Periods and Waves: A Conference on Sound and History

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! presents Bleecker String Quartet Nov. 4

Bleecker  NYC 2015

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.

Bleecker StQ program-page-001

Upcoming Concert and Conference: Music and the Moving Image

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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

7:30PM           Concert

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.

Bruce R. Smith – The Acoustic World of Early Modern England: Attending to the O-factor

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.

March Discussion Recap: Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound, by Don Ihde

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In our third meeting, we discussed Don Ihde’s difficult but classic Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound. Below are some highlights from the conversation and Ihde’s ideas:

Ihde reminds his readers that to listen phenomenologically is to hear sounds as they are — to hear their essence — and not to perceive them as attached to some objects, i.e. the sounds of the jackhammer. Sounds are not “sounds of things,” Ihde writes (61). By studying the phenomena of sound, Ihde breaks from the “traditions of dominant visualism,” where sounds serve as “anticipatory clues for ultimate visual fulfillments” (54). He also points out that the limit of sight is not darkness but invisibility, and that even a strong invisible wind has a distinct and tangible spatial presence that we perceive by the sound it creates even if we cannot see it directly.

In response to this dominant visualism, one of Ihde’s biggest interventions is his interest in reclaiming sound as spatial. Ihde writes that the auditory is often associated with temporality; it seems to arise and disappear, not occupying a spatial presence. However, Ihde contends that all sounds, even muteness, have their own auditory space. Matt elucidated Ihde’s claim by noting that muteness is always visually noticeable on a spectrograph.  The absence of sound, then, also occupies space and has a demonstrable spatial presence.

Step by step Ihde illuminates how in listening we hear shapes and surfaces. We can hear if an object rolling in a box is round or some other shape. Simultaneously we hear the surface of the box, just as we can hear the surface of a sidewalk as luggage rolls along it. This association of the sonic with the spatial departs from or, perhaps more accurately, expands on the typical sonic-temporal pairing.

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Sound+ Conference this weekend

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If you’re interested in a promising conference this weekend, check out the Sound+ Conference at the University of Maryland. You can see the program of speakers and panels here, and you can check out soundbites related to the conference here. It’s free to the public; just be sure to register. Below is the conference description:

Increasingly, and across a broad variety of fields, a conversation has been unfolding about the sounds that produce, surround and absorb “text.” Work on cultural sites ranging from the jazz of the Harlem Renaissance, to the resonance-chamber of Shakespeare’s Globe, to the audio compression format of the MP3, to the acoustic torture at Guantanamo Bay, has begun to challenge models in which text is understood as a predominantly visual, linguistic construct.

This conference brings together leading scholars who have helped to reconceive the relationship between sound and text. Emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of sound studies and the importance of research on the ways in which experiences of sound are culturally produced, Jonathan Sterne has written, “Sound studies should be a central meeting place where sonic imaginations go to be challenged, nurtured, refreshed and transformed.” “Sound+” offers a space to pursue this goal.

As work on soundscapes, audio technologies and acoustic ecologies continues to open up new ways of thinking about the sonic dimensions of literature, this conference invites scholars from a range of fields to address the following questions:

  • What happens when text is mediated through acoustic environments?
  • How does sound become categorized as literary?
  • How do writing and sound thread together in areas such as theater, opera, jazz, film, hip-hop, poetry, performance art, and digital literatures?
  • How does writing encode or remediate sound, and how is literature shaped by acoustic technologies from voice to byte?
  • How does sound reshape the politics of literature, and how are political acts distributed between text and sound?

Scholars of literature, rhetoric, composition, media studies, science and technology studies, art and culture studies, architecture, philosophy, political economy, the practice of politics and other fields have demonstrated the limitations of conceiving of text in purely discursive terms. This work has helped re-direct attention to the voice, to performance, and especially to listening practices that impact how we understand cultures, contexts and objects previously analyzed through approaches that privileged the eye. This conference promises to extend and expand upon those conversations.