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Beyond the East-West Divide: Rethinking Balkan Music’s Poles of Attraction


In its engagement with Balkan music, musicology has largely conformed to the dominant cultural historiographical model of a divide between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Marked by core binary concepts, under the spell initially of theories of modernity, and subsequently of critical theories that aimed to deconstruct these oppositions, musicology on Balkan music still remains within the confines of the ‘East-West’ paradigm. Theories such as Edward Said’s Orientalism and Maria Todorova’s Balkanism have served as key methodological tools in conceptualizing Balkan music and analysing the ways in which stereotypical and ideologically-charged images of ‘the West’ and ‘the East’ are reproduced in musical praxes. Powerful as they have been, analyses of the Balkans solely with reference to ‘East’ and ‘West’ surely do not do justice to the diversity of relationships that have shaped its variegated musical space, and have inevitably rendered a distorted image of its musical landscape.

The conference aims to contribute to a widening of our critical understanding of a historically and spatially diverse cultural network that embraces Balkan music, and therefore invites proposals for papers that challenge and/or move beyond the ‘East-West’ paradigm. An examination of a network that would not be restricted to the West-East perspective should lead to a richer and more complex understanding of the Balkans and its interconnectedness with other regions, such as the Mediterranean and Russia. By analysing these as well as other spheres of influences, we hope to reveal affinities that have rarely been explored, and will yield a richer understanding not only of Balkan music (‘art’, ‘traditional’ as well as ‘popular’) but also of music history in general.

Contributions could fall under – but do not need to be restricted to – one of the following subtopics:

– Musical Relations between the Balkans and Russia

Russia has acted as an influencing agent on the Balkans over several centuries and ties between these two regions were often highly charged politically. Importantly, Moscow was perceived as the ‘Third Rome’ by the Orthodox Balkans, while the Russian Empire was deeply involved in matters of the so-called ‘Eastern Question’. The great influx of Russian émigrés following the Russian revolution played a significant role in shaping the Balkan cultural elite. Last but not least, the Russian national school and the Soviet model of socialist realism had a profound impact on Balkan music over the last two centuries.

– Interactions with the Mediterranean

Both the Balkans and the Mediterranean figure more as imaginary cultural spaces than firm geographical entities. Yet the way these spaces correlate musically has barely been explored. How did the culture of the Mediterranean, with its shifting empires and perpetual migrations, engage with the Balkans musically? What could be learned, for example, by exploring the great hub of Constantinople, which has been perceived both as a gateway to the Balkans and a symbol of the Eastern Mediterranean? Could a scrutiny of Balkan music’s interaction with Mediterranean music enrich our understanding of musical life of the broader area of South Eastern Europe?

The deadline for paper proposals expired on 1st of January 2013. To find out more about the conference please consult the Programme.

Download the Call for Papers in PDF
pdf http://www.music.sanu.ac.rs/Dokumenta/2013_CallForPapers.pdf

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