Popular Music and Wellbeing Conference
St Mary’s University, Twickenham, London
14 and 15 September 2023
This two-day conference seeks to approach issues around pop music and wellbeing from a plurality of conceptual and methodological angles of vision. Key themes to explore will include but are not limited to:
- grassroots music spaces as sites of community organisation
- histories of popular music as a discourse of identity and belonging
- the use of music as therapeutic intervention
- the pairing of pop music and ‘clean living’ as a form of practice and commodification
- pop music as a commentary on mental health awareness and problems
We welcome contributions from colleagues working across disciplines in history, the humanities, health and human sciences, social sciences, and performing arts. We are also keen to include studies of popular music and wellbeing from outside as well as inside the Anglophone world.
Those interested in taking part in the conference are asked to send in abstracts of 300-500 words either in docx or pdf format to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 6th 2023. We will consider both proposals for individual papers and panel sessions. Please send the overall panel proposal and individual papers in the same application (all following the 300-500 words limit per paper).
Popular music and wellbeing are both common terms in everyday talk, yet each of them escapes straightforward definition. Popular music culture comprises a wide range of practices, spaces, and discursive and material forms. Wellbeing, meanwhile, has become a buzzword for (post-)pandemic times, capable of generating multiple inflections depending on the settings in which it is deployed. There are differences, for example, within and between notions of, inter-alia, psychological and emotional wellbeing, social and community wellbeing, and the term also has multiple meanings when it is applied across fields such as therapeutic intervention, charity work, social care and public health. As a result, attempts to describe the interrelationships between popular music and wellbeing are bound to be amorphous and contested. Nonetheless, we believe that exploring connections between the two terms is a potentially timely and valuable pursuit. After all, popular music culture continually seeks to create states of individual and collective joy, ecstasy, transcendence and belonging, as well as spaces in which subjectivities can be composed, transformed and/or radically (re)imagined. As dance music producer Theo Parrish once remarked, ‘people who say that the dancefloor is about losing yourself, that's the outsider view, the dancefloor is about solidarity’. Moreover, in the last decade the pairing of pop music with clean living has seen the mainstreaming of ‘sober raving’ and ‘conscious clubbing’. On the other hand, popular music also produces widely circulating discourses about the reverse of wellbeing, such as anxiety, alienation, abuse, isolation, depression and self-harm.
Mark Donnelly, St Mary's University, Twickenham, London