Novembre 2-4, 2022 | Geneva

Music and epics

In partnership with HEM Genève and Geneva University

From 2 to 4 November 2022, a symposium will be held in Geneva on the theme of the Epic, focusing more specifically on the role of music in its interpretation. Based on an idea of the Ateliers d'ethnomusicologie (ADEM), in collaboration with the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève (HEM) and with the contribution of the Séminaire nomade de la Société Française d'Ethnomusicologie (SFE), it will be held within the framework of the festival Les nuits du monde (ADEM), which is based on the same theme. The primary motivation of this vast project is to connect live performance, educational activities, scientific research and publication. A selection of the contributions to the colloquium will subsequently be published as a dossier in the Cahiers d'ethnomusicologie (Vol. 37/2024). Artists, researchers and students of music or (ethno)musicology interested in participating in the colloquium are invited to submit their proposals before 15 january 2022.


The epic is situated at the confluence of history and fiction, genealogy and uchrony, myth of origins and heroic stories, the profane and the sacred. It calls upon numerous media and modes of expression, associating or juxtaposing a multitude of genres and forms as well as performance contexts. Intimately linked to orality, even when it has been written down, it lives and acts essentially through those who carry it. In this process, poetry and its various modes of recitation, as well as music and dance, come into play to varying degrees.

If it seems relevant to apprehend this diversity during the present colloquium - even if it means considering related genres such as the chanson de geste or the saga - it will be appropriate to focus on the specificities of music and dance (or other forms of expression integrated into the performance) as tools and vectors of the epic tradition, and thus on their participation in its conservation, transmission and perpetuation. It is then also a question of understanding the epic as a form of speech - fundamentally poetic - musicalised, whether or not it involves theatricalization.

Among other lines of thought, certain issues will be particularly worthy of consideration:

- The status, place and function of music and the musician, and more broadly of the "truchement" (performer or "spokesperson") of the epic.
- The contexts, forms of performance and specific interpretation techniques, from recitation to stage representation, from pantomime to shadow theatre or puppetry.
- The game and the issues of memory and its supports, considering the dialectic of orality and writing, more broadly of mobility and fixity.

The selection of proposals will take particular account of their complementarity in terms of highlighting the formal and expressive plurality inherent in the epic universe.


Novembre 2-4, 2022


Geneva (precise location to be defined)


Interested persons are invited to send a 15-line summary of their proposal, as well as a brief CV and bibliographic orientation, to the coordinator before 15 january 2022. The decision on their proposal will be communicated to them as soon as possible.


Fabrice Contri,

See also