Call for Papers: “Atrocity Exhibition”: A two day symposium on Joy Division

This just in, under “It doesn’t get any cooler than this” …

The Society for Enthnomusicology recently announced a two day symposium revolving around Joy Division. Call for abstracts found below, taken directly from the SEM website.

Kevin Cummins, Getty Images

Ian Curtis in Manchester, 1979. Kevin Cummins, Getty Images.

“Atrocity Exhibition”:

A two day symposium on Joy Division

Wednesday & Thursday, 25th -26th November 2015, University of Limerick, Ireland

Following on from successful international symposia on The Smiths, Morrissey, Riot Grrrl, David Bowie, and Songs of Social Protest, the research cluster ‘Popular Music and Popular Culture’, at the University of Limerick, Ireland, is convening a two day symposium to examine the significant contribution of Joy Division to popular music and culture.

In addition, we are pleased to announce that our research cluster in association with Dolans, Limerick, presents A “JOY DIVISION” CELEBRATION: Peter Hook and The Light performing Unknown Pleasures & Closer, and featuring an opening set of New Order material in Dolans Warehouse, Limerick on Thursday, November 26th 2015.

This is an open-call for papers. We invite scholars working across a range of disciplines and approaches (such as, cultural studies, ethnomusicology, musicology, media studies, popular music studies, urban studies, fan studies and sociology) to propose papers on the lasting cultural / musical legacy of Joy Division. Papers for example might consider:

• Joy Division and the creation of a distinct Manchester Soundscape • Styling and Iconography (Album and single sleeves, promotional photographs etc) • The lyrical / musicological / performance analysis of specific songs • Fandom and the ‘cult’ of Ian Curtis • Influences on and legacy of Joy Division • The visual analysis of specific videos / live performances

Please submit a Word document containing your paper title, a 250 word abstract, and author information including full name, institutional affiliation, email address, and a 50-word bio to popmusicandculture@ul.ie by 31st July 2015. A maximum of 30 minutes will be allocated to each conference paper (20 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for questions). Panel proposals (three presenters – 90 minutes) should include a 150 word overview and 250 word individual abstracts (plus author information listed above). We also welcome proposals for workshops, film screenings, performances etc. Notifications regarding acceptance will be sent byAugust17th 2015.

Planned Academic Outputs:

It is intended to publish an edited and refereed book based on a selection of the symposium’s papers.

Symposium Conveners:

Dr. Martin Power, Dept. of Sociology, University of Limerick.

Dr. Eoin Devereux, Dept. of Sociology, University of Limerick.

Dr. Aileen Dillane, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick.

For further information please see the events page on www.ul.ie/pmpc or contactpopmusicandculture@ul.ie ‘Popular Music and Popular Culture’ is an interdisciplinary research cluster based at the University of Limerick, Ireland, which provide a platform for researchers working within sociology, ethnomusicology, cultural studies, sociolinguistics, to come together to advance their shared interest in the critical analysis of popular music and popular culture and the elucidation of their social meaning, significance and material impacts.

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She’s Lost Control: Amygdala Hijack?!

She’s Lost Control

In considering the why, and now the how of better implementing tools made available in music psychology, I am consistently struck by how very complex our musical preferences and responses are as humans.While avoiding the attempt to craft any groundbreaking expository theories,  I’d like to visit a motivation of mine in the field whilst bringing attention to an old Joy Division favorite. First, I will disaggregate the various schools of thought that overlap in this field of music psychology.  What do the following have in common?

1. Existential and phenomenological psychology

2. Jungian personality dichotomies

3. Psychological resilience

4. Malabou’s concept of neuroplasticity

5. Psychoanalysis

6. Advances in the neurological study of fear

7. Critical understandings of cultural and societal treatments of emotion

8. Music

In addition to composing the framework of my greatest motivators toward an existential understanding of life, I’d posit that not only do they contribute to the eventual pragmatic method I seek to establish in a clinical therapeutic setting, they are necessary in totality. The more I engage a dialogue regarding the concept as a whole, the more I am struck by just how much need be taken into consideration as well as shedding some light into my peculiar distaste for ‘music therapy’ as a solitary solution. Though music therapy practices have occasionally been proven effective for various wellness processes in young children as well as adults, I remain skeptical. I would argue that one need explore deeper into the psyche, history and personality of the patient. Far too often we see music therapy studies carried out on young adults in particular that prove completely blanketed – with the total exclusion of considerations such as gender, individual neuronal histories and variance in personality.

