Naming, Understanding, and Playing with Metaphors in Music

A Virtual Symposium organized by Nina Eidsheim (UCLA) and Daniel Walden (Durham) with the UCLA PEER Lab & Durham University Music Department

Date: April 29-30, 2022

Session Keynotes:

– Jessica Bissett Perea, Dena’ina (Native American Studies, UC Davis)

– Philip Ewell (Music Theory, Hunter College, CUNY) 

– J. Martin Daughtry (Music, NYU)

– Nicholas Harkness (Anthropology, Harvard University)

– Dorinne Kondo (American Studies and Ethnicity and Anthropology, USC)

– Dylan Robinson, xmélméxw/Stó:lō/Skwah (Cultural Studies Graduate Program, Queen’s University)

– Holly Watkins (Musicology, Eastman School of Music)

– Shana Redmond (English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Call for Papers (abridged):

If music and sound are “thick events” that exceed our ability to grasp them fully (see Eidsheim 2015), what resources do we have to make (at least) partial sense of them? In a two-day symposium, we aim to spark a conversation exploring how metaphorical language works as one of these resources, examining how it shapes the ways in which we perceive and understand not only music, but one another and the world. We welcome work that builds on the rich body of cognitive, linguistic, and philosophical research, but we are especially interested in projects that trace the covert power of naturalized metaphors. We invite personal reflections, ethnographic studies, and disciplinary critiques, and encourage play with language as well as sensory and conceptual practices. Our ultimate aim is to shift the power balance in terms of who gets to name, whose experiences and practices are recognized, which relationships we have the capacity to note, and what kinds of worlds we can create.

Topics for Exploration:

  • how metaphors operate both independently and in networks, structuring how we conceptualize, sense, and talk about music
  • how metaphors operate in ways that tie together lexical, sensorial, ideological, and performative structures
  • case studies/critiques of specific metaphors or types of metaphors, and the work they do (e.g., organic metaphors; metaphors that involve particular conceptions of time and space; metaphors that engage other senses such as sight, smell, touch, or taste)
  • comparative studies of how metaphors are used in Western/non-Western/Indigenous musical contexts
  • the social, cultural, and political structures that metaphors naturalize or reify
  • the epistemological and ontological perspectives privileged by commonly used metaphors
  • the ways in which metaphorical language about music is limited or directed by the human sensorium
  • the roles for metaphor in conjunction with antiracism, decolonialism, and connected liberatory movements
  • opportunities for creative play with metaphors, oriented towards the inclusion of marginalized perspectives on music or the production of new vantage points


Individual submissions: 10 minutes long. Papers, workshop prompts, performances, and other alternative formats are welcome.

Panels/Roundtables: 30 minutes long, involving three or more individuals.

Deadline for submissions: February 22, 2022.

Full call for papers and submission link can be found at

For further questions please contact the co-organizers Daniel Walden ( & Nina Eidsheim (

This symposium is co-presented by the UCLA Music Library, Davise Fund and co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Musical Humanities, and the UCLA Chancellor’s Arts Initiative.