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Faculty of Music


Orr Lecture 2023

The Orr Lecture was established in 1989 in honour of Robin Orr, 1684 Professor of Music (1965–76), and later Emeritus. Previous lecturers have included Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Suzannah Clarke, Reinhard Strohm and Erollyn Wallen. This year’s lecture forms part of the regular Colloquium series running throughout Full Term at 5pm on Wednesdays.

Prof. Eric Clarke (University of Oxford)

Entangled: An Ecological Perspective on Being with Music

From music and empathy, to the togetherness of musical ensembles, the emotional contagion of collective musicking, and the importance of music for people in distress and isolation, music’s capacity to connect is increasingly recognised and celebrated. And equally, as attested to by the burgeoning literature on music and subjectivity, music and emotion, and ‘strong experiences’ with music, music has long been recognised as affording intense, focused and apparently private experiences. But within what kind of conceptual framework might we understand these various manifestations of the connectedness of musicking? How can the intensely solitary form of connection that headphone listening in a darkened room represents be reconciled with the manifestly socially connected musicking of festivals, clubs, orchestras, choirs and bands? Starting from a broad perspective on organisms and their environments I make the case for understanding being with music in terms of entanglement, and for the various kinds of productive and problematic entanglements that music affords. Entanglement is having a bit of a heyday at the moment (from online games to the 2022 Nobel Prize for Physics), and there are undoubtedly some traps to avoid (or fall into) in distinguishing or failing to distinguish between more technical and more metaphorical uses of the term. But with that risk in mind I will nonetheless join the anthropologist Tim Ingold, the musician Björk, and the biologist Merlin Sheldrake in considering what entanglement might afford conceptually, and what might be learned from fungi.

Eric Clarke is Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of Oxford, and an Emeritus  Fellow of Wadham College. He was Heather Professor of Music at the University of Oxford from 2007-2022 and has published on a variety of topics in the psychology of music, ecological approaches to music perception, musical meaning, music and consciousness, musical creativity, and the analysis of pop music. Recent projects include work on music, empathy and cultural understanding; and empirical approaches to the performance of C19th orchestral and chamber music. His books include Empirical Musicology (OUP 2004, with Nicholas Cook), Ways of Listening (OUP 2005), The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music (CUP 2009, with Nicholas Cook, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson and John Rink), Music and Mind in Everyday Life (OUP 2010, with Nicola Dibben and Stephanie Pitts), Music and Consciousness (OUP 2011, with David Clarke), Distributed Creativity: Collaboration and Improvisation in Contemporary Music (OUP 2017, with Mark Doffman), Music and Consciousness 2: Worlds, Practices, Modalities (OUP 2019, with Ruth Herbert and David Clarke), and Remixing Music Studies: Essays in honour of Nicholas Cook (Routledge 2021, with Ananay Aguilar, Ross Cole and Matthew Pritchard). He was elected a member of Academia Europaea in 2009, and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2010.

Wednesday, 22 February, 2023 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
Recital Room, Faculty of Music