Conference on Music and the Sacred

12–14 November 2018, Helsinki, Finland

Call for Papers and Presentations

The Finnish Society for Ethnomusicology and the Finnish Society for Hymnology and Liturgy hereby invite submissions for the conference ”Music and the Sacred”. In the conference, the aim is to address the various ways in which music intersects with sacred phenomena, and vice versa. This entails acknowledging the multidimensionality of both music and the sacred, and how music becomes sacralised in diverse ways and how the sacred becomes reconceptualised in musical contexts. A crucial point of departure for the conference is to understand the sacred not only as a religious idea but also as a broader conceptual field that, in the words of Gordon Lynch, pertains to “what people collectively experience as absolute, non-contingent realities which present normative claims over the meaning and conduct of social life” (The Sacred in the Modern World, 2012). In music, alongside explicitly religious songs and tunes, clearest examples include national anthems and other national(istic) forms of music, as well as ubiquitous ideas about music’s transcendental qualities and effects.

The topic relates also to recent discussions over multiculturalism and postsecularity, both of which imply a change towards a more diverse religious and spiritual cultural environment. While multiculturalism is associated with the spread of conventional religions, postsecularity in turn may be understood as the possibility to broaden the ethics and values of modernist secular states through world’s religions, traditional cultures and various alternative spiritualities. While there is ample literature on “rescripting the sacred”, as it were, in relation to these societal and cultural shifts, music features surprisingly rarely in these accounts. To emphasise the importance of music in the current conditions of religious diversity and re-enchantment, submissions dealing with the following themes, among other relevant ones, are invited:

·      musics within religious institutions and otherwise organised religions and religious movements;
·      religiosity in music;
·      “sacred” music in relation to its “mundane”, “profane”, “secular” or “unholy” counterparts;
·      the importance of religious doctrines for definitions of music;
·      origin myths and other forms of mythologisation of music;
·      ideologies of musical autonomy and authenticity;
·      stars and geniouses, fan(atic)s and aficionados;
·      music and sub-/occultures;
·      national(istic) musics;
·      music, racialisation and racism;
·      music, the sacred and gender;
·      music and indigenous belief systems;
·      music and paganism;
·      canonisation and other forms of historiographical sanctification of music;
·      music and dark tourism;
·      music and sacred spaces;
·      sacred politics of music;
·      music, the sacred and freedom of expression;
·      music, censorship and moral panics;
·      music and totalitarianism.

The organisers welcome proposals for individual 20-minute presentations, entire 90-minute sessions and 45-minute lecture-recitals. Alternative presentation formats will be considered. Proposals from Master’s students are also welcome.


The proposals shall include the following information:

·      the title of the presentation/session;
·      the name(s), position(s) and affiliation(s) of the presenter(s);
·      an abstract not exceeding 300 words (in case of sessions, please indicate individual topics if appropriate).


The proposals shall be sent preferably in pdf to musicandthesacred@gmail.com no later than 20 April 2018. Letters of confirmation will be sent by 31 May 2018.

The participation fee for the conference is EUR 60 (no concessions). Members of the organising societies are exempt from the fee.

The conference will be honoured with guest lectures by Professor Philip V. Bohlman (University of Chicago), Professor Hannu Salmi (University of Turku) and Senior Lecturer Abigail Wood (University of Haifa). The conference is supported financially by the Emil Aaltonen Foundation.

All correspondence regarding the conference should be directed to musicandthesacred@gmail.com