1. Conferences
  1. School of Arts and Social Sciences Online Festival of Research
  2. Programme Day One

Programme Day One

Session 1. Chaired by Dr Shay Loya

10:00 Bozhidar Chapkanov

PhD Student, Department of Music

The Entanglement of Diatonic and Chromatic Harmony in the Late Piano Music of Franz Liszt – an Interdisciplinary Borrowing of a Term


The term ‘entanglement’ is used extensively in a variety of contexts not only in the social sciences, but also in mathematics and physics. A quick search in would lead to the discovery of numerous academic publications and books, many of which use entanglement as a key word in their title. Notwithstanding the fact that I haven’t yet come across the word in any study I am familiar with in musicology, I believe it is an appropriate way of describing the ways in which different types of harmony interact in Franz Liszt’s music, which is the object of my current research.

Liszt had grown up during the first half of the 19th century, when the traditions and rules for composing of the so-called ‘Classical’ period were gradually being transformed and re-interpreted by the first major composers of the Romanticism. His earlier music represents a mixture of diatonic harmony, which dominated in the previous centuries, and chromatic harmony (from Greek χρώμα – color), which was beginning to be used more and more for expressing deep emotions, the exotic or the divine. In some of the music from Liszt’s final decade (around 1877-86) chromaticism is explored to its limits, occasionally reaching a point when the tonality of the piece is either highly obscured or completely absent. There is also a number of works, in which there is a subtle interplay between diatonic and chromatic relations between chords, what Richard Cohn calls ‘the double syntax’ [2012].

I propose the term entanglement to describe the complex interactions between the two types of harmony, whereby they become deeply interconnected and codependent. Some examples will be given from selected late piano miniatures of Liszt, in which the two different syntaxes interact in a variety of ways.

10:30 Natalie Tsaldarakis

PhD Student, Department of Music

Classical music performance - meaning and relevance in modern society


In this year of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary I propose to organise a public debate following the assertion by Dr. Leech-Wilkinson through social media that ‘classical music performance has nothing to say about current concerns’ taken together with his referenced work on the matter (Challenging Performance). Purportedly, the classical performing world as a whole offers approximations of a single idealised performance and rejects deviations, in the process becoming inaccessible to the audience, and finally culturally divorcing itself from current concerns. Thus, this public debate would welcome a balanced discussion about the role, meaning, and relevance of classical music.

11:30 Presented by Dr Ian Pace

'Whither 'New Music'? Shifting Ideological and Economic Terrains from the time of Paul Bekker to that of COVID-19'

In this talk, I present a historical overview of the realm of musical activity which I categorise as ‘New Music’, drawing upon the concept as originally coined in Paul Bekker's 1919 essay 'Neue Musik' and which developed intensely through the 1920s and then in other ways in the interim period.

I identify this as indicating a realm which is distinct from a 'mainstream' of Western Art Music, and which generated its own infrastructure, in the form of festivals, concert series, dedicated sections of radio stations, pedagogical institutions, and associated publications and recordings as well as performances, not to mention species of dedicated performers whose work is focused upon this area and in more recent times a growth in the number of practitioners supported by positions in university departments.

I trace the development of his realm from the appearance of the festival in Donaueschingen and the formation of the International Society for Contemporary Music in the early 1920s, through its diminished form in economically testing times later in the decade, and facing violent opposition from both fascists and communists as well as conventional conservatives, through its rebirth in post-war Europe, especially in Germany, growth and diversification during the Cold War, and continuation into the present day, always noting how it has been funded.

Throughout, I draw attention to the particular types of music and associated aesthetic ideologies which have been strongly associated with this realm in contrast to others which have flourished either in more mainstream art music environments or distinct realms altogether. At the same time, I emphasise how the growth of the realm of new music has not been a simple organic process, but is closely related to various other wider historical and political developments. On this basis, I argue that various recent debates about new music’s supposed marginality – in terms of significance as much as simple popularity – stem from a type of fetishism of such a realm divorced from the conditions which brought it about and sustained it.

It is in this context that I suggest increased attempts to make explicit links between musical works and major social or geopolitical phenomena constitute a rearguard defensive move to protect such a realm. With the huge new economic pressures upon art music making which are sure to follow in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I suggest that this realm is facing a more precarious situation than ever before, and its very nature requires new rationales.

