Students tune up for signature symposium

Graduate students from across North America will hit all the right notes on campus as Western plays host to the annual Graduate Symposium on Music, Aug.16-17. It is an annual event that takes flight thanks to the commitment of students, who have run it from its inception two decades ago.

“The symposium gets stronger by the degree in which the graduate students involved can push the boundaries,” said Martin Ross, a Music Theory graduate student and current symposium organizer.

“It owes its longevity, in no small part, to the long line of capable coordinators over the years. One of the most helpful resources is a handbook passed down from one coordinator to the next to ensure the ongoing success and continual growth of this conference.”

A gathering of some of the top academic up-and-comers in music, the two-day, student-organized event will showcase student papers covering topics ranging from music theory and musicology to music education and ethnomusicology.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the symposium is put on by Western’s Society of Graduate Students in Music, and supported by Research Western, the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Don Wright Faculty of Music.

From narrowing down the submitted abstracts and moderating the sessions to volunteering the day of and even presenting, graduate student participation is not only vital, but encouraging to see, Ross said.

“This symposium serves as a reflection of Western’s fantastic graduate music programs,” he said, noting three of the 15 presentations – with topics including song and dance, music pedagogy, insight to lesser-known composers, music and philosophy and traditional music theory and analysis – will be Western students.

“Some of the presenters, including prospective graduate students, will have the opportunity to talk with some of the faculty in a small setting, as opposed to the big regional, national or international conferences. That is one of the unique things that graduate student conferences offer.”

The keynote speaker will be Temple University Music Studies professor Michael Klein. He is the author of Intertextuality in Western Art Music and Music and the Crises of the Modern Subject, which touches on his interest in subjectivity, particularly as theorized by French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan.

The focus of his talk, Five Things (plus or minus 2) that Lacan teaches us about Musical Meaning, will explore how several concepts of French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Jacques Lacan can reveal responses to, and illustrations of, music. He will also incorporate Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek’s scholarship in using film to help explain Lacanian concepts.

“He is a fantastic and enthusiastic scholar with rich, diverse research in narrative theory, semiotics, psychoanalysis and philosophy of music,” said Ross, adding he hopes this attracts students from across campus, including those in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS), Theory and Criticism, and Philosophy, to learn how Lacan and Žižek are applied in music scholarship. “I was absolutely elated when he agreed to be the keynote.”

What has been a great addition to the conference, added Ross, is having GradCast, the official podcast of Western’s Society of Graduate Students, involved. They will once again chat with a number of the symposium presenters for their weekly show on CHRW Radio, 94.9 FM (Tuesdays at 6 p.m.).