Call for Chapter Proposals: Singing Death (edited book volume), deadline 30 September 2014

Call for Chapter Proposals:
Singing Death (edited volume)
Deadline: 30 September 2014 (submission of abstracts)

Chapter proposals are invited for an edited volume entitled ‘Singing Death’. The editors are in preliminary negotiations with Ashgate Press for a collection of essays provisionally entitled ‘Singing Death’ and we would like to invite chapter proposals for this project. ‘Singing Death’ arises out of a day-long symposium and concert combined, generously supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. This took place at the University of Melbourne, 17th August, 2013:  

The program alRequiem Mass Initialternated academic papers on the music, art and literature of death with performances of some of the music associated with it. The editors would like to extend the work of the symposium with a collection of essays focussing on death and music. We want to offer readers an encounter with music as a distinct discourse of death, another way of speaking death; the collection will be accompanied by a recording of the music involved with each of its chapters. We aim, most of all, to bring into focus how death figures through music for the living and the dying, how it taps into the experience of all those for whom death comes close.

Death is an unanswerable question for humanity, literally the question that always remains unanswered (although so many answers are offered). It is ‘the question of questions’ as Federico García Lorca put it, since it lies beyond human experience. The music of death represents one of the most profound ways in which, nevertheless, we struggle to accommodate death within the scope of the living by giving a voice to death and the dead. We want the book to engage with the profound disturbance that death presents to the living and how music expresses and/or responds to that disturbance.

The field of enquiry is very broad. We welcome proposals from any intellectual discipline that can engage with the nexus of music and death. Musicological expertise is not essential. Music, like poetry, operates in a different way from ordinary discourse; it acts as well as speaks and it can have profound and complex effects for listeners. We want our collection to address the difference that music, vocal and instrumental, makes to all those confronted with death. We also welcome proposals from those practically involved with the question, for instance music therapists involved in palliative care or grief counselling, or those who organise or perform music associated with death in some way.

Below are some possible topics for research. The list is far from exhaustive, nor is it intended to be exclusive. Each topic could also be subdivided many times:

  • music and suicide (some songs have been blamed for causing suicide, some songs commemorate a death by suicide)
  • music and murder
  • music and the dying
  • music and mourning
  • music and spiritualism (some people believe that the dead are communicating with them through music)
  • music and the afterlife
  • music, death and religion
  • music, death and the law
  • music and the revenant (ghosts, vampires, zombies, etc.)
  • death in various musical genres, for instance opera, death metal, folk music.
  • music in palliative care

Proposals should include:

  1. An abstract no longer than 500 words
  2. 3-10 keywords
  3. short CV, no more than 10 lines which can include a link to a website

Please indicate to the editors what music you wish to accompany your contribution and whether you can provide it. Recordings can be of live music or of pre-recorded music (permissions will be required when chapter is submitted). Please send to Helen Dell and Helen Hickey. See email addresses below.

Important dates:

  • 30th September—submission of abstracts
  • 30th October—notification of acceptance or otherwise
  • 30th January—deadline for submission of paper
  • 30th May—notification of acceptance of paper
  • 30th June—submission of revised version

Editors: Dr. Helen Dell and Dr. Helen Hickey, University of Melbourne, Australia, 3052. Y6h


Helen Dell:
Helen Dell’s research is in the fields of music and literature, especially when joined together as song. Her PhD thesis, on desire in French medieval song was published in 2008 as Desire by Gender and Genre in Trouvère Song, by Boydell and Brewer. Since then Helen has been conducting research into recent receptions and inventions of medieval music. She has now finished a second book, for Cambria Press, entitled: Music and the Medievalism of Nostalgia: Fantasies of Medieval Music in the English-speaking World, 1945 to 2010. Recent research has centred on the music of death, from which last year’s symposium, ‘Singing Death’ and the current planned collection have sprung. More on Helen’s research can be seen at her website:

Helen Hickey:
Helen Hickey completed her PhD thesis on the Everyday in early fifteenth-century English literature. She is interested in the ways history and literature intersect with medicine and materiality. Her most recent publication is an article in an edited collection, Theorising Legal Personhood in Pre-modern England (Brill) on the Inquisitions of Insanity and medieval literature. She is a member of the International Health Humanities Network.


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