Donnerstag 17.06.2021

Workshop, "Future Histories of Music Theory: Problems and Possibilities"

Convened by Thomas Christensen, Lester Hu, Nathan Martin, and Carmel Raz


This workshop, to be held on Zoom on June 17, 2021 from 12:00-15:00 EDT, aims to embrace a multitude of world perspectives on the discipline of music theory, its conception, and its practice. We hope to provoke conversation and reflection among historians of music theory and interested scholars in adjacent fields, with the concrete goal of envisioning what a volume akin to Strunk’s Source Readings in Music History with an emphasis on what a more “global” history of theory might comprise.

The history of music theory, as practiced in the North American and European academy,  has traditionally concentrated on texts written in Latin, Italian, French, German, and to some extent Greek. It is well time to ask if such a narrow canon does not perpetuate Eurocentrism and risk aligning the field with colonial and white-supremacist discourses. Broadening and diversifying the history of music theory is thus a project of moral and political urgency. 

Such broadening and diversifying poses a range of formidable challenges, yet at the same time is a stimulant for rethinking just what constitutes “music theory.” This workshop will seek to identify these challenges forthrightly as we seek to make new sources and narratives available  for the history of music theory.

Some of the questions we are keen to ask include:

  • What would it take to provincialize European music theory, as opposed to simply exporting it on a global scale?
  • How would a “global” history of music theory differ from (but also connect to) a “decolonial” one?
  • In what ways can texts be reconceptualized, both in relation to embodied knowledge and to “alternative literacies,” so as to decenter classical literary traditions of music theory (Perso-Arabic, Indian, Chinese, etc., as well as European)?
  • Can translation be approached as creative, experimental, and performative work, in addition to transferring information across cultural and linguistic spheres?
  • What are the expediencies and pitfalls of studying the "global" history of music theory in English, as opposed to creating multilingual spaces of scholarship?

Registration for this event closed on May 1.