Our faculty adviser, Andrew Albin, published an article titled “Desiring Medieval Sound,” which contributes to Sounding Out!’s ongoing forum on medieval sound. Check it out here!
On March 4, our reading group convened to discuss two chapters from Cambridge UP’s 2015 anthology Music, Sound and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience. We began with Eric F. Clarke’s “Music, Space and Subjectivity,” which acknowledges both the human capacity to hear space and the ways that sound and music can “specify various real and virtual spaces” (90). Clarke notes the ocularcentric bias in spatial perception–we can see space so well that we often overlook how effectively we can actually hear space–and examines songs by Pink Floyd, Goldfrapp, and Bjork to highlight how each forms acoustic spaces.
We also explored Jonathan Sterne’s chapter “What the Mind’s Ear Doesn’t Hear,” which, building on his major study MP3: The Meaning of a Format, presents the MP3 as “a political modulation of private listening experience” (111). Describing the development of the MP3, Sterne explores the criteria sound engineers used to create the most imperceptible decay in sound quality. Yet, as Sterne explains, since “no two people can occupy the same exact subjective space,” the MP3 must at best rely “upon the measurement of something that can only be approximated: interior listening experience” (113).
We concluded by briefly mentioning another essay on the politics of sound and physical spaces: Michael Bull’s “The Audio-Visual Ipod.” This article observes how the iPod (or any mobile listening device, I suppose) alters a listener’s perception of his/her environment. Listening to, for instance, a sad song influences the way we perceive our current environment; the world may, as a result, seem melancholic. The iPod, then, transforms our perception of physical spaces, creating “a satisfying aestheticized reality for [listeners] as they move through daily life” (198).
Next month we will meet to analyze articles from, excitingly, the very first issue of Sound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal!
Bull, Michael. “The Audio-Visual iPod.” The Sound Studies Reader. Ed. Jonathan Sterne. New York: Routledge, 2012. 197-208. Print.
The first issue of Sound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal has been published! The issue’s wide-ranging articles cover a broad range of theories and topics, including “the growing significance of object-oriented ontology, or the shift from an earlier focus on the sound–vision binary to other senses such as touch and its interconnections to issues of affect.”
Editors Veit Erlmann and Michael Bull describe the new journal as follows:
Sound Studies aims to provide a forum for… emergent ideas, theories, and topics [in the field], but it is also committed to an ongoing dialogue with some of the field’s rich legacy in areas such as soundscapes, sound art, film music, histories of listening, the tensions and synergies of sound and vision, and many others.
Check it out at http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rfso20/current.
Since 2009, Sounding Out! has been publishing rigorous, accessible scholarship in the field of sound studies on a born-digital platform that seeks to curate “scholarship, podcasts, art, and essays—and rhetorical re-mixes of all these elements—devoted to answering four interconnected and interlocking research questions,” to wit:
- How does listening impact the production of social difference? And vice versa?
- What is the relationship between sound and power?
- What is the role of sound and listening in everyday life, particularly in regards to identity construction and performance?
- How do we understand the cultural histories of various sound media—the phonograph, the radio, the tape recorder, the telephone, the digital recorder and its various playback systems—in relationship to power and the production of social difference?
Editor-in-Chief J. Stoever-Ackerman writes that “Sounding Out! is a weekly online publication, a networked academic archive, and a dynamic group platform bringing together sound studies scholars, sound artists and professionals, and readers interested in the cultural politics of sound and listening. Every Monday, our writers offer well-researched, well-written, and accessible interventions in sound studies, directing the field’s energy toward the social, cultural, and political aspects of sound and listening, particularly their differential construction of and material impacts on variously positioned bodies.”
Notably, Sounding Out! is peer-reviewed scholarly publication indexed by the MLA Bibliography (ISSN 2333-0309), but as Stoever-Ackerman explains, the blog “follow[s] an open, developmental model fostered by digital humanities, in which editors and advisors are known to our writers, and provide several rounds of feedback, commentary, and collaboration before publication. The editorial collective invites contributions via themed calls-for-posts as well as on more general topics related to our research mission. We especially invite work that uses sound as more than an object of study, but also as a medium of argumentation, experience, provocation, and communication.”
