Meaning of Music
International Conference
Meaning of Music
Date: October 10–11, 2024
Location: Academy of Music in Gdańsk, ul. Łąkowa 1–2 / online
Language: English
The conference is addressed to: academic community, students and postgraduate students

Call for Papers download PDF

The Department of Music Theory at the Stanisław Moniuszko Academy of Music in Gdańsk, Poland, is pleased to invite submissions of proposals for the International Conference “Meaning of Music”, which will take place in person and online on October 10–11, 2024 (co-financed by the Ministry of Education and Science in the “Excellent Science” programme – DNK/SP/548966/2022).

The official language of the conference is English. In addition to one-hour lectures by keynote speakers, we plan 20-minute papers. Please submit an abstract of about 500 words and short biographical information including your name, contact details (postal address, e-mail) and affiliation no later than 15th December 2023 to The programme committee will make its final decision on the abstracts by the end of January 2024 and contributors will be informed immediately thereafter.

Further information about the programme, registration, conference fee, and accommodation will be announced on the conference website Be sure to check back at a later date for full details.

Conference members are guaranteed the publication of abstracts on the Internet and in the programme and abstracts book, as well as a coffee bar, dinner and supper for each of the two days of the conference.

Programme Committee

Violetta Kostka
Associate Professor, Project Coordinator
Academy of Music in Gdańsk

Anna Chęćka
Associate Professor
University of Gdańsk
Joanna Schiller-Rydzewska
Academy of Music in Gdańsk
Elżbieta Frołowicz
Professor, Head of Department of Music Theory
Academy of Music in Gdańsk


One of the most fundamental questions emerging from our relationship with music is: can music mean? Those who try to answer this represent two radically different schools called formalism and referentialism, but recently a third one has emerged that situates itself between these two. This third school owes its existence to relatively new cognitive linguistic theories such as conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending. The earlier of them (G. Lakoff and M. Johnson 1980) asserts that metaphor is not a literary, stylistic device, but one of the basic forms of thinking, whose characteristic feature is one-way mapping between mental spaces. In turn, the later theory (G. Fauconnier and M. Turner 2002) assumes that mapping between mental spaces is bidirectional, and a blended space emerges from the interaction of concepts of both input spaces. Meanings that are constructed in this way are mostly unconscious, but they are at the heart of both everyday meanings and unique human creativity.

The first musicological works dealing with the issue of meaning of music from a cognitive perspective appeared at the end of the twentieth century, and the twenty first century has shown that interest in this subject is growing. There are already several serious publications devoted to theoretical issues, such as musical concepts, cognitive musical grammar (L. Zbikowski 2002, 2017), musical metaphors (M. Spitzer 2004), as well as the theory called multilevel grounding (M. Antović 2022), not to mention numerous semantic interpretations of individual works from multimedia genres (song, opera, film music, music with video), instrumental programme music and – less often – absolute instrumental music. Despite some advancement in this work, the question of the definition of musical significance is not yet definitively resolved. The prevailing view is that the musical meaning is divided into auto- and hetero-referentiality, but according to M. Antović it includes “any situation in which elements of a cognitive system (for the most part, music) exhibit reference – that is, evoke a psychological reaction that listeners intuit as categorically different from, though likely superimposed on, the pure parsing of structure”.

The aim of the Gdańsk conference is to gather together in one place and time researchers from all over the world who are dealing with this topic, in order to present current theoretical knowledge, to date scattered across various sources, and to make semantic interpretation of individual works from all musical genres. Among the many important problems within the field, the organisers propose to highlight: embodied music cognition; the place of emotions in the construction of musical meaning; image schemas; musical vs. linguistic concepts; the role of percepts and concepts in the process of constructing musical meaning; physical, biological, social and cultural limitations; metaphors and blends concerning music; ambiguity; definition of musical meaning, but the above list may be widely developed. We are convinced that results of our international conference will contribute not only to the popularisation of the cognitive approach to musical meaning, but also to raise the general level of knowledge about human forms of mental and creative activity.

