‘Music, Domesticity, and British Identity’ – Call for Articles (deadline 1 February 2024), Nineteenth-Century Music Review

Dear all,

I am delighted to announce the call for articles for ‘Music, Domesticity, and British Identity’, a special issue of Nineteenth-Century Music Review


(General Editor: Prof. Bennett Zon).

A pdf version of the call can be downloaded here: 


Nicholas Temperley’s (1989: 14) invitation to redress ‘the backwardness of musical scholarship in opening up the Victorian age’ has elicited a wealth of responses, many by twenty-first-century scholars whose ‘new’ musical criticism enlivens our contextual appreciation of Victorian cultural and intellectual history. Yet, much remains to be discovered about how music and musicianship – invariably central to social practices and integral to bourgeois discourses – informed and reacted to key aspects of daily life during a century marked by modernisation and change. The core question that this special issue addresses is: how did domestic music in Britain intertwine with early-nineteenth-century civic occurrences or national concerns to reflect and document British citizens’ experiences and identities?

While a proliferation of print objects indicates the widespread consumption of musical entertainment across Victorian social networks (Scott 1989: 45–59), much archival material pertaining to bourgeois music rooms and parlours remains undiscovered (Brooks and Thormählen 2022: 1–35). Moreover, few academic studies survey the nineteenth-century British musical salon (Weliver 2017: 6–7; Bunzel and Loges 2019) or pinpoint the impact of these gatherings within their extra-musical milieu (Weliver 2006: 28–29). As Phyllis Weliver (2017: 5–6, 21–23) argues of Liberal salons, however, musical expression and implementation in domestic spaces were largely indivisible from the socio-political quotidian: performances could both inspire communal action in the local or national arena and offer topical – and sometimes influential – commentary within. Such cross-connections evince a fruitful field of study.

Conversely, this issue intends to deal not just with parlour songs about political figures, societies and government affairs, but the widest possible domestic repertoire addressing contemporary agendas for multiple audiences, such as: finance, education, defence and healthcare, criminality, urbanisation and national identity. This special issue aims to trace and analyse the songs and ballads through which individual families and social groups engaged in the broader Victorian perception of key shifts that were affecting national and public life – matters more typically explored solely through studies of the press or public documents. In addition to interrogating the role of parlour songs in British social dialogue, it is also crucial for this call to track and explore domestic links with public musical genres and practices – such as chamber arrangements of symphonic music, or instrumental operatic transcriptions – where this line of enquiry bears upon Victorian civic identity, social aspiration or collective awareness. We seek articles that convey how parlour music, in concurrence with other arts and pastimes, was a dynamic interface between the private and public aspects of nineteenth-century lifestyles.

We invite contributions that adopt an interdisciplinary approach to canonical and/or non-canonical artefacts, and which navigate domestic music as chronicler and catalyst of a mutable Victorian society within and beyond the home (Appadurai 1986; Gallagher and Greenblatt 2000). Multitudinous original intersections can be provoked by aligning music with the literature (Allis 2012; Weliver and Ellis 2013), and/or the visual art (Leppert 1993), consumed in well-to-do homes. Furthermore, new stylistic trajectories and undocumented genres may now emerge from the material culture of the drawing room. How do such intersections and discoveries negotiate or re-negotiate with the individual or collective identities of composers, performers and audiences, then and now? Was domestic music paramount for women or men; and, did repertoires traverse social strata? How do standpoints from ‘mainstream’ or underrepresented religions, sexualities, bodies or racial identities complicate this area of cultural history? How far did entertainment styles appear to preserve, champion, defy or critique larger-scale social currents? How did musical sounds express the flux and/or continuity experienced in Britain by citizens and visitors?

This special issue aims to afford a new understanding of how musical domesticity was a puissant medium of association – whether mirror or foil – with the following (and other) areas of early- to mid-nineteenth-century public life:

  • Economics and the music business: including songs about business or finance, ways in which the music trade (and businesses more generally) advertised to domestic audiences, and developments in printing methods and copyright legislation.
  • The law and criminality: songs portraying the newly established police forces, notorious criminals, prisons, and music that championed or challenged the British legal system.
  • Disability, healthcare, and hygiene: music and the experiences of medical staff, patients and convalescents, whilst Victorian medicine and treatments evolved.
  • Politics: including the depiction of political figures, parties, and societies, and their impact in society.
  • Technological development, modernism and urbanisation: music and responses to new municipalities, philosophies of ‘progress’, and inventions including railways and steam-ships.
  • Transnationalism and localism: musico-cultural portrayals of foreign identities and stylistic cosmopolitanisms enabled or encouraged by travel, tourism, migration and new communications.
  • Cultural transfer between capital(s) and provinces, and between England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; urban-rural or rural-urban cultural transfers.
  • Education: songs about education and training, or didactic music, associated with broader institutional shifts or methodological developments in educational philosophies.


Deadline for 300-word abstract submission – 1 February 2024

Please send your proposal, including your name, contact information, short biography, and the title of the proposal, to: rwch100@alumni.soton.ac.uk. By 1 April 2024, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version of their article for peer review.

Deadline for full article submission: 1 September 2024. Full drafts should be between 8,000 and 12,000 words (excluding footnotes). These articles will then go through the peer-review process outlined in the Nineteenth-Century Music Review guidelines (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/nineteenth-century-music-review/information/instructions-contributors).

Deadline for final submission: the Guest Editor plans on submitting the full set and framing piece to the General Editor by 31 August 2025. Following the peer-review process, and approximately nine months after approval for publication, articles will appear online on the FirstView platform.

Should you have any further questions about this special issue of Nineteenth-Century Music Review, please contact the Guest Editor at rwch100@alumni.soton.ac.uk.


Allis, Michael, British Music and Literary Context: Artistic Connections in the Long Nineteenth Century. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2012.

Appadurai, Arjun, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Brooks, Jeanice, Matthew Stephens and Wiebke Thormählen, eds, Sound Heritage: Making Music Matter in Historic Houses. London & New York, NY: Routledge, 2022.

Bunzel, Anja and Natasha Loges, eds, Musical Salon Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2019.

Gallagher, Catherine and Stephen Greenblatt, Practising New Historicism. Chicago, IL & London: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Leppert, Richard, The Sight of Sound: Music, Representation, and the History of the Body. Berkeley & Los Angeles, CA & London: University of California Press, 1993.

Scott, Derek, The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour. Milton Keynes & Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press, 1989.

Temperley, Nicholas, ed., The Lost Chord: Essays on Victorian Music. Bloomington & Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1989.

Weliver, Phyllis, The Musical Crowd in English Fiction, 1840–1910: Class, Culture and Nation. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Weliver, Phyllis, Mary Gladstone and the Victorian Salon: Music, Literature, Liberalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Weliver, Phyllis and Katherine Ellis, eds, Words & Notes in the Long Nineteenth Century. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2013.

Weliver, Phyllis, Sophie Fuller, Christina Bashford, Ewan Jones, Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, Michael Craske and Catherine Maxwell, eds, Sounding Victorian. Online resource. http://www.soundingvictorian.com [accessed 21 August 2023].

Dr Roger Hansford, Guest Editor

PhD, University of Southampton, 2014.

Independent Scholar.