Musicology makes a desperate pitch for attention

Musicology makes a desperate pitch for attention


norman lebrecht

January 28, 2022

The image you see in this post is an 1861 painting, “The Odalisque” by Marià Fortuny (1838-1874), showing a man playing a tanbur to a naked Odalisque. All in a day’s work, no doubt.

The picture hangs in the national art museum of Catalonia.

It is being used by the Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini of Lucca, in Italy, in order to drum up academic interest in a forthcoming conference on musical exoticism in the long 19th century. Now where did I put that tanbur?


The Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini of Lucca, the Research Group ERASMUSH of the University of Oviedo (Spain) and the Palazzetto Bru Zane – Centre de musique romantique française of Venice are pleased to promote the symposium «Musical Exoticism in the Long Nineteenth-Century (1789-1918)», to be held from Thursday 12 until Saturday 14 May 2022.

The sound image of the otherness has been a continuous source of inspiration for Western music. The interest in ethnic – Arabs, Moors, Gypsies or Jews – and geographical otherness – Turkey, Egypt, Orient or Spain – discovered new worlds with unfamiliar musical traditions that became exotic to Westerners. From Mozart to Falla, the composers’ intent to recreate/assimilate these exotic traditions generated an extensive repertoire of paradigms in the long nineteenth century that tried to conduct the listener beyond into another world. The analysis of this corpus also provides a deep and comprehensive approach to contemporary musical culture in dialogue with literature and figurative arts.

This conference explores the concept of musical exoticism in a broader sense, revisiting the two Locke’s patterns: the ‘Exotic-Style Only’ and ‘All the Music in Full Context’ paradigms, also considering the analysis not only of the musical creation’s cultural and political contexts but also of the various exotic repertoires and their critical reception.

The programme committee encourages submissions within the following areas, although other topics are welcome:

  • Exoticism as transculturation: a new way of assimilation/appropriation to the geographical and ethnic peripheries
  • Synergies and dialogues between exoticist music, literature and figurative arts
  • The Oriental, the National, the ethnic or the pittoresque: conforming stereotypes in musical languages
  • The imperialism and the musical exoticism
  • The autoexoticism: searching for difference in one’s own culture
  • Exotic scores with Western techniques: borrowings, quotes, and musical recreations
  • Exoticism as a path to modernity at the end of the 19th-century
  • Analysing the exotic music: languages, sources of inspiration, technical devices, paradigms
  • The Exotic repertoire’s reception: beyond the portrayal of the East in the Western mind
  • Self-awareness of the exotic condition: the reception of the exoticist Western music in its original ‘exotic’ contexts
  • Critics’ and scholars’ approaches to the exotic repertoire

Programme Committee:

  • María Encina Cortizo (Universidad de Oviedo)
  • Roberto Illiano (Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini)
  • Étienne Jardin (Palazetto Bru Zane)
  • Fulvia Morabito (Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini)
  • Massimiliano Sala (Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini)
  • Ramón Sobrino (Universidad de Oviedo)

Keynote Speakers:

  • Jean-Pierre Bartoli (Sorbonne Université / IReMus)
  • Ramón Sobrino (Universidad de Oviedo)



  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    You know what they say is true: Musicologists (and music theorists) love music the way butchers love animals.

  • PS says:

    At the moment the sound image of the otherness is a bunch of truckers honking their horns.

  • Dave says:

    Maybe she made the mistake of trying to seduce him by reciting the blurb for the conference?

  • Dragonetti says:

    On your marks, get set….

  • Carlos Solare says:

    Looks more like a desperate pitch for clicks to me.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Non-European cultures have always been a strong interest for European artists, composers, writers, philosophers, scientists. Attempts to understand other cultures have been numerous, as well as attempts to learn from them and to absorb elements and synthesize them into something European. The notion of ‘otherness’, as a projection, only emerged in the late 20th century, and mostly with the intention to show that Europeans never really understood non-Europeans and merely projected exotic tourist impressions on them, while in the same time exploiting them with colonialist conquest: both ways to look down upon them. Most of this is demonstrable to be untrue, and the product of leftwing moralistic cultural suicide, projecting a quite different ‘otherness’ onto foreign cultures.

    So, this conference may succeed to draw a lot of attention since it invites a battlefield of woke protests: Mozart’s caricature of Turkish music in his Serail, the cultural appropriation of Spain in Debussy’s Iberia, the betrayal of Russian identity by Stravinsky, the false projections onto India by Messiaen (who fudged non-existing sanskrit words into his quasi-Indian works), etc. etc.

    • V. Lind says:

      I suspect the attitudes behind this also, which would be a pity, because the subject is a legitimate one for inquiry and discussion. Examining the rise of a taste for exoticism, and its results in the various arts, is a very good way of learning as much about ourselves (or our ancestors) as about the others.

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    My cousin Billy’s paper on Nam June Paik’s Opera Sextronique was refused.

  • Novagerio says:

    It’s a male painter.
    Mariano José Fortuny, or Mariá – wich is Catalan for Mariano.

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Unwieldy English. Sounds like an unidiomatic translation from the Spanish or the Italian made using an online tool like DeepL.

    • Alviano says:

      No, they really talk like this in America. This is what has become of English.
      The phenomena are well worth study. The papers may well tell us something, so don’t be snide.

      • V. Lind says:

        Nonsense. The constant use of the definite article is a clear indication that this conference, which is after all being held in Spain with a coterie of Spanish presenters, has translated its prospectus from the Spanish.

      • La plus belle voix says:

        My comment was certainly not meant in a snide way. I was merely gently questioning the slightly idiosyncratic and enthusiastically indulgent use of the definite article in front of abstract nouns. Here “ The imperialism and the musical exoticism”, e.g.

  • Larry W says:

    Shouldn’t take long before the examples are cited for cultural appropriation.

  • George Kennaway says:

    There is quite simply nothing remotely unusual in such a topic
    It goes back at least as far as Said’s Oriëntalism. I simply don’t understand the scepticism.

    • V.Lind says:

      It’s a very interesting historical study. Especially pertinent to the Spanish, I should think, though it must have interest for many places. It would be good if someone wrote a book based upon some of the subjects under discussion at the conference.