Report on the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies

By Natalie Hyacinth

I had a fantastic time at the University of Edinburgh for the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies.

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The conference took place over 3 days from Wednesday 10th June – Friday 12th June 2015. The venue itself was an exciting space to be, with the famous and beautiful Arthur’s Seat providing a very scenic and charming backdrop. It was also my first time in Edinburgh and I was thoroughly blown away by the sheer natural beauty of the city.

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As a somewhat continuation of my presentation at London South Bank University’s Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research’s ‘Choir Symposium’ on 30th January 2015, in Edinburgh I presented a paper on a linked panel entitled:

‘Singing from the same hymn sheet? The role of choirs, collective singing and affective belonging’

Dr Emily Falconer from London South Bank University, who had organised the ‘Choir Symposium’ in January, alongside Dr Rebecca Bramall, from University of the Arts London, chaired the panel.

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My paper was entitled: “Music Acts”: Sound, Performance and Faith in Suburbia

I took the concept of “Music acts” from Tia DeNora’s seminal book, “Music in Everyday Life” (2000). “Music acts” is to say that music provides an important aesthetic medium for ever emerging forms of social agency. Music, De Nora states, is a cultural and technological resource that social actors mobilise for their on-going self constitution. “Music acts” seeks to dismantle the traditional musicological ideal that music is to be perceived and thought upon as a symbolic, abstracted medium. DeNora’s theory proposes rather that music comes “alive” in its users; it becomes an active, physical and material force within our lives. DeNora specifically titles this phenomenon: “music into action”. Thus rather than understanding music based on its representational and perceived meanings, DeNora pioneered the idea of focussing music upon its embodied, affective, felt values. Thus I attempted to show in my presentation how, through music and singing, the constituted (faith) self becomes an active ‘aesthetic agent’ by means of the embodiment and performance of ritualised, spiritual sound.

The overall panel itself was thoroughly enjoyable to be a part of and provided a thought-provoking mix of choral and creative themes and ideas.

The other panellists and the title of their papers are outlined below:

In Harmony or Out of Tune? Transforming gender relations through choirs and collective song – 
Dr Emily Falconer, London South Bank University

Sing while you work: the ‘rise of the choir’ in austerity – Dr Rebecca Bramall, University of the Arts London

Sisters in the singing of our song’: emotions, gender and solidarity in a Dundee women’s singing group
Dr Fiona Smith, University of Dundee

Re-voicing: the community choir as a medium for social bonding and identity formulation amongst adults with learning difficultiesDr Nedim Hassan, Liverpool John Moores University

A stimulating Q&A discussion followed once all panellists had presented. An interesting theme that arose from the discussion was that the collective nature of gathering together for choir rehearsals, rather than the actual singing itself, which makes up only a small fraction of the time spent together, was thought to be a predominant cause for feelings of affective belonging reported by choral members.

The overall Emotional Geographies conference was an enlightening, informative and pleasurable experience. I attended such a diverse mixture of talks across the three days on topics such as psychogeography projects in Rio, Brazil to the emotionality of the maternity apps phenomena in the UK…all very interesting!

Therefore to conclude, I had a great time in Edinburgh and learned so much not only of other academic’s research and interests but also of my own; where, how and through which new thematic avenues I can expand my exploration into music, faith and emotion.

I would like to say thank you to Emily Falconer and Rebecca Bramall for inviting me to speak on this wonderful panel.

Making Suburban Faith PhD researchers Laura Cuch (UCL) and blogpost author Natalie Hyacinth (RHUL)

Making Suburban Faith PhD researchers Laura Cuch (UCL) and blogpost author Natalie Hyacinth (RHUL)

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