Between Old Worlds and New: Keyboard Encounters, c. 1700-1900

Call for Papers/Presentations

Sigal Music Museum, Greenville, South Carolina, in collaboration with the Cornell|Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies
March 9-11, 2023

Keynote Presenters: Nicholas Mathew (University of California, Berkeley) and John Watson (Conservator of Early Keyboard Instruments)

The history of keyboard instruments encompasses centuries of global exchange: patterns of performance, composition, manufacturing, taste-making, migration, conquest, and capital. On the American continent, European-style keyboard instruments ranged from humble clavichords for private practice to sumptuous grand pianos for the concert hall, from traditional Moravian organs built for worship to the ubiquitous reed organs designed for church and parlor alike. These instruments played multiple roles in private and public life: shaping taste and musical composition, improvisation, and performance, defining both social and political spaces, and constituting sites for encounters and exchanges with local and indigenous makers and musicians.

With the Sigal Music Museum and its world-class collection of historical instruments, the Cornell|Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies invites proposals for presentations that explore keyboard culture between old worlds and new. While the core of the conference will consider keyboards and their music in North America from the 18th to the early 20th centuries, we would invite potential presenters to consider keyboard encounters in other parts of the American continent, or beyond, and their representation in fiction or film. Topics might range from the origins and development of American keyboard instrument manufacture to the complex legacies of European keyboard culture on the American continent; from concert culture and traveling pianists to the cultivation of domestic music; from the creation of personal music albums to the accumulation of landmark collections of European instruments (such as that assembled by Marlowe Sigal); from Joseph Brant, Stephen Foster and Louis Moreau Gottschalk to Amy Fay, Amy Beach, and Hazel Harrison, and from Jonas Chickering and Henry Steinway to John Knowles Paine and Arnold Dolmetsch; from the conservation and restoration of historic instruments from old worlds to keyboard utopias (or dystopias) in new, other, or even off-worlds.

The conference committee invites proposals for 25-minute presentations. We particularly welcome proposals from younger scholars, and hope to make funding assistance available for travel to the conference for current students. Participants are also encouraged to make use of the numerous keyboards that will be available (see a list of instruments here).

Proposals should include the following items:

  • Name and contact information of the presenter
  • Abstract of no more than 300 words
  • Keyboard instrument to be used, if any
  • Digital or other equipment needed for presentation
  • Presenter bio, approximately 200 words for each participant
  • Program information, if the proposal involves performance

  • Please submit proposals to by September 6, 2022 via email attachments. The decisions of the program committee will be announced on or before September 20, 2022.