“Song and the City (c.1790-c.1840)” (International)

Abstract Deadline: October 28, 2016

Dates: October 27-28, 2017

Location: University of Notre Dame, London Global Gateway

CFP from NASSR Listserv

Song was an integral part of the soundscape of London in the early nineteenth century. Among the cacophonous bustle that constituted a central aspect of the modernity of the metropolis, were ballad singers, convivial clubs that met in the city’s taverns and alehouses, and barrel organs playing the most popular tunes of the day. Songs were performed in the city’s theatres and pleasure gardens, sometimes as part of the planned entertainment, and sometimes performed more spontaneously. “Never shall I forget that night when the news of Nelson’s victory of the Nile reached us,” one Londoner wrote. I was at Drury-lane, and the theatre was crowded. [‘God save the king,’ ‘Britons Strike Home,’ ‘Conquer to Save’ and ‘Rule Britannia’] were called for and sung. I exulted at witnessing the sublimity of the national feelings thus wound up to the highest pitch of enthusiasm.” As the comment suggests, songs were capable of reflecting patriotic sentiments, but they also produced a more local sense of place, constituting a perception of the city through their performance.

We are planning a two-day workshop to examine the relationship between London and song in as broad a way as possible. By “song,” we mean the popular theatrical hits, operatic arias, hymns, drinking songs, and street ballads that could be heard in London, but we also mean more lyrical ballads or poetic productions that aspired to song (such as Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, for example) which might reveal the relationship of the city to its tradition of singing. By the “city” we mean the churches, palaces, theaters, drawing rooms, pleasure gardens, taverns, alehouses, brothels, boats, ships, carriages, markets, fairs, and streets in which songs could be heard, or were imagined to be heard. What can we learn about London by thinking about the songs that were performed there? What can we learn about songs by thinking about their circulation and performance spaces? How does song reflect and produce the lived experience of London in the period?
We also hope to probe more deeply the opposition between metropolitan and “national” song traditions. Although, as Celia Applegate has pointed out, in the nineteenth-century the term “national airs” often designated Irish, Scottish, and Welsh tunes in opposition to an English culture of song in general and metropolitan culture more specifically, we do not mean to exclude song traditions that originated outside of London. Indeed, investigations of the way that the songs of (for example) Robert Burns, Thomas Moore, or Iolo Morganwg, or arrangements of “British national airs” by Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, or John Stevenson, circulated in London are of particular interest, and might help us to locate sites of resistance, hesitation, or obliviousness to the modernizing (and colonizing) tendencies within the metropolis itself.

We invite proposals for papers from scholars in any discipline that address the relationship between song and urban space in London. Chronological boundaries are flexibly conceived, and proposals for papers that address earlier and later periods but which overlap with 1790–1840 are welcome. Similarly, while the central focus of the workshop will be on song in London, comparisons with other cities, towns, villages or national traditions are encouraged.

The workshop will consist of a series of roundtable discussions among all participants of written, pre-circulated papers. Papers will be circulated by 6 October 2017. From these papers, it is hoped that an edited book, or special issue of a journal on the topic might emerge. The symposium is supported by the ERC-funded project ‘Music in London, 1800–1851’ led by Professor Roger Parker at King’s College London. There is no registration fee, accommodation and dinner will be provided, and domestic (i.e British) travel costs will be reimbursed (overseas participants will need to provide their own transportation).

Abstracts (max. 500 words) for c. 5,000 word papers should be sent, with a short biography, to inewman@nd.edu by 28 October 2016.

For more information please contact inewman@nd.edu.

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