Viral Italian Sounds
University of California, Berkeley
May 9–10, 2019

The Italian elections of 2018 saw two populist parties, the Lega and the Movimento 5 Stelle, gain victory on the back of a canny exploitation of viral marketing. But how far back can we trace the concept of the viral in Italy? Scholars of sound and music engaging with viral media have tended to focus on present-day media configurations, and especially those enabled by the Internet. Yet the possibility of sounds themselves becoming alarming, pandemic phenomena has a much longer history than that of Internet memes. From the allure of Venetian opera to the glamour of Mussolini’s radio broadcasts, perceptions of Italy as an overstimulated place of sensuality and violence—and of Italians as uniquely susceptible to emotional and environmental contagion—have shaped accounts of its musical sounds for centuries.

We invite abstracts of no more than 300 words outlining papers that deal with the idea of transmission and contagion in Italian media from the Middle Ages to the present. We are particularly interested in papers that 1) engage critically with the historical dimensions of virality, and 2) explore virality through the lens of sound or music. 

Potential topics include:

            • Viral media and popular music, from light music to madrigals

            • The role of sound media in transmitting cultural norms and trends

            • Music as contagion—earworms, “catchy” or “infectious” tunes

            • Music as healer of the body physic and the body politic 

            • Music’s entwinement with outbreaks of disease (from malaria to the Black Death)

All proposals should be sent to the conference email <viralitaliansounds -at->  no later than 5:00 PM on Friday, December 14, 2018. 

Danielle Simon (University of California, Berkeley), Alessandra Jones (University of California, Berkeley), and Marco Ladd (Yale University), co-organizers.



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