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CfP: Sounds of Power: Sonic Court Rituals in- and outside Europe in the 15th-17th Centuries

15. September 2020 Add to calendar
Call for papers

International Conference, University of Bern, Department of Musicology
17th – 19th June 2021

Does power have its own specific sound? Or: How do sounds in combination with other media function specifically in courtly rituals of the pre-modern era? And: What reactions and associations did they trigger in the ritual community? These and other central questions are the focus of the SNF project “The Sound of Power: Sound as an Intermedial Category of Courtly Festive Rituals in an Intercultural Perspective in the 15th – 17th Centuries”, which is based at the University of Bern. The focus is on the courtly cultures of the Ottoman Empire, with special attention to the circumcision ceremonies that Murad III held for his sons for a full 52 days at the Hippodrome in Istanbul in 1582, and various rituals of the Burgundian-Habsburg sphere of the second half of the 15th century, such as the Banquet of the Pheasant in Lille (1454), the Trier princely meeting (1473) or the election and coronation of Maximilian I as Roman-German king in Aachen (1486). These events, among others, will be issued to demonstrate by a cross-cultural approach how sounds were involved in demonstrations, representations, and displays of princely power, and how power was expressed specifically in the medium of sound. Special emphasis will be laid on the performance and interaction between the media, since ritual and ceremony consciously made use of the different sensual worlds of experience in order to be emotionally tangible and experienceable, to trigger the desired effect of an exaggeration, even overwhelming. In this context, forms of idealization are also problematized, such as the perception of others in word, sound or image, and the transfer between the different courtly spheres.
The conference would like to broaden the view and include, in addition to the dynasties mentioned, other court cultures within and outside the European sphere and discuss fundamental anthropological tendencies of a model of domination and sound. Special interest is given to the courtly cultures of China and America. However, suggestions on other courtly contexts of the 15th to 17th centuries are also welcome. Panels are planned on general thematic, methodological and theoretical reflection, on the Ottoman and Burgundian-Habsburg court sound cultures as well as on other non-European court contexts and transfers.
The conference and the project pursue an interdisciplinary approach, so contributions from a wide range of humanities fields are in demand, such as musicology, oriental and Islamic studies, sinology, American studies, history, art history, theatre studies, political sciences, philosophy, and other disciplines. Presentations of 20 minutes and poster presentations are planned. Young academics, in particular, are expressly invited to attend. A publication of the conference proceedings is planned.

Please send your presentation proposal in the form of an abstract (max. 500 words) and a short vita (max. 300 words) by 15th September 2020 to Margret Scharrer ( and Tül Demirbas (

For poster presentations please send the poster and a short CV (max. 300 words) by 15th February 2021.

Conference and lecture languages are English, German, and French. For speakers of presentations: Travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed subject to successful funding. For poster presentations, printing costs can be covered, but no travel and accommodation costs.

Organised by: 
Institut für Musikwissenschaft, Universität Bern


Institut für Musikwissenschaft
Mittelstrasse 43


Margret Scharrer

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0.00 CHF