CFP: Mysticism, Magic, and the Supernatural in Mediterranean Music

The Study Group for Mediterranean Music Studies of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) will hold its 10th Symposium at St John’s College, Cambridge, June 27–29, 2014, on the theme:

Mysticism, Magic, and the Supernatural in Mediterranean Music

Because of its highly abstract nature,
its almost complete lack of explicit verbal or representational content,
music is perhaps the most sensitive indicator of the culture,
and of all the arts it is the most closely tied to the subconscious attitudes and assumptions
on which we build our lives within a society – which must be why,
in all cultures, music is the art most closely associated with the practice of magic.
(Christopher Small, Music, Society, Education, 1977)

In 1909, Jules Combarieu published La musique et la magie, the first extended study devoted to the relation between organized/meaningful sound and activities/rituals meant to give human beings power over nature or over realities thought to exist above or beyond nature itself.

The Mediterranean area is one where such relation has been frequently observed and investigated. What makes the Mediterranean especially fascinating from this angle is that its ethnographic present is frequently examined in historical perspective. In this respect, Ernesto De Martino’s The Land of Remorse: A Study of Southern Italian Tarantism (1961, English translation 2005), Gary Tomlinson’s Music in Renaissance Magic (1993) and Joscelyn Godwin’s Music and the Occult, French Musical Philosophies, 1750-1950 (1995) are landmark studies, but the topic still deserves more comprehensive attention. That is why in proposing the theme “Mysticism, Magic, and the Supernatural in Mediterranean Music” the ICTM study group Mediterranean Music Studies is seeking contributions from ethnomusicology, music history, and other related fields that will highlight significant aspects of this fascinating, and in some respects universal, relation between music-making and esoteric practices.

The programme committee for this Symposium consists of Stefano Castelvecchi (St John’s College, Cambridge), Ruth F. Davis (Corpus Christi’s College, Cambridge), Michael A.  Figueroa (University of Chicago), Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University), and Marcello Sorce Keller (MMS Chair). All wishing further information, and interested in submitting a paper proposal (one page at the most), are cordially invited to contact me at this address: The submission deadline is January 15, 2014.

Marcello Sorce Keller
Chair, Mediterranean Music Studies