AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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The discipline of religious studies is expanding beyond linguistic rationality to include the importance of musical phenomena in the development of healthy religious communities and religious consciousness. Meanwhile, theological aesthetics is moving beyond the textual to include music as a resource in its own right for constructive and transformative meaning-making. Music, religiously speaking, is no mere adjunct to the study of sacred space, ritual, visual art, liturgy, or philosophical aesthetics; rather, it is a distinct field in its own right — with its own particular content, methods, and norms. By placing the relationship between music and religion at the center of our endeavor, this Unit seeks to serve scholars who operate out of this ubiquitous, but ironically unrepresented, realm of academic pursuit within the guild.
The Music and Religion Unit invites papers or panels on the relationship between music and religion in the context of contemporary or historical cultures. We seek proposals that bring innovative methodological considerations to the study of musical phenomena in relation to the meeting's 2017 theme, Religion and the Most Vulnerable. Papers or panels which incorporate/demonstrate live performance as part of the session (or at other venues in the AAR program) are particularly welcome. In particular we welcome submissions on the following topics:
• The musical legacy of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King, and the uses of music in the Civil Rights Movement, fits well with the conference theme. We are also interested in ways that we can connect Coretta Scott King's graduation from Boston's New England Conservatory of Music with a Mus.B in voice, and her presence in Boston resulting in her union with Martin Luther King. Coretta King and others (like Bernice Johnson Reagon and the SNCC Singers) used music to fund the Civil Rights Movement (Coretta gave concerts to raise money for the SCLC). Papers or pre-arranged panels will be considered. Co-sponsored by the Theology of Martin Luther King Unit.
• Uses of the term “Pagan” to either describe music associated with a set of religious or spiritual cultures and practices or the ways in which “pagan” was used as a term of exoticization of art and popular musics in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Some suggestions for topics might include Contemporary Pagan musical traditions and chants, use of music in ritual, Pagan musicians and festivals, “pagan” as signifier or marketing term for exotic or non-western musics. We welcome a variety of approaches and methodologies to documenting, comparing and theorizing Pagan music. Co-sponsored by the Contemporary Pagan Studies Unit.
• Music as a "weapon of the weak" (protest movements, contemporary and 20th century), as well as music as a propaganda tool for the powerful (this could include recent controversies around the Star-Spangled Banner).
• Papers that capitalize on the meeting's Boston location: Charles Ives’ sanctifying of the Shaw Memorial in his Three Places in New England, or the role of music in Christian Science, would be topically interesting.
• Papers pegged to specific anniversaries: It is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
• Consideration of the constituent parts of music - such as rhythm, sound, and line - as philosophic categories with religious ramifications.