Session 2. Chaired by Prof Stephen Cottrell

12:30 Dr Joe Browning

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow (Lecturer in Music from September 2020), Department of Music

pronouns: he, him, his

Awkward Atmospheres: New Music’s Ambivalent Environmentalism


Environmental issues are an ambient presence in contemporary classical music and sound art: although pieces ‘about’ climate change are rare, a sense of ecological crisis is rarely far away in the new music scene. At the same time, the scene’s apparently uniform environmental politics – and the tendency for scholarly literature to endorse the power of art in tackling environmental issues – belies currents of uncertainty and dissent circulating just under the surface. This talk explores a few of the awkward, ambivalent or otherwise discrepant attitudes that environmentalist new music can provoke. Pieces can, for example, be seen as too obvious or ‘on the nose’, chasing fashions or funding, or simply irrelevant to the realities of environmental crisis. In all sorts of ways, music’s meaning and politics can be muffled, echoed, amplified, filtered, and distorted. These shifts are propelled by debates about musical autonomy, the pragmatic and (self-)promotional imperatives of the new music industry, and wider dilemmas about the role of art in a time of ecological crisis. The talk argues that recognising the heterogeneity of musical engagements with environmental issues is crucial to understanding their significance.

13:00 Professor Laudan Nooshin

Head of the Department of Music

“Our Angel of Salvation”: Towards an Understanding of the Internet as an Alternative Sphere of Sociality for Musicians in Iran.


The long history of state control over what music can be heard in the public domain in Iran dates to well before the 1979 revolution and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. However, the guiding principles of such control changed after 1979 as the government sought to regulate the conduct of its citizens according to Islamic principles in both public and - in theory, at least ­ private domains. This impacted particularly on music with its religiously-contested status: certain kinds of music were prohibited and others severely restricted. This tight control continues to be exercised by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance from which permission is required for all public performance and recording. Effectively, any music in the public domain is, by default, officially approved; and in theory, any music that isn¹t approved cannot be heard in public. There is nothing in-between.

In practice, this sonic control of public space has been multiply contested for decades. But it was the arrival of the internet that for the first time allowed musicians and others to circumvent central control relatively easily, whilst also challenging the strong public-private divide which, as in other Islamic societies, plays an important cultural role in Iran. Iran was the second country in the Middle East (after Israel) to gain internet technology and by the late 1990s it was being used both by state institutions and by individuals seeking a space away from state control.

Almost all of the literature on Iranian cyberspace has, understandably, focused on its liberatory potential, and of social media in particular. Such work tends to be based on a normative assumption and expectation that the internet offers visibility to all. I myself have explored the internet as an alternative, virtual, sphere in which musicians excluded from the physical public domain can reach audiences and contest their enforced hidden status. In this paper, I interrogate the romanticised discourses by which the internet is presented as a democratising space, disconnected from relationships of power in the physical world, by considering the case of women musicians in Iran whose relationship with cyberspace suggests that the internet may serve to hide as much as it reveals.

Session 3. Chaired by Prof Dermot Bowler

14:00 Dr Kathryn Emerson

Department of Psychology

Creating the sound of music: A conversation analytic approach to understanding interaction between choirs and their conductors


The type of interaction that takes place during a music rehearsal is unusual – if not unique – due to factors such as the interactional asymmetry between (one) conductor and (many) musicians, the large amount of non-verbal communication, and the focus on shaping an intangible aesthetic result (a musical performance) over time. How can this complex data be analysed in a holistic but systematic manner? This presentation examines how the qualitative methodology conversation analysis can provide new insights into the way that interaction during choir rehearsals is organised.

14:30 Dr Dimitris Pinotsis

Department of Psychology

The mechanisms the human brain uses to understand the world


I’ll talk about our work on the mechanisms the human brain uses to understand the world. Specifically I will discuss biophysical models and deep neural networks that predict brain imaging data and describe the structure and function of the brain. I’ll show how by understanding the mechanisms in healthy people we also hope to understand how to help patients.

