Lecturer in Music, Jo Hicks, recently took part in a study day on the name, mission, and values of the Royal Musical Association
As one of the main learned societies for music research in the UK, the Royal Musical Association plays a leading role in supporting the study of music within and beyond universities.
Since its founding as the “Musical Association” in 1874, both music and the ways we understand it have changed significantly. In recent years, there has been a move towards greater diversity within the organisation, both in its membership and in the areas of music study and practice that it encompasses. These changes have highlighted a need to reflect on the identity of the Royal Musical Association. Why might some people object to the remit and name of the Royal Musical Association? And why might others find it unproblematic?
Jo's contribution to the study day exploring these issues was a counterfactual provocation asking whether anything would be different if the Musical Association had not become royal in 1944. The short answer is "not really" because the work of the Association is part of a broader complex of royal musical institutions, including conservatories, exam boards, concert halls, and campuses (think of our very own King's College chapel and Vox Regis record label).
What the current name of the Association does offer is an opportunity to consciously uncouple from royalty. However, it is by no means clear there is a consensus among the Association's membership to do so. Some people think royal recognition is an honour to be welcomed. Others dislike the exclusionary politics of monarchy but nevertheless think the profile afforded by royal status provides a platform for equality work. Jo hopes one day to live in a republic with some form of unroyal musicological society.