06/10/2023 – 07/10/2023, Newcastle Literary and Philosophical society
Organisers: Professor Andy Hamilton, Bayley Moreton, Durham University


Elisabet Dijkstra: “Do composers care if you listen? The audience and music as an art.”
Sascha Lowdermilk-Oppenheim: “Stand Up Comedy and the Aesthetics of Imperfection”
Alessandro Bertinetto: “Entertaining Improvisation (as aesthetic habit)”
Stephanie Cant: “Classical Music: The Curse of Entertainment”
James McGuiggan: “Nietzsche, Cruelty and the Role of the Artist”
Miglė Miliūnaitė: “St Augustine on Music as an Art” 
Ruby Main: “Wittgenstein and the Aesthetics of Perfection”
Pablo Seoane: “Sentimentalism as a moral failing”
Katherine Hambridge: “Popular and serious, high and low, art and entertainment: Berlin 1800”
Jack Hume: “Audience Engagement and the Arts.”
Martin Mayes: “The World of Play”


Over the course of two days in Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society, participants were invited to speak on the relationship between art and entertainment before their peers and members of the public. Presentations and discussions also extended to the relationship between the art-entertainment concept and improvisation which was fitting given the workshop’s inclusion in the Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music. This inclusion furthered the impact of the workshop allowing presenters to inspire and precipitate transformation in a wider, more diverse audience. The workshop ran smoothly, and all speakers listed above were able to attend in person.

The first day opened with the familiar aesthetics concept of the hermetic artist aptly unpacked and subsequently applied to composers By Elisabet Dijkstra. An examination of this concept and its relation to audience participation led to interesting discussion rich with musical theory and history. Capitalising upon discussion around the role of the audience, the next talk explained stand-up comedy’s interaction with an audience. Sascha Lowdermilk-Oppenheim explained how the route of a stand-up set can be variegated and unpredictable, much like a set of jazz or other improvised music. Contrasting with this was a flow chart showing how every eventuality was meticulously prepared for, akin to a more traditional art piece or music set. Following on from this, Alessandro Bertinetto led a rigorous analysis of the concept of improvisation and the problematisation of privileging it given the range of modern mediums, and the inherent lack of the need for a physical co-presence between audience and artist. This presentation also analysed the constitution of improvisation in terms of the necessary and sufficient conditions for its happening and whether this had any bearing on ‘entertainment’ as it was being discussed in the context of the workshop. The day closed with a presentation by Stephanie Cant regarding the effect of entertainment on classical musical, complete with live piano interludes! The presentation considered pedagogical approaches, audience interaction, and the changing relationship between entertainment and classical music, before finishing with a point about recording which led to intense audience participation in a digital/analogue debate.

The second day began with a presentation by James McGuiggan which centred around criticism, sincerity and the role of critics in the artistic community. This was followed by Miglė Miliūnaitė who discussed music’s steady journey to consideration as an art form through the lens of St Augustine. This led to discussion of the historicity of such consideration when extended to the diverse realm of world music such as North African chants and Indonesian Gamelan. Ruby Main then discussed art and entertainment using a Wittgensteinian aesthetic framework utilising properties and essence to unpack some popular examples. Pablo Seoane presented on the idea of (aesthetic) Sentimentalism as a moral failing, this involved poignant modern examples of the reductionism employed by short form content often for political gain. The next presentation, given by Katherine Hambridge, aligned art and entertainment with serious and popular respectively, this was done through the exploration of theatre in 1800’s Berlin. Jack Hume then gave a presentation further exploring the audience’s role in art. This presentation was made unique by the addition of examples of public art both in the literal sense of statues, murals etc., and the sense of publicly significant works of art such as that of Johnny Cash. The day concluded with a lively presentation by Martin Mayes exploring the role of play in art, entertainment and improvisation. The tactile, involving nature of the presentation enhanced audience discussion around the use of synthetic and natural materials for instruments.

The organisers are grateful to the BSA for sponsoring this event, to the speakers for their excellent presentations, and to the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society for hosting us.

BPA/SWiP statement

All participants in the workshop were billed equally on all publicity, and no personal titles or institutions were listed. Formal invitations to speakers gave them the opportunity to declare requirements for childcare or babysitting facilities, and we endeavoured to make suitable arrangements where necessary. Speakers were diverse in profession and included writers, academics, musicians, artists, entertainers and stand-up comedians. Of the 11 speakers, 6 (55%) were women.