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MusicologyPostgraduate research

Presenting postgraduate research: A tale of three conferences

15 January 2015

Alessandra Palidda is a PhD student at the School of Music. She is currently researching music, society and politics in Milan during the period 1790-1802. Here she tells us about presenting papers at three recent international conferences.


The autumn term 2014-2015 for me was characterized by attendance at several conferences. It is always good to find occasions to share your research and ideas, and I think this year has been, so far, very good in terms of sharing and dissemination. Naturally, preparing for and attending these kind of events can be daunting and take quite a significant amount of time, but I think that they are always worth it.

Music and War from Napoleon to WWI

The first occasion I was able to participate in was an international conference organized by the Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini (Lucca), the Palazzetto Bru Zane – Centre de musique romantique française (Venice) and the Observatoire interdisciplinaire de création et de recherche en musique (Montréal). The conference, taking into consideration the anniversary of WWI, but also offering a much broader focus, was entitled ‘Music and War from Napoleon to WWI’, took place in the wonderful Complesso monumentale di San Micheletto (a 15th-century former convent) and lasted three whole days (28-30 November).

Conference venue in Lucca
Conference venue in Lucca

The paper I gave was dedicated to Ambrogio Minoja, a composer who had been very active in producing occasional music for both the Napoleonic and the Hapsburg governors, thus making his life and activity quite an interesting case study. The conference was highly interdisciplinary and international: papers were given and questions were taken in three different language, English, French and Italian. Panels were dedicated to vastly different topics, from the use of bagpipes and brass bands within regiments to musical criticism during the war, from escape and/or involvement strategies chosen by different composers to the interaction between music and propaganda in different contexts.

I think my paper was well received: I had questions from different members of the audience and several debates and discussions originated from the panel and continued throughout the whole conference. The feeling of really sharing my ideas and feeding them into broader debates, being able to find points of contacts with scholars coming from different countries and contexts was truly an electrifying one, and I really hope that I will be able to keep in touch with many of the people I exchanged contacts with. The conference organizers are also preparing a publication including 25/30 papers presented… fingers crossed!

44th annual conference of the BSECS (British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies)

The beginning of 2015 saw my attendance at two other prestigious events, the first being the 44th annual conference of the BSECS (British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies) which took place from the 6th until the 8th of January in St. Hugh’s College, Oxford. The society kindly awarded me a PG bursary to help cover my expenses and invited me to the conference dinner on the evening of the 7th.

2 - BSECS logoThis conference was truly a huge event: apart from two keynote speakers, there were 8 sessions each comprising 12 or 13 parallel panels that constituted three papers each, with topics that were broadly situated within the long 18th-century. Within this kind of event, selection was naturally necessary, but still very difficult. Nevertheless, I managed to find several people with whom to discuss issues related to my research: the presence of several scholars and researchers involved in fields such as history of theatre, performance and spectacle in relation to different contexts surely helped a lot. Sadly, there was not much about music, but the discussions I engaged in helped me thinking about my research within a broader historical and cultural context.

Conference venue in Oxford
Conference venue in Oxford

Finally, I think my panel was very cleverly assembled. My paper, dedicated to the genesis and description of republican celebrations in Napoleonic Milan, was in fact paired with one about the policies on artistic spoliation in Napoleonic Venice and another one looking at the audiences’ behaviour in late-18th-century German theatres. I benefitted greatly from the discussion generated by the whole panel that continued throughout the whole event. The conference was also enriched by a concert of 18th– century instrumental and vocal music beautifully performed on period instruments such as recorders, harpsichords and oboes.

RMA Research Students’ Conference

I had to leave the BSECS conference straight after the concert and the dinner because on the following day (8 January), the third event I want to talk about began. This was the RMA annual research students’ conference. This year the conference took place at the University of Bristol’s Music department (Victoria Rooms).

4 - RMA bookletI was pleased to see many of my fellow researchers from Cardiff attending and presenting there, namely Alicia, August, Martin (or, better, Martins, two of them) and Simone. The atmosphere was quite relaxed and nice; my paper, dedicated, again, to Ambrogio Minoja, was maybe a little too specific, but did not fail to generate a nice discussion on broader issues such as propaganda, reception and the availability of primary sources.

In addition, despite the lack of a specific focus, it was very interesting to get a taste of what other researchers in music are doing in UK and beyond: there were, in fact, also researchers coming from other countries such as Czech Republic, Germany and Canada.

I really encourage everybody to attend to the next RMA research students’ conference: it is a very nice occasion to both share your research and see what others are doing, not mentioning the possibility of hearing wonderful keynote speakers (this year’s speaker was Dr Bettina Varwig, King’s College London) and getting more involved in the association’s many activities.

Find out more about Alessandra’s research on the School website or follow her on    


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