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Singing Death

 singing death

Date: 17th August 2013
Time: 9am (Registration opens 8:30am)
Venue: Gryphon Gallery, Graduate Centre (1888 Building), Grattan Street, The University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010
Registration: Free but places are limited. RSVP and queries to Jessica Scott

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‘Singing Death’ is a day-long symposium and a concert combined. The program alternates academic papers on the music, art and literature of death with performances of some of the music associated with it. The aim is to combine the work of scholars on death from medieval to modern times with a direct experience of its emotional charge through performance. In this way we hope to foster a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical context in which the music was composed and performed and some of the functions it attempted to fulfil. The day ends with a reception and a short concert, ‘The last goodbye’. Please bring a plate or a donation. Death is the  unanswerable question for humanity, ‘the question of questions’ as Federico  García Lorca has 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 it within the scope of the living by giving a face and a voice to death and the dead.

Music provided by Troveresse Medieval Music ensemble (Alex Connelly, Helen Dell, William Thompson), joined by Una McIlvenna, Nela Trifkovic and Carol Williams.


  • Helen Dell (University of Melbourne): Haunting music: Hearing the voices of the dead.
  • Una McIlvenna (University of Sydney): Singing the Death of Criminals.
  • Dolly MacKinnon (University of Queensland): ‘I weep for the dead’: Tolling of bells and the soundscape of death in England (c1500-c1800).
  • Michael Pickering (University of Melbourne): Dangerous Liaisons: Vampiric Progeny and the Vampire Debate of 1732-35.
  • Nela Trifkovic (Independent scholar and artist): Love Songs of the Living-Dead: On the Themes of Love, Grief, Death, Spirits and Vampires in the Sephardic Jewish Songs of the Balkans.
  • Carol Williams (Monash University): O dies plena tenebris: a study of three 12th-century plancti.
  • Charles Zika (University of Melbourne): Dances of Death,15th to 18th centuries.