International Conference – 24-26 January 2019, Paris

Organised by the CRAL (UMR 8566-EHESS/CNRS) and the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (CNSMDP)

Sponsored by PSL University and Columbia University (Department of Music/Center for Ethnomusicology)


Research on sound and listening is thriving. The idea of bringing together noise, sound, and music, has spread across the social sciences and the humanities, inspiring recent work in musicology, anthropology, sociology, history, and geography. This new paradigm is also present in aesthetics, in architecture and urbanism, and even in art history, where sound is conceived independently of music and the voice. Moreover, sound and the listening experience open up new avenues in the neurosciences and cognitive psychology, thus encouraging exchanges between social sciences and experimental science.

The international success of sound studies as a whole is evident in its tendency to become a discipline, with its own thematic borders, specific institutions, and canonical authors. This movement toward institutionalization has inspired some skeptical or hostile reactions, such as Steven Feld’s exclamation, « I hate Sound Studies ! »This author, himself an emblem of the renewal of the anthropology of sound, is concerned about a managerial vision of research and an alleged pro-Western ethnocentric bias. Yet the definition and delimitation of the field are anything but stabilized. Other issues might be addressed in a critical perspective, like the articulation of the study of sound with that of other sensorial phenomena, the epistemological problems of a socio-history of sound, or the role of the discipline that has historically claimed priority in this area without always drawing the consequences, namely musicology. Given its pluridisciplinary vocation, should sound studies remain an “indiscipline” (Mitchell 1995), challenging scholarly taxonomies?

This international conference aims to foster a dialogue between all of these approaches to sound, by calling to proposals on--among others--the following topics:

-      Can one speak of a prehistory of sound studies?

-      What are the pros and cons of the institutionalization of sound studies?

-      Epistemological consequences of sound studies for musicology

-      Can musical analysis help studying non-musical sounds?

-      How does the notion of sound change, or remain the same, among the disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities?

-      How does sound studies vary from one cultural area to another?

-      Is the notion of sonic policies pertinent?

-      On music, sonic design, and silence


Abstracts of no more than 400 words should be sent to sonmusique.paris2019@gmail.comby June 15 2015. Please include title, name, affiliation, email address, AV requirements and a short biography (150 words). Submissions from graduate students and early career researchers will be particularly welcome. If you have any further queries, please contact the organising committee by emailing


Organising committee:Esteban Buch (EHESS/CRAL), Rémy Campos (CNSMDP), Walter Fisch (Columbia University), Karine Le Bail (EHESS/CRAL, CNRS), Ana Maria Ochoa Gautier (Columbia University), Lola San Martin (University of Oxford, EHESS/CRAL), Tristan Labouret (CNSMDP), Violeta Nigro Giunta (EHESS/CRAL), Jonathan Thomas (EHESS/CRAL).

  • Friday 15 June 2018 - 18:00