A promising conference on historical sound studies, Periods and Waves: A Conference on Sound and History, will take place April 29–30, 2016 at Stony Brook University. Plenary speakers include Emma Dillon (King’s College London), Stefan Helmreich (MIT), Alexander Rehding (Harvard), and Emily Thompson (Princeton). Final deadline for abstracts is December 31, 2015, so there’s still time to submit!
Here’s the blurb from the CFP:
Sound, like history, describes a dynamic terrain. Scholars concerned with the convergence of sound and history have, in the wake of the “sensory turn” in the humanities, worked to generate clear narratives from data that resists fixity, that seems to be in constant motion. The shared aims of sound studies and history have yielded a rich body of scholarship that interrogates, for example, the noisy illuminations of medieval songbooks, acoustic control in modern architecture, sound and the moving image, accounts of deafness and synaesthesia, and the production of aural subjects through consumer technology. The practice of thinking sound historically and history sonically is driving the growth of fresh methodologies and compelling new interpretations of sources.
Periods and Waves: A Conference on Sound and History is co-organized by the Department of Music, Department of Philosophy, and the School of Health Technology & Management at Stony Brook University, with the aim of bringing together humanities scholars and humanistic scientists, particularly those working in sound studies. We welcome submissions for 30-minute papers, panels, and workshops from scholars in the myriad disciplines that investigate past aural cultures, including musicology, ethnomusicology, history, anthropology, medical history, art history, philosophy, religion, disability studies, acoustics, and sound studies.
Voices Up! is a concert series organized by Professor Lawrence Kramer of Fordham University that explores the connections between poetry and new music. This fall concert features the Bleecker String Quartet, an innovative group that plays contemporary, pop, world, classical, and crossover music. Listen to them here.
Admission is free, and the concert will be followed by a reception. You can also find the program below. The concert will be Nov. 4, 7:30PM at the 12th floor lounge of the Lowenstein building on Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus.
The Music and Sound Studies group will recommence on October 16 from 2:00-3:00 to discuss Brian Kane’s recent monograph, Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice. More information about Kane’s book can be viewed at the website of Oxford UP.
Conference at Fordham University, Lincoln Center
Wednesday, August 12 – Friday, August 14
Concert at Poets House, 10 River Terrace on Saturday, August 15
all events free and open to the public
Wednesday, August 12, Lowenstein Building, 12th floor Lounge 113 W. 60th St.
6:45PM Opening Reception
See Moving Image Concert Program for additional details.
August 12-15, Lowenstein Building, 12th floor Lounge 113 W. 60th St. and Poet’s House
See Moving Image Conference Schedule for additional details.
On October 22, Fordham’s Music and Sound Studies reading group reconvened to discuss its first monograph of the semester: Bruce R. Smith’s The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-factor. Smith’s book was well-received, and we found his spatial approach to sound especially compelling. While sound instinctively seems temporal and ephemeral, Smith responds that it actually is also spatial and enduring. When we study spaces constructed for particular sonorous environments, we can recover traces of past sounds. In this way, we can still engage with and act upon absent sounds; the past can become an object of present inquiry. In other words, thinking of sound spatially grants it a persistence that is not accessible when we think of sound temporally.
We also spent time observing Smith’s astute challenge to Derrida (pp. 11-12). Whereas Derrida wants to locate writing in voice, Smith observes the body in sound production. Smith criticizes Derrida for effacing the body’s role in creating sounds, as Smith points out that the body stores a set of practices that enables us to produce intelligible speech.
Smith’s book raised other questions about interdisciplinary study (particularly about the literariness of Smith’s endeavor) and about the presence of noise in both theoretical writings (Attali) and historical and literary scholarship (Picker, Cockayne). These questions concluded our engaging and lively meeting.
The reading group will next meet on November 12 to discuss R. Murray Schafer’s The Soundscape.
Jacques Attali’s 2014 lecture at Harvard University. See: http://hearingmodernity.org/papers/music-as-a-predictive-science/