Love and Sentimentalism in Popular Music
An Interdisciplinary Symposium
Royal Holloway University of London
27-28 June 2013
Keynote Speaker: Christine Yano, University of Hawaii
The distinct yet linked concepts of love and sentimentalism are among
the most widespread emotional ideas found in popular music around the
world. Yet, with the notable exceptions of Christine Yano?s research
in Japan (2002) and Martin Stokes? research in Egypt (2007) and Turkey
(2010) the themes of love and sentimentalism in popular music have
received little serious attention. There has been an implicit tendency
to view love uncritically, as a universal concept, which disregards
its diverse cultural, historical, and musical manifestations and
representations. Furthermore, love and sentimentalism in popular music
are too often discarded as banal invocations of a personal realm,
often leading their broader relations to society, culture, history,
and politics to be overlooked or inadequately analysed.
Both Yano and Stokes challenge us to consider how narratives of love
and sentimentalism may converge with ideas of nation and citizenship
in popular music and its star performers. Indeed, popular music around
the world has often been connected to ideas of national sentiment,
ways of loving, and belonging whether through official state
involvement or within intimate public spheres which operate beyond,
or, in spite of, the state. This situation raises some important
questions. How might the relationship between popular music, love,
sentimentalism, and national citizenship be manifested differently in
particular cultural and historical contexts? How can we reconcile such
nationally orientated conceptions of love, sentiment and popular music
with frequently cosmopolitan aesthetics and transnational economies of
affect? Why do some styles of popular music and their affective work
resist being bound by national frameworks more easily than others?
Alternatively, how might we interpret lovelorn narratives of romantic
sorrow, suffering, and frustration in popular music in relation to
wider experiences of dislocation, alienation, anomie, and
disenfranchisement in modernity? Moreover, how are concepts of love
and sentimentalism gendered and how is this manifested in musical
It is also important to note that the majority of popular music that
deals with ideas of love and sentimentalism exists in the form of
song. That leads us to consider in what ways love and sentimentalism
are expressed distinctly in the domains of music, words, and voice and
how these domains interact. Furthermore, how does the expression of
love and sentimentalism depend on who is performing, their social
status, and any pre-existing relations of intimacy between performer
and listener? How might such relations of intimacy and musical
articulations of love and sentimentalism be mediated by technology?
Papers that shed light on these themes are invited from any relevant
discipline including ethnomusicology, anthropology, popular music
studies, musicology, sociology, history, and film studies. Please
email abstracts of no more than 250 words for 20-minute papers (with a
short biographical note) to James Butterworth
(email@example.com) by 31 January 2012.
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