ESCOM day 3 – lifetime award for prof Irène Deliege

My updates in twitter and the blog posts are focused on keynotes. The reason isn’t that there aren’t so many other, interesting talks, but mainly because there is too much to report. The keynotes also cover the main fields of research represented in this conference, and therefore writing about them hopefully conveys a more complete picture of the goings-on of the event than writing about the talks that I go to.

Friday started with a keynote by professor Marc Leman, the director of IPEM at the university of Gent. His keynote had three sections. First, he stated the case of how music research is important for society. Music research can and should feed into the so-called cultural/creative sector, the size and importance of which is rising. And not only the economical importance, but also the impact for well-being, social cohesion etc.

This is linked to his ideas of what music research should be, as he stated that music research should try to become a proactive science – driving change instead of just trying to analyse it afterwards. Central to this idea is that music research should have applications that provide people (users) new possibilities to interact with music. Interacting with music could happen through musical interfaces, new instruments, controllers etc. In Marc Leman’s view, musicology is a study of humans interacting with music.

Marc is one of the central figures in the field of systematic musicology, and in his keynote he discussed the philosophical basis and mapped out a future for this discipline. There has been a lot of discussion about labels. Whether what we do should be called cognitive or systematic musicology or something else. The umbrella-term “musicology” seems a bit too vague, as there are very different things done underneath it – historical and ethnomusicology, for example, in addition to the more “music & science” -related stuff. A number of terms, such as interdisciplinary musicology etc. have been used recently. In the discussion, many members of the audience expressed the wish that we should stop dividing our field with these labels, because they seem to stand in the way of collaboration between these subfields and niches. David Huron spoke of the importance of such collaboration in his keynote on the first day.

Finally, Marc Leman presented examples of some of the work they have done on embodied cognition. They have built a number of new interfaces, games and systems, that can be used not only for studying musical behaviours, but also for interacting with music in a fun and engaging way. They have been demonstrating these systems n science fairs and such, and received a lot of attention. Music is fun, and new (often more inclusive or game-like) ways of engaging with it seem to be fun, as well.


At the end of the keynote session, professor Graham Welch, the chairperson of SEMPRE gave out the lifetime achievement award for the founder and retiring secretary general of ESCOM, prof Irène Deliege. She has also been the editor of Musicae Scientiae since its conception. The society we have today and the journal are results of her devotion and relentless efforts.

(Pic © City of Jyväskylä)

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