To come quickly to the point, I recently posed a vital question: In the occurrence of a (negative) amygdala “takeover”, what is the immediate goal? Is it to utilize music to objectify the patient’s feelings, or to quickly placate and soothe the individual’s distress (particularly if the patient suffers a history of auto-destructive behavior)? My response to the above is both, but objectively more as well. Here are a few thoughts to consider which barely skim the surface in composing the process of discerning what type of method and music should be used:

  1. History of Mental Illness (i.e. What are the immediate concerns? Has the patient demonstrated a capability or propensity for harm to self or others?)
  2. Medical and Psychiatric History (Has there been any type of surgery or modification in brain chemistry or anatomy?)
  3. Socioeconomic Background (What types of music to which the patient been exposed as a part of their ‘nurture’ upbringing, and the extent of music appreciation in their cultural worldview?)
  4. Religious/Familial/Educational background (i.e. unconscious and conscious conditioning-in what context has the patient learned or been taught to treat music? Is it a daily ritual, mainly a social luxury, rite of a religious tradition, utilized in education, etc.)
  5. Personality (What characteristics of extroverted or introverted personality types are being displayed?)
  6. Musical Preferences and Affect Regulation (How and to what extent are they affected by repetition, unfamiliar versus familiar rhythms and meters, Eastern/Western depictions of consonance and dissonance, ‘major’ versus ‘minor’ tonalities, etc.)
  7. Musical Propensity and Skill in Practice or Performance
  8. Existential values and spiritual/moral motivations of the patient

On the tip of the iceberg of gaining a general understanding of the patient, we see already that the answer lies beyond sitting down with a troubled teenage male, playing a bit of Mendelssohn and assuming to illicit the disclosure of an exhaustive account for discord with his father. Establishing a rapport and fluency over the course of time, making the effort to implement music he responds to, and eventually gain an empathetic understanding of how to meet him on his level, however, is something I’m interested in.

I’d like to now return for a moment to the ultimate motivator and the necessity for this type of process. When I speak of the amygdala hijack, I am referring to the very instance in which the fight or flight response occurs. Although the ‘limbic system’ was long perceived to be an emotional center of the brain, the amygdala has been found to be the main ‘limbic’ area involved clearly implicated in the processing of threats. A ‘hijack’ occurs when our brain responds to threats; devoid of reasonable consideration or logic. Typically, when we are presented a stimulus, three events occur: we sense (visual, aural, olfactory, touch, etc.), we process, and we react. These occur in rapid succession. At the moment the threat is processed, the amygdala can override the neo-cortex, a center of higher thinking which deals with sensory perception and motor commands, and initiate an impulsive response (which holds the potential of negatively producing instances of destructive behavior and emotional irrationality). Because it is easier for the amygdala to control the neo-cortex by arousing various brain areas than it is for the neo-cortex to control the amygdala, the ability to shut down anxiety producing hormones and emotions is no simple feat, and proves an exquisite challenge in undertakings of crafting a therapy.

One theory (enter elements of LeDoux, Goleman and Damasio) is that if we can slow or somehow manipulate this hijack process, we may buy ourselves the time it takes to properly process the stimulus, and respond in an appropriate, healthy fashion. LeDoux was hopeful about the possibility of learning to control the amygdala’s impulsive role in emotional outbursts: “Once your emotional system learns something, it seems you never let it go. What therapy does is teach you how to control it – it teaches your neocortex how to inhibit your amygdala. The propensity to act is suppressed, while your basic emotion about it remains in a subdued form.” My theory? We can do it with music.

In closing, I’d like to briefly provide an example of my conviction that the above considerations are essential for a beneficial psychologist/patient relationship. It would seem safe to assume that were we to randomly sample a group of 1,000 healthy, typically functioning women age 18-30, and narrow from there the women who have an extensive knowledge and listening history of the English ‘post-punk’ band Joy Division, we would be presented with an entire spectrum of emotional affect regarding participant’s specific and individual musical associations. Obviously this study is strictly hypothetical primarily in that were we to stop there, the comorbidity and variables would be obscene. My point is, it is almost guaranteed that there will be few in this clinical group who associate exclusively a strictly negative or strictly positive sentiment, and valence and arousal reaction to any one specific selected musical styling of Joy Division. Human experiences, associations and implicit reactions are unique, thus requiring a highly individualized method of interplay. I leave you now with a narrative appropriate to the study itself, with the hope of one day creating a methodical approach designed to alleviate the anxious and distressed of this very sentiment.