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Research Colloquium: Nicholas Cook

November 21, 2017 @ 5:15 pm - 6:30 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every day that begins at 5:15pm, repeating indefinitely

‘Hearing the social in music’

Abstract: This paper draws on the first chapter of a book I am writing for my British Academy/Wolfson Foundation project Music Encounters: Studies in Relational Musicology. The social effects claimed for music have traditionally been associated with a few privileged genres such as free jazz and the string quartet, and theorised in unhelpfully utopian terms: by contrast, I argue that they are inherent in the practices of close, interactive listening that characterise music quite generally and across multiple cultures. There is a sense in which music is, quite literally, made out of webs of listening, and I explore specific musical devices and designs that facilitate the emergence of social relationships through sound. I also explore the utopian ideas of musical participation associated with Christopher Small and Thomas Turino, and argue that what makes music exceptional as a medium for social action is precisely that it does not depend on face-to-face participation in the manner, for example, of team sports. What is often denigrated as ‘passive’ listening is more productively seen as a form of virtual participation optimised for the digital networks of musical dissemination and consumption in the contemporary world.

Biography: Nicholas Cook is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge, having previously worked in Hong Kong, Sydney, Southampton, and London. His books include A Guide to Musical Analysis (1987); Music, Imagination, and Culture(1990); Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 (1993); Analysis Through Composition (1996), Analysing Musical Multimedia (1998), and Music: A Very Short Introduction (1998), which is published or forthcoming in sixteen languages. The Schenker Project: Culture, Race, and Music Theory in Fin-de-siècle Vienna (2007) won the SMT’s Wallace Berry Award. His most recent published book, based on his work as Director of the AHRC Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, is Beyond the Score: Music as Performance (2013), while he recently completed an article-length study of recordings of Webern’s Piano Variations Op. 27 that combines computational analysis with cultural history. His book-length contribution to the AHRC Research Centre for Music as Creative Practice, Music as Creative Practice, is scheduled for publication in February 2018, and he is currently finalising a book project entitled ‘Music encounters: Studies in relational musicology’, for which he was awarded a British Academy Wolfson Research Professorship. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2001.

All Music Research Colloquia begin at 5.15pm in the Denis Arnold Hall at the Faculty of Music. The Colloquia feature leading figures as well as younger scholars presenting their research in papers on all kinds of music-related topics. The speakers come from Oxford and many different universities around the world. This series is organised by graduate students, Stefanie Arend and Edward Spencer. Presentations are followed by discussion and a drinks reception. Students, staff, and the general public are warmly encouraged to attend.


November 21, 2017
5:15 pm - 6:30 pm
Event Category:


Faculty of Music
01865 271633


Denis Arnold Hall, Faculty of Music
St Aldate's
Oxford, OX1 1DB
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01865 276125
Free, Open to All