Elvis lives in Amsterdam. Manifestations of the imaginary musician

University of Amsterdam, 29 November – 1 December 2018

Conference convenors: Rutger Helmers and Oliver Seibt.

From Marvel’s Kiss comics of the late 1970s to Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger acting out different facets of Bob Dylan’s public persona in Todd Hayne’s experimental film I’m not there; from continuous assertions that the guy on stage isn’t the real Paul McCartney to YouTube videos showing Nigerian Michael Jackson impersonators; from Hans Sachs, the sixteenth-century Meistersinger, still performing regularly in Wagner’s opera, to a virtual band like Gorillaz; from Adrian Leverkühn’s pact with the devil in Thomas Mann’s Doktor Faustus to the unsolved mystery of Chet Baker’s defenestration from Amsterdam’s Prins Hendrik Hotel.

During this conference, hosted by the University of Amsterdam’s School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA), we aim to have an interdisciplinary discussion about the various ways in which our understanding of musicians taps into the imaginary, and what case studies about musicians can teach us about the imaginary constitution of our everyday experiences.

Thereby, our interest will not be to debunk myths, but to understand what role imaginary representations of musicians play in our personal lives, in society and the arts in general. In discussing collective as well as individual imaginations of musicians, we are especially interested in the concurrence of the dimensions of “the real”, “the fictive”, and “the imaginary” in music cultures. Theories of the imaginary as, for example, those by Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Wolfgang Iser, or Cornelius Castoriadis could thereby serve as theoretical background that allows for an interdisciplinary communication about the topic.

The conference will include three confirmed keynotes by Nicholas Cook (Musicology, University of Cambridge), Lydia Goehr (Philosophy, Columbia University), and Nick Prior (Sociology, University of Edinburgh), and feature the affiliated masterclass “Marsyas to Madonna. The construction of the musician as figure and type” with Lydia Goehr and Marlies de Munck (University of Antwerp) as well as the ongoing exhibition “Elvis has just left the panel” on musicians as characters in comic books and graphic novels.

For registration, please send an e-mail indicating the days you plan to attend to e.a.presley-fgw@uva.nl until November 12th.

Preliminary Conference Programme (pdf)

Thursday, November 29th


13:00   Julia Kursell (Chair of Musicology, University of Amsterdam) and others

Panel One

Impersonated Musicians

13:30   Jaap Kooijman (University of Amsterdam)

Something of a Camp Artifact: Diana Ross and Star Performance as Self-Impersonation

14:00   Yunhwa Koh (Yonsei University, Seoul)

Two ‘Presents’ Meet in Hee-moon Lee’s Imaginary Performance in 2018

14:30   Magdalena Fürnkranz (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna)

“God, I’m Glad I’m Not Me”: Bob Dylan as Imaginary Musician in I’m Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007)

15:00   Coffee Break

Panel Two

Absent Musicians

15:30   Anne Holzmüller (University of Freiburg)

Invisible Musicians and the Virtualization of Sound around 1800

16:00   Andrew Chung (Yale University, New Haven)

Ghosts in the Machine: A Theory of Sonic Apparitions

16:30   Jonas Traudes (University of Cologne)

The Infant Lyra: Musical Prominence in Late Georgian Britain Between Public Persona and Fictional Character

17:00   Coffee Break

Key Note One

17:30   Lydia Goehr (Columbia University, New York)

The Painter and Poet Who in Self-Portraiture Become the Imaginary Musician: Reflections on Ekphrasis

Friday, November 30th

Panel Three

Resonant Musicians

09:30   Matthias Heyman (University of Antwerp)
“Something Borrowed, Something Blue”: The Curious Case of MOPDTK’s Blue

10:00   Samiran Culbert (Newcastle University)
The New Saviours: Post-Mortem Images of Bowie and Prince as Religious Icons

10:30   Fardo Eringa (University of Groningen)
‘Michaeling’: Walking in the Footsteps of Michael Jackson to Make the World a Better Place

11:00   Walter van de Leur (University of Amsterdam)
Blowing Gabriel Out of the Clouds: Jazz and the Afterlife

11:30   Coffee break

Panel Four

Virtual Musicians

12:00   Shanika Ranasinghe (Royal Holloway, University of London)

“Let me hear you sing once more, like you did before / Sing a new song…”: The ABBA Fan’s 35-Year Wait for the Virtual ‘ABBAtars’ Show

12:30   Konrad Sierzputowski (Jagiellonian University Kraków)

Listening to Holograms: The Carnality of Virtual Animated Bands

13:00   Lunch Break

Key Note Two

14:00   Nick Prior (University of Edinburgh)
The Virtual Idol as Assemblage: Miku, Love and Labour

15:00   Coffee Break

Panel Five

Haunting Musicians

15:30   Meredith Schweig (Emory University, Atlanta)
Enter the Butterfly: Deng Lijun, Fan Culture, and Transmedia Storytelling

16:00   Ko On Chan (Rutgers University, New Brunswick)
Impersonator as Reincarnation: Langgalamu as Teresa Teng

16:30   Frederick Reece (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA)
Rosemary Brown’s Lisztian Ghost Writing

17:00   Radoš Mitrović (University of Arts in Belgrade)
Kubrick’s Beethoven

Saturday, December 1st

Panel Six

Real Musicians?

09:30   Kristin Franseen (McGill University, Montreal)

“They All Fell to Quarrelling Over Tchaikovsky”: Conspiracy, Community, and Queer Musical Gossip at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

10:00   Lisa Giombini (Roma Tre University / Free University Berlin)

Joyce Hatto: The World Greatest Imaginary Pianist

10:30   Pascal Rudolph (University of Potsdam)

Björk on the Gallows: Persona and Authenticity in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark

11:00   Coffee Break

11:30   Ifa Ramialison (University of Applied Sciences Utrecht)

Representations of the Musician and Technology: An Examination of Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots

12:00   Chris Tonelli (University of Groningen)

Imaginary Masculinities, or The Problems of Chromeo’s Post-Ironic Pop

12:30   Lunch Break

Panel Seven

Fictional Musicians

13:30   Dori Howard (Liverpool Hope University)

“A Manufactured Image with No Philosophies”: A Consideration of The Monkees as Inhabitants of a Popular Music Thirdspace

14:00   Stefanie Arend (New College, University of Oxford)

“Shall I Project a World?”: Droolin’ Floyd Womack, or Thomas Pynchon’s Pop Culture Fiction as Imagined Musical Community

14:30   William Drummond (Christ Church, University of Oxford)

“Some of These Days” and Imaginary Music(ians) in Sartre’s La Nausée

15:00   Matthew Head (King’s College, University of London)

The American ‘Lady Composer’ as Character Type in Operetta and Musicals of the 1930s

15:30  Coffee Break

Key Note Three

16:00  Nicholas Cook (Darwin College, University of Cambridge)

Music — Imaginary, Virtual, or Just Real