Music and Labour

University of Toronto
Music Graduate Student’s Association Annual Conference
April 2–3 2016

Faculty of Music, University of Toronto
Edward Johnson Building, Room 130
80 Queen's Park, Toronto, M5S 2C5

Keynote speaker: Professor Timothy D. Taylor, UCLA

This conference seeks to stimulate ways of thinking about music that account for its multiple encounters with labour.  Music involves many kinds of work —affective, theoretical, political, economic, imaginative, pedagogical, and so on — in its production, performance, and consumption, and yet music’s relationship to labour and work has often been sidelined and occluded, both in scholarly literatures and in the popular imagination.  The musical object, or music-as-text, was once the privileged site for understanding music.  New critiques from within and outside of all branches of music studies, however, have begun to redress the balance between perspectives which see music as a thing and music as done and doing things.  With this in mind, we seek to ask questions about the natures, forms, and limits of the labour of music, and of the music of labour.

We are delighted to welcome Professor Timothy D. Taylor (UCLA) as our keynote speaker.  Professor Taylor is a social and cultural theorist of music whose interests include capitalism, globalization, technology, and anthropology. He is the author of Global Pop: World Music, World Markets (Routledge, 1997), Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture (Routledge, 2001), Beyond Exoticism: Western Music and the World (Duke, 2007), The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture (Chicago, 2012), Music, Sound, and Technology in America: A Documentary History of Early Phonograph, Cinema, and Radio (Duke, 2012), co-edited with Mark Katz and Tony Grajeda, and numerous articles on various popular musics, classical musics, and social/cultural theory. He recently completed Music and Capitalism: A History of the Present for the University of Chicago Press. He has received a fellowship from the National Humanities Center, as well as a junior fellowship and the Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.

We invite critical engagements or performances from current graduate students in a wide range of disciplines across music studies, the humanities, and social sciences.  Papers addressing the theme of music and labour are encouraged but not required.  Twenty-minute conference style paper presentations (with 10-minute Q and A), or 30-minute performances* are welcomed.  Please direct any questions or queries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Topics might include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Musicking as work
  • Music and/as affective labour
  • Music and institutions
  • Political work performed through music
  • The musical commodity
  • Marxism and music
  • The social status of music/ians
  • Music in the workplace
  • The politics of scholarly labour concerning music


Submissions for papers or performances, in the form of 250-word abstracts, should be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. no later than January 19, 2016. Please include in the email a 100-word biography of all presenter(s) and audio/video equipment requirements.

*A piano will be provided.  Performers must supply all other instruments, mixers, amplifiers, etc.

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