CfP: Sing, Muse: Literary, Theoretical, and Historical Approaches to Music in Classical Antiquity

Sing, Muse: Literary, Theoretical, and Historical Approaches to Music in Classical Antiquity

Eleventh Annual Graduate Conference in Classics

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Keynote Speaker: Timothy Power, Rutgers University

Musical Performance: “Old Songs”

Music was an integral part of literary, artistic, social, and religious life in ancient Greece and Rome. Beyond the power it has held in every culture, both past and present, music in Greece was institutionalized as a crucial element of education (mousike). The association with the divine Muses, as well as the gods, Apollo and Hermes, illustrates its extension into the religious sphere, where musical performance was pervasive. And yet performance contexts were diverse and dynamic. Homeric bards recited epic with accompaniment on the phorminx, flute girls played music at Greek symposia, and carmina were sung at Roman games and festivals. Music held sway over philosophical thought as well. While the Pythagoreans viewed the cosmos itself as musical in its mathematical order and perfection, Plato’s Socrates advises that certain modes have a negative effect on virtue. Such moral and metaphysical ideas continued in the works of later musical theorists; for instance, Aristides Quintillianus. On the other hand, the movement of “new music,” an object of Plato’s attack, has increasingly come to be seen on its own terms as innovating on the musical and poetic traditions. Music was ubiquitous in the ancient world and is ripe for further inquiry.

The PhD/ MA Program in Classics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York invites graduate students in Classics or related fields to submit abstracts of papers that explore the theme of music in antiquity. We encourage different approaches, such as philological, literary, historical, theoretical, archaeological, musicological, and anthropological.  On the whole, we hope this conference will address in different ways what music meant to people living in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as to those inheriting the Classical tradition.

Possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

·   What role(s) musicians played in Greek and Roman cultures

·   In what ways musical practice and theory changed under different political/social contexts

·   To what extent music informed poetry and the poetic persona

·   Where Greeks and/or Romans located the line between sound and music

·   How descriptions of sound and/or music function in literature

·   What role music had in religious, military, and civic contexts

·   Where music and/or sound fit into various philosophical systems of thought

·   How acoustic theory related to musical practices

·   How different scales and/or modes were conceptualized or were used

Please send an anonymous abstract of approximately 300 words as an email attachment to by January 12, 2018. Please include, in the body of the email, your name, university affiliation, and the title of the presentation. Speakers will have 15 minutes to present. Selected applicants will be notified in early February. Submissions and questions will be received by conference co-organizers Noah Davies-Mason and Victoria Jansson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s