Research seminars

Panel discussion: Politics of Emotion and Feeling in Music

Event details

Panellists: Marian Jago; Peter Nelson; Katie Overy (t.b.c.); Gareth Williams.

Date: 7 February 2019

Time: 5.15 - 6.30pm.  

Venue: Lecture Room A, Alison House, 12 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9DF


The past few years have seen talk of an "emotional turn" in  the humanities and social sciences. Work in the history of emotions, for example, has demonstrated that emotions and how they are expressed, interpreted and validated can change significantly over time. Far from being universal, emotions turn out to be cultural to a very significant effect. As such, some have argued, they are also inherently political. In her influential  book  The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2004), Sara Ahmed explores the role of emotions in political discourse and political activism: how "being emotional" is often regarded negatively in political discourse, even as this discourse itself is appealing to emotional responses; and how, taking feminism as an example, we may be able to reclaim emotions such as hope, joy and wonder as a resource for political activism. 

Music, many would argue, is the most obviously emotional of all the arts. The language which we use to describe music, and musical experience, is very often the language of emotions, and the ability of music to influence us emotionally has been recognised in advertising. What are the implications of this "emotional turn", especially in its political dimensions, for creative practice in music and for musicology? What can we learn from these recent debates, and what might we be able to offer to them? Our starting point for this discussion, which will incorporate insights from musicology, composition, performance and music psychology, is the final chapter, "Feminist Attachments" and conclusion  of Ahmed's 2004 book. 


Marian Jago's profile page

Peter Nelson's profile page

Katie Overy's profile page

Gareth Williams' profile page

Related material

Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, second edition  (requires EASE login)

Feb 07 2019 -

Panel discussion: Politics of Emotion and Feeling in Music

Members of the Reid School of Music discuss the ways in which emotions are framed and understood with regard to music, with a particular focus on how this relates to the history and politics of emotions more generally.

Lecture Room A
Alison House
12 Nicolson Square