15:00 Dr Danai Dima

Department of Psychology

The developing and ageing brain: what brain structure teaches us


Defining age-related cortical trajectories in healthy individuals is critical given the association of cortical thickness with cognition and behaviour. However, the normative studies available are constrained by small sample sizes, restricted age coverage and significant methodological variability. In response, we conducted a large-scale analysis of cortical thickness and subcortical volumes in 18,000 individuals aged 3-90 years by pooling data through the ENIGMA Lifespan Working group. We used fractional polynomial (FP) regression to characterize age-related trajectories in cortical thickness and subcortical volumes, and we computed normalized growth centiles using the parametric Lambda, Mu, and Sigma (LMS) method. Overall, cortical thickness peaked in childhood and had a steep decrease during the first 2-3 decades of life; thereafter, it showed a gradual monotonic decrease which was steeper in men than in women particularly in middle-life. Notable exceptions to this general pattern were entorhinal, temporopolar and anterior cingulate cortices. All subcortical structure volumes were at their maximum early in life; the volume of the basal ganglia showed a gradual monotonic decline thereafter while the volumes of the thalamus, amygdala and the hippocampus remained largely stable (with some degree of decline in thalamus) until the sixth decade of life followed by a steep decline thereafter. These results reconcile uncertainties about age-related trajectories of brain structures; the centile values provide estimates of normative variance in them, and may assist in detecting abnormal deviations in cortical thickness and subcortical volumes, and associated behavioural, cognitive and clinical outcomes.

Manuscripts uploaded in bioRxiv

Cortical Thickness Trajectories across the Lifespan: Data from 17,075 healthy individuals aged 3-90 years

Subcortical Volume Trajectories across the Lifespan: Data from 18,605 healthy individuals aged 3-90 years

Session 4. Convenor: Prof Laudan Nooshin

16:00 Panel Discussion

Current Issues in Urban Studies Research: Cultural Practices, Social justice and Urban Socialities

This panel will present current and recent research from staff in SASS working in the broad area of urban studies.

1.5 hour session. Each panellist will talk for 10-15 mins, followed by 30-40 mins of discussion.

Convenor and Chair: Laudan Nooshin (Music)

Dominic Davies (English)

Global Cities, Urban Forms: Comics as Infrastructure

In this talk, I will discuss my recent book, Urban Comics: Infrastructure and the Global City in Contemporary Graphic Narratives (2019). With chapter-length discussions of comics from cities such as Cairo, Cape Town, New Orleans, Delhi and Beirut, the book shows how artistic collectives and urban social movements working across the global South are producing some of the most exciting and formally innovative graphic narratives of the contemporary moment. In this talk, I'll explain the theoretical roots of the project, and through a series of examples show how comics are used to resist an image-centric 'global city' politics, and instead to reimagine more socially just cities, especially in Southern cities marked by inequality and (post)colonial violence.

Andy Pratt (Sociology)

The Hidden Life of the Cultural Economy of Cities

This contribution challenges the normative consumption – focused, or experience perspective of culture in cities. Instead it highlights the role of cultural production, and indeed the whole cultural ecosystem that supports and sustains vibrant cultural activities in cities. This makes cities more than sums of their parts. It highlights many inequalities and dependences between various cultural practices, and between the formal/informal, local/global. Policy making generally, and especially post covid-19, is going to need to play a role in rebuilding this delicate ecosystem: it is not simply the case of ‘switching the audience on again’.

Tullis Rennie (Music)

On the Sociality of Urban Sound: Participative Sound Practices and Walls On Walls

How can listening, sound and co-composition further our understanding of, and intervene in, the sociality of urban existence? In a rapidly regenerating and gentrified London, could marginalised communities be better heard? Do socially-engaged arts practices help us listen?

Through a brief overview of my recent practice based research with Walls On Walls - a participative arts organisation working with urban communities - this presentation will address some or more of the following:

  • the politics, ethics and aesthetics of participative (sound) arts, situated in the context of social housing
  • hearing urban change (Waldock, 2015): what can participative sound arts practices achieve in mobilising urban communities?
  • can an ‘ethics of participation’ harness the ‘ephemeral mobility and generative nature of sound [to] open the narrow confines of politics to different political possibilities’? (Voegelin 2019:37)
  • the cultural dynamics of regeneration and gentrification as heard by London’s communities in social housing
Gary Armstrong (Sociology)

The Poor Boys Ballet

Where and how innate physical and mental ability meets with social environment to produce athletic excellence has fascinated many both inside and outside of academe. Focussing specifically on the sport of boxing, this talk explores one renowned boxing gym in the English city of Sheffield seeking answers to both what motivates and makes a pugilist. The answer the author suggest lies somewhere between notions of inequality and redemption . A crucial factor in the making of champion boxer, however, is the philosophy of the institution that teaches and the paternal wisdom of the gym owner which might be acquired in the times of training. The matter might thus be more complicated than equating tough places with producing tough people, the genus loci is a complex concept.