New network formed at music conference in Örebro, Sweden

2016-04-20 10:00

Scholars from around the world gathered in Örebro, Sweden, for a conference on the theme of gender and music. Musicology researcher Sam de Boise tells what happened at the conference and about the new global network GeMus.

The conference, titled Gender and Music: Practices, Performances, Politics, GeMus, was held 16–18 March at Örebro University School of Music, Theatre and Art. It was one of the first of its kind as it gathered a wide range of speakers and presenters with a focus on music and gender. The purpose of the initiative was to encourage scholars from around the world with shared interests to discuss different perspectives of the topic.

Hi there, Sam de Boise, musicology researcher at the Örebro University School of Music, Theatre and Art, who helped coordinate the conference. How do you think it turned out and what are some of the things that were discussed?

The conference was a great success, so the participants agreed to establish a global Swedish-based network (GeMus) on the topic of music and gender research. The intention is to develop the network over the next few years, and we are planning to arrange the next conference in 2018.

The discussions concerned mainly three areas: how gender inequality affects music, how music can be used for thinking about gender and how it is possible to ’read’ and interpret gender in music. The presentations varied from death metal and autoethnography in the UK to all-women classical music ensembles in Serbia; from female DJs in Sweden and Berlin to “lo-fi bedroom scenes” in Hungary; from Nikki Minaj to Francine Benoît.

Prior to the conference, which was funded through a grant from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences, about 100 abstracts were sent out to scholars in areas such as sociology, musicology, education, music, anthropology and philosophy. Seventy-five scholars – some young and some more established – from 16 countries attended the conference. All participants study music and gender but within the framework of different disciplines, theories and problems.

The three scholars Susan McClary, Jack Halberstam and Stan Hawkins were keynote speakers. What did they talk about?

Professor Susan McClary, Case Western Reserve University, opened the conference with The Musical Closet. Her book Feminine Endings: Music, Gender and Sexuality is one of the fundamental works in feminist musicology. Her research from the 1980s and 1990s caused a minor revolution in the musicology field by challenging the prevailing theoretical analyses of music as an object without links to social structures. McClary showed instead how gender affects how people think about music and how gender could be read in classical music.

On the second day of the conference, Jack Halberstam from the University of Southern California presented material from his upcoming book Wild Things. Through his research, Halberstam has contributed significantly to the study of gender and culture and created during his speech a type of “punk history”, from Stravinsky to Angel Haze.

Stan Hawkins, University of Oslo, opened the last day of the conference by presenting research from his new book Queerness in Pop Music: Aesthetics, Gender Norms and Temporality. He showed how the growing genre called queer-hop is challenging many stereotypes in hip hop and how concepts such as queer, camp and parody can be used to challenge ideas about masculinity today.

Read more about the conference Gender and Music: Practices, Performances, Politics.

Author Inga-Bodil Ekselius/Sam de Boise
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