Keynote Speakers

Lawrence Zbikowski
Professor of Music and the Humanities, Chair of the Department of Music
University of Chicago, USA
Mihailo Antović
Professor, Faculty of Philosophy, Head Researcher, Centre for Cognitive Sciences
University of Niš, Serbia
Mihailo Antović (PhD), full professor, teaches cognitive linguistics in the Department of English, Faculty of Philosophy, and heads the Center for Cognitive Sciences at the University of Niš. He has presented papers at more than 30 conferences, e.g. in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States. He was a Fulbright visiting scholar at Case Western Reserve University, research scholar at the University of Freiburg and Humboldt Foundation’s senior research fellow at Humboldt University, Berlin. His articles have appeared in a number of journals (including Metaphor and Symbol, Language and History, Musicae Scientiae, Language and Communication, Cognitive Semiotics, Music Perception, Language and Literature) and edited volumes published by OUP, De Gruyter, John Benjamins, Springer. His latest publication is the monograph Multilevel Grounding: A Theory of Musical Meaning (Routledge, 2022).
Michael Spitzer
Professor of Music, Department of Music
University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
Rolf Inge Godøy
Professor of Musicology, Department of Musicology
University of Oslo, Norway
Anthony Brandt
Associate Professor, Chair of Composition and Theory at the Shepherd School of Music
Rice University in Houston, USA
Professor of Composition and Theory at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. He and neuroscientist David Eagleman co-authored The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World, which has been published in fourteen countries. Dr. Brandt recently composed the music for the ballet LiveWire (2022) and chamber work Diabelli 200 (2023), collaborations with neuro-engineer Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal and the University of Houston BRAIN Center in which several of the performers wear portable EEG caps: these combinations of artistic performance and scientific experiment are among the first of their kind. He is currently a co-investigator in a National Endowment for the Arts Research Lab examining the benefits of musical creativity for the elderly, as well as studies examining music’s effects on stroke recovery and surgeons’ stress. Dr. Brandt has contributed chapters to the Oxford Handbook of Music and the Brain, Oxford Handbook of Music and Language and Creative Provocations: Speculation on the Future of Creativity, Technology & Learning, and published papers in the Creativity Research Journal, Frontiers, The American Journal of Psychology, Tech Trends, and Brain Connectivity.
Danae Stefanou
Associate Professor, School of Music Studies
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Juan Chattah
Associate Professor of Music Theory, Director of the Experiential Music Curriculum
Frost School of Music, University Miami, USA
Violetta Kostka
Associate Professor, Department of Music Theory
Academy of Music in Gdańsk, Poland
Trained as musicologist at the University of Poznań, Violetta Kostka received her PhD and habilitation from the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. She is currently a professor at the Academy of Music in Gdańsk. For scientific and didactic activity she was awarded the honorary medal “Distinguihed for Polish Culture”. She has won research grants from the University of Cambridge, the Polish Library in Paris, the State Committee of Scientific Research and the Ministry of Education and Science. Her research achievements include monographs on Tadeusz Kassern’s and Paweł Szymański’s music and about 100 articles published among others in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, „Tempo. A Quarterly Review of Modern Music”, “Muzyka”. She is the co-editor of the book Intertextuality in Music: Dialogic Composition published by Routledge. In recent years, she gave several author lectures in Poland and abroad, and organised two conferences on intertextuality in music. Her current research interests oscillate around embodied music cognition, conceptual metaphor and conceptual blending, musical meaning and contemporary music, especially Polish.

Conference Venue

Campus, Building A
Campus, Building B
Campus, Concert hall (A)
Campus, Concert hall (B)
Campus, Prof. Paweł Podejko Auditorium (B)
Gdańsk, Long Waterfront
Gdańsk, Neptune's Fountain
Gdańsk, City center
Gdańsk, Mariacka Street
Gdańsk, Museum of the Second World War


Dom Muzyka
ul. Łąkowa 1–2
80-743 Gdańsk
(+48 58) 326 06 00


Academy of Music in Gdańsk
ul. Łąkowa 1–2
80-743 Gdańsk

Sponsors and Partners

The conference is co-financed by the Ministry of Education and Science in the “Excellent Science” programme – DNK/SP/548966/2022.