Light and Music: Appropriation, Metaphors, and Analogies

Date limite d'inscription: 
Sat 31 Mar 2018

In 1865, Liszt wanted to compose a “supernatural light” (“lumière surnaturelle”) to represent the calming of the storm in Das Wunder (The Miracle) from his oratorio Christus. Light is an important feature in his music as well as in the music of some of his contemporaries or successors such as Wagner, Mahler, Scriabin, Schoenberg, or Messiaen. With lyrics or purely instrumental music, totally or partially devoted to light, their works appropriate or express light in an Aesthetical, symbolical, or religious way, and with particular compositional tools.

Art history has long studied this phenomenon that has become in itself a creative material (Light art, László Moholy-Nagy, Dan Flavin, James Turrell, etc.). Literature, philosophy, religious studies and science history have also been interested in light. Yet Music history, analysis and aesthetics seem to be outdone, for many studies have been devoted to colors and synesthesia, but very little or none to light in itself.

One of the main intentions of the conference is to question the relation between music and light through appropriations, metaphors, and analogies with other arts, sciences and the disciplines quoted above. On the one hand it will be about studying the links between light and music, an art that a priori does not manipulate it directly, on the other hand what does the reference to light carries through the ages. Eventually it will focus on the relation to other artistic disciplines.
Possible topics for proposals include:

  1. The vocabulary of light (the words of light in music and vice-versa: chromaticism, waves, colors, spectrum, harmony of colors, coloristic harmonies, etc.);
  2. Light, Transfiguration and the Sublime (metaphysics, spirituality, and religion);
  3. Music and technological facilities (use of external elements in association to light);
  4. Persistence of light in music writing (evolution of the presence of light in music through the ages from the point of view of Aesthetics and Theory);
  5. Light and Dramaturgy (coup de théâtre, staging history and technique);
  6. Light and Tone (instrument making, instrumentation, orchestration, harmony, etc.)

Venue : Paris, Fondation Singer-Polignac (
Proposals should be submitted in English or French for 20-minutes length papers to before March, 31st 2018. They will include:

  • A title;
  • A 250-word abstract;
  • Bibliographical references (10 max.);
  • A 250-word biography of the author.

Scientific committee:

  • Jean-Pierre Bartoli (Sorbonne Université-IReMus)
  • Nicolas Dufetel (CNRS-IReMus) 
  • Florence Gétreau (CNRS-IReMus)
  • Philippe Hamou (Université Paris Nanterre)
  • Arnaud Mayrargue (Université Paris Diderot-SPHERE)
  • Anne Piéjus (CNRS-IReMus)

 Organization committee:

  • Jean-Pierre Bartoli, Sorbonne-IReMus
  • Nicolas Dufetel, CNRS-IReMus
  • Katia-Sofía Hakim, Sorbonne-IReMus
  • Florence Gétreau, CNRS-IReMus

The Conference is supported by the IReMus (Institut de recherche en musicologie CNRS-Sorbonne Université-Bibliothèque nationale de France-Ministère de la culture et de la communication), the Fondation Singer-Polignac, and Sorbonne Université.


Nous contacter

Institut de recherche en Musicologie (UMR 8223)
Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Quai François Mauriac
75706 PARIS
Secrétariat : +33(0) 1 53 79 37 10
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Sorbonne Université
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