Welcome to The International Association for the Study of Popular Music UK and Ireland Branch

Elvis lives in Amsterdam: Manifestations of the imaginary musician

Posted: April 13th, 2018 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

University of Amsterdam, 29 November – 1 December 2018 

Conference convenors: Rutger Helmers and Oliver Seibt

From Marvel’s Kiss comics of the late 1970s to Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger acting out different facets of Bob Dylan’s public persona in Todd Hayne’s experimental film I’m not there; from continuous assertions that the guy on stage isn’t the real Paul McCartney to YouTube videos showing Nigerian Michael Jackson impersonators; from Hans Sachs, the sixteenth-century Meistersinger, still performing regularly in Wagner’s opera, to a virtual band like Gorillaz; from Adrian Leverkühn’s pact with the devil in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustusto the unsolved mystery of Chet Baker’s defenestration from Amsterdam’s Prins Hendrik Hotel.

During this conference, hosted by the University of Amsterdam’s School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), we aim to have an interdisciplinary discussion about the various ways in which our understanding of musicians taps into the imaginary, and what case studies about musicians can teach us about the imaginary constitution of our everyday experiences.

The broader phenomenon of the imaginary musician, as we see it, covers four related areas, which can be encountered in many different cultures and ages, and in a variety of media such as literature, theatre, film, and live performance:

  • “Paul is dead”: Musical conspiracy theories
  • “The King is dead, long live the King!”: Impersonators and tribute bands
  • “The Real Slim Shady”: “Fictive” and “virtual” musicians
  • “Rock me, Amadeus”: “Real” musicians as fictional characters

Our interest will not be to debunk myths, but to understand what role imaginary representations of musicians play in our personal lives, in society and the arts in general. In discussing collective as well as individual imaginations of musicians, we are especially interested in the concurrence of the dimensions of “the real”, “the fictive”, and “the imaginary” in music cultures. Theories of the imaginary as, for example, those by Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Wolfgang Iser, or Cornelius Castoriadis could thereby serve as theoretical background that allows for an interdisciplinary communication about the topic.

The conference will include three confirmed keynotes by Nicholas Cook (Musicology, University of Cambridge), Lydia Goehr (Philosophy, Columbia University), and Nick Prior (Sociology, University of Edinburgh), and is planned to feature an ongoing exhibition about musicians as characters in comic books and graphic novels, a musical event, and an affiliated masterclass for postgraduate students.

We welcome contributions from a variety of disciplines (music studies, media and communication studies, literature studies, and the social sciences) on whatever kind of music. Please submit a proposal for a 20 to 25-minute presentation in any format no later than 31 May 2018 to [email protected]. Proposals should include: your name and academic affiliation, the title of your contribution, an abstract of 200 to 300 words, and five keywords. Please also specify which of the four categories of imaginary musicians your presentation will relate to, and the format of presentation (lecture, performance). The conference language will be English. A publication of selected papers will be considered.

Please refer to our conference website for the latest information: asca.uva.nl/programme/conferences/elvis-lives-in-amsterdam or

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