Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


What constitutes music? An interdisciplinary conversational workshop exploring ontological questions

A free, one-day workshop for UCL researchers, 21st June. Attendance is encouraged from as wide a range of disciplines as possible.

music notation with electronic comments

Organisers: Dr Deborah Lee (Information Studies), Dr Nicolas Gold (Computer Science), Prof Jane Gilbert (SELCS-CMII)

What kinds of information constitute music?  Music is many things.  For example, music is constituted by its formal/structural qualities, its rhythms, its melodies, its emotional impacts, and more. We must also include music-related objects, music’s production techniques and methods, its connections to texts, and its various functions. The people involved with music are also constitutive elements, whether playing, singing, listening, or dancing; and more broadly, so are the cultures that music represents. With such a wealth of different kinds of information involved, it is clear that those researching music from different disciplines will have different approaches, and will treat music in different ways.  

This one-day, in-person workshop will explore the challenging question of what constitutes music, bringing together researchers from different disciplines to discuss and compare their approaches to researching music and the questions they ask of it.  It will engender a deliberately provocative and interdisciplinary discussion about music as it is seen by the different scholarly traditions and disciplines at UCL, and begin articulating a collective understanding.  The intention is to provoke a multi- and inter-disciplinary response to the question, and in doing so begin to articulate ‘music’ at UCL in more unified way.

The aims of this workshop are three-fold:

  1. To consider the question, ‘What kinds of information constitute music?’, to assess the scope of this question, and to start a broad conversation about this topic.
  2. To provide focused and tangible stimuli and opportunities for interdisciplinary conversations amongst UCL researchers who study music, and thus further strengthen this part of the UCL community.
  3. To start documenting music’s role and manifestations in research at UCL.

The workshop starts with an opening address.  This is followed by discussion in small, interdisciplinary groups.  Each group will discuss how they might tackle research into one of several broad topics (for example, song, performance, sound) and how they could potentially mutually support each other’s research.  The next part of the workshop is a plenary session which builds on the group work.  This aims to ascertain and discuss the commonalities and differences between the approaches, values, and assumptions about music exhibited by each participant, as well as collect ideas about how a researcher from one discipline could potentially aid the music research of someone working in another discipline.  The closing discussion will consider future work and potential next stages, including research networks, collaborations and possible outputs such as scholarly publications.

See the workshop event page.