CfP: „Music in TV series“

International Conference – Organized by the Atlantic Center of Philosophy
„Music in TV series“
30th-31st May 2013 – University of Nantes

Long regarded as an aesthetically degraded avatar and morally simplistic cinematic fiction, TV series have yet gradually become autonomous within cultural studies. Form arguably the most successful in contemporary mass-media culture, serial story or soap-opera, it has become interesting as much in how it portrays the social phenomena as in its diversity of codes and narrative strategies the TV series mobilizes. Thus, the recent emergence of the concept of „Quality TV“ reflects a more finely-shaded concept of TV series along with their progressive legitimization, as shown by the increasing number of days devoted to its research : Pitfalls of the new American TV series: narrative and ideological mechanisms, (University of Le Havre, 2009), Contemporary American TV Series; Between Fiction, Fact and the Real (University Paris-Diderot, 2011) TV Series in the World: Changing Places / Places of exchange (University of Le Havre, 2011), or, What is a quality TV? (University Paris 3, 2012).

However, the studies focus on the professional who create the series (authors, writers, editors …), the public, narrative strategies, or the social representations. For its part, the music remains largely ignored: if the soundtrack is now an important field of investigation in France, we can not say the same with regard to its study in the context of television. Contempt? Condescension? Lack of specialists? Equipment – home cinema, digital television, blue-ray player – have yet contributed to restoring the place of the music as an important part of the spectator experience; similarly, the TV series musical themes are a critical component of our individually and collectively mass media memory. It is therefore to the TV series music that we have chosen to dedicate this symposium.

Call for papers on the following issues :

1 – Historical and geographic context of the music in TV series
First of all we will put the TV series music in a socio-historical context. How to describe in particular the emergence of the TV series music, the historical evolution of all aspects that contributes to their production, whether aesthetic codes, sounds and instruments, professionals involved? Are there identifiable periods, key moments, a golden age in the history of this TV series music? In addition, are there any geographical markers that specify this music? And with the globalization phenomenon, do we witness the transition from a local music to a global soundtrack?

2 – From the big screen to the series:
Many composers from the world of cinema have also worked for the small screen. This is the case, among other examples, Bernard Herrmann for Twilight Zone, Antoine Duhamel for Belphegor. In some cases, producers use a well-known movie composer to write a theme song for a TV serie: this is the case with Danny Elfman for The Simpsons and Desperate Housewives. First, how does the transition from one world to another happen? Is there some sort of homology effect between legitimate composers and the most valued feature films, and on the opposite between least prestigious series and the „second fiddle“ of the soundtrack? Or on the contrary, the revaluation of the TV series, which can now be seen as a laboratory of formal innovation, has made it more attractive to the best composers? In addition, are there specific codes for writing music for the movies and for the TV? Does a TV serie imposes specific constraints that determine a type of musical notation?

3 – Composer of music series:
Within the framework of a sociology of professions, it is interesting to describe precisely the activities that define the scope of the TV series music composer. What are the limits of its scope of activity? Is he subject to particular constraints, is there a specification that defines what is expected of him? How are established the level of reputation between composers? What is the economy that underlies this type of activity? How to describe the different tasks of the composer? What other partner is he required to collaborate within this specific world of art? Do the constraints – economic, temporal, etc.. – which affect the filming of the TV series, have an impact on the activity of the composer? Are they specialized or easily substitutable? Does the digital switchover – with software that replace entire orchestras, with the generalization of pre-tracks, etc.. – modifies the composer’s work? How to build the composer’s professional identity and are there specific demands within this occupational group.

4 – Questions of gender:
How to describe the formal properties of music TV? Are there codes or conventions – tempo, harmonic structures, sounds, etc.. – that characterize this kind of music, in particular according to the genres covered by (comedy, science fiction …)? How to describe the „recipes for success“ or „success criteria“ for music in TV series? We will focus here as well on the increasing hybridization of pre-existing original music and soundtracks: some become hits, and symmetrically, some become the soundtrack for a TV serie.

5 – Reception and uses of TV series music: the viewer-listener
There is little doubt that the theme song of a TV series is a generic and diegetic shifter but also a very powerful emotional shifter. The TV serie theme is not only allowing us to identify the serie or to record it into a precise generic framework, but it also gives us a very specific pleasure. How to describe the kind of relationship that viewers have with these soundtracks, which are of importance to them? In the case of fans, what can you say about these forms of attachment – piling up collections? Discussions on specialized forums? etc.. – these passionate/experts dedicate to their favorite music?

Deadline for submissions: 1st December 2012. They must include the institutional details of their author(s), email address. These essays should not exceed 300 words.

Response modalities: The symposium, multidisciplinary and international, will be held at the University of Nantes on 30 and 31 May 2013. The essays, in French or in English, will be transmitted in .doc file to the following addresses: Philippe Le Guern ( and Jérôme Rossi (

They must contain the author’s name and the mention of his institutional affiliation, email address, a title, a summary of one page, and a short biography (one hundred words).
Notification of acceptance of the contribution will be announced on 1 February 2013, as well as all practical information about the conference, reception and accommodation of participants.

Coordination: Séverine Abhervé (Paris 1), Cécile Carayol (Rennes 2), Philippe Le Guern (Nantes and SARC-EHESS) and Jérôme Rossi (Nantes-OMF).

Scientific Committee: Esteban Buch (EHESS-SARC), Sabine Chalvon-Demersay (CNRS – EHESS), Robert Davis (University of Leeds), Jean-Pierre Esquenazi (University Lyon 3), Frédéric Gimello-Mesplomb (Lorraine – Sciences Po), Gilles Mouellic (Rennes 2), Dominique Pasquier (CNRS – Telecom Paris Tech), Philip Tagg (University of Huddersfield), Pauline Adenot (OMF), Nick Prior (University of Edinburgh).

Partners: University of Nantes (Philosophy, Info-com, University Theatre)/EHESS-CRAL/Union des Compositeurs de Musiques de Films (UCMF)/Conseil Régional des Pays de la Loire/SACEM.

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