child abuse to domestic violence and discrimination.
In order to answer these questions and forge these solutions, “Music, Sound, and Trauma: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” draws into dialogue nationally and internationally renowned scholars from myriad disciplines in and beyond the arts and humanities. Although in recent years scholars in musicology, ethnomusicology, and music therapy have been most attentive to relationships between music, sound, and trauma, this conference understands these foci as fulcrums around which various spheres of knowledge exist. Music and sound, after all, have been subjects of study for researchers and practitioners in fields as varied as acoustics, anthropology, communications and media studies, dance, environmental science, history, linguistics, film, and theater. Moreover, because trauma studies is a fundamentally interdisciplinary field—engaging with fields from psychology, medicine, sociology, history, cultural studies, and comparative literature to gender and queer studies, critical race and postcolonial studies, religion, education, and disability studies—this conference holds enormous potential to bring together high-profile scholars not only from music studies, but also from various fields in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and biomedical sciences. In facilitating dialogue between researchers, teachers, practitioners, and thinkers in so many disciplines, this conference enables thinking across boundaries in response to significant social questions that hold trauma at their centers, while also allowing those who think about trauma in a wide range of disciplines opportunities to learn from and network with one another.
Free and open to the public, “Music, Sound, and Trauma: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” will take place February 12-14, 2021, with concurrent sessions running from Friday morning through lunchtime on Sunday. Collaborators in the organization and planning of this conference include faculty in and beyond Indiana University who consider music and sound in relation to trauma. Collaborators from outside of IU include musicologists Dr. Erin Brooks (SUNY Potsdam) and Dr. Michelle Meinhart (Trinity Laban Conservatory, London), both of whom work at the intersections of music, sound, history, and trauma studies. I have worked with both of them on numerous projects related to this topic, and will co-edit with them the Oxford Handbook of Music, Sound, and Trauma Studies.
As a dynamic conference, “Music, Sound, and Trauma: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” will provide participants with numerous ways to engage with music, sound, and trauma studies. In addition to papers and panel sessions drawn from a general call for papers issued in July 2020, the conference will feature at least two roundtables centered around forthcoming publications on music and trauma. We will hold a roundtable on how to address historical trauma that occurred before the twentieth century featuring contributors to a special issue of Nineteenth-Century Music Review entitled “Music, War, and Trauma in the Long Nineteenth Century” (currently under review, imagined publication in late 2020/early 2021). The second roundtable will address the importance but also methodological challenges of bringing trauma studies to bear on music studies, involving contributors to a proposed music and trauma colloquy in the Journal of the American Musicological Society (pending Editorial Board approval). In addition to these presentations, we will hold numerous interactive workshops and seminars. Music performance will also play a role in this conference: in addition to inviting participants to prepare lecture recitals, at least one concert will be devoted to compositions related to trauma.
“Music, Sound, and Trauma: Interdisciplinary Perspectives” will feature keynote speakers from multiple disciplines. We are delighted that Dr. Maria Cizmic (University of South Florida) has already confirmed her participation. Cizmic is an internationally-recognized musicologist whose work on music and trauma in Eastern Europe opened the field of musicology to trauma studies in the early 2000s.