SoundAffectDetail

The EH ‘Sound Cluster’ is made up of an interdisciplinary group of faculty who all have scholarly, teaching, and/or artistic interests in sound and its relation to acoustic technologies.  The cluster meets monthly to discuss articles and our work together, and hope to pursue some collaborative projects or courses as the cluster develops.  The faculty who participate are from anthropology, art history,  ethnomusicology,  history, literature, music, and physics.

Sound and Affect

As part of the Sound Cluster’s 2014-15 programming, EH presents a lecture series called “Sound and Affect.” The Fall series featured speakers including Jesse Shipley, Ryan Dohoney, Deborah A. Thomas, Neo Muyanga and Sarah Nuttal, Matt Sakakeeny, and Agnes Umunna Fallah Kamara. Check our events page for updates and details on Spring speakers.

 

Spring 2015

Stephanie Spray, As Long as There is Breath
Thursday, February 5
Avery Film Bldg. 5-7pm

sponsored by Anthropology and Film and Electronic Arts

 

Ernst Karel, Anthropologist/sound artist, Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab
Experiments in Sonic Ethnography
Thursday, February 26
Avery Film Bldg. 5-7pm

Ernst Karel’s diverse audio practice includes location recording, electroacoustic performance and composition, sound for nonfiction film/video, and solo and collaborative sound installations. In his experimental ethnographic sound work he structures unprocessed location recordings of infrastructural processes to convey senses of lived experience and of place. At Bard, he will present and discuss selections from previous work, including Heard Laboratories, Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, and the quadraphonic Materials Recovery Facility, and also a new multichannel sound piece, Morning and Other Times, which takes up the relationship of nonhuman animals to the urban environment of Chiang Mai, Thailand.

sponsored by Anthropology and Film and Electronic Arts

 

Benjamin J. Harbert, Ethnomusicologist, Georgetown University
Follow Me Down: Portraits of Louisiana Prison Musicians
Thursday, March 5
Weiss Cinema 8:00 pm.

Filmed over two years in three Louisiana prisons, Follow Me Down weaves together interviews and performances of extraordinary musicians.

sponsored by American Studies, Bard Ethnomusicology, Difference & Media Project

Marissa Moorman, Associate Professor, Indiana University-Bloomington

Remediation in La Vie Sur Terre and Moolaade
Monday, March 23
Olin 102 4:45 pm

sponsor: Africana Studies, Environmental & Urban Studies, and Human Rights

Mara Mills, NYU

Speed Listening by Blind Readers and the History of Audio Time-Stretching
Friday, April 3
Olin 102 1:30 pm

Talking books for blind readers spurred the commercialization of mainstream audiobooks after World War II, but the two formats soon diverged in terms of reading strategies. This talk will discuss the cultural imperative for aural speed reading that drove early time-stretching innovations in the magnetic tape era, allowing playback rate to be changed without affecting pitch.

Bio: Mara Mills works at the intersection of disability studies and media studies. Her research and teaching interests include communication history (especially related to telephones and reading practices), science and technology studies, disability theory, and mobile media studies. She is completing a book (On the Phone: Deafness and Communication Engineering) on the significance of phonetics and deaf education to the emergence of “communication engineering” in early twentieth-century telephony; this concept and set of practices later gave rise to information theory, digital coding, and cybernetics. Her second book project,Print Disability and New Reading Formats, examines the reformatting of print over the course of the past century by blind and other print disabled readers, with a focus on Talking Books and electronic reading machines.  Mills is on the steering committee of the Science and Society Minor and is co-chair of the NYU Council for the Study of Disability.

sponsor: Art History, Bard Ethnomusicology, and Human Rights

Seema Golestaneh
Open Sounds, Hidden Spaces: Listening, Wandering, and Spatial Formation in Sufi Iran
Thursday, April 9
Olin 101 6:00 pm

As the Iranian authorities continue to frown upon public gatherings, Sufi Orders have sought alternative methods of convening while still complying with city regulations.  One informal Sufi group in the city of Isfahan does so by meeting in private homes and rotating locations each week. Rather than circulate the specific address of a meeting place, however, the mystics instead instruct the others to meet at a nearby intersection, and then broadcast music from a courtyard or house to alert the members to the exact location. This in turn allows them to locate the site by listening for and ultimately “following” the sounds.  It is in this way that the Sufis utilize the practice of intentional listening (sama) and mystical ideals of wandering to navigate the politics of Iranian urban space. This talk will hence examine the utilization of mystical epistemologies to lead to the emergence of an alternative Islamic space in post-revolutionary Iran.

sponsor: Anthro, Middle Eastern Studies, Religion

Chornobyl Songs Project featuring Zozulka Trio (Willa Roberts, Eva Salina, Maria Sonevytsky),
Wednesday, April 22
Bard Hall, 8 pm

The Chornobyl nuclear disaster of April 26, 1986, forced hundreds of thousands of people, including those in the rural, musically rich Kyivan Polissia region, to leave their homes and villages. Separated from their homeland and cultural context, communities were broken apart and centuries-old musical traditions were largely lost. This spring, Smithsonian Folkways will release Ensemble Hilka’s Chornobyl Songs Project: Living Culture from a Lost World, an album re-creating these all-but-vanished songs. Based on earlier field recordings of songs that would be heard during the course of a typical year in a Polissian village, this collection offers an invaluable re-imagination of a traditional culture whose unique sonorous legacy lives on through the project. Spearheaded by ethnomusicologist Maria Sonevytsky, the New York–based Ensemble Hilka formed to perform these songs on the 25th anniversary of the disaster. Trained by the renowned Kyiv-based ethnomusicologist and singer Yevhen Yefremov, Ensemble Hilka is comprised of singers from New York City, many of whom came to the project unfamiliar with Ukrainian traditional song, yet committed to learning these vocal repertoires as a gesture toward the global impact of nuclear disaster.

On Wednesday, April 22, the Zozulka Trio (Willa Roberts, Eva Salina, and Maria Sonevytsky) will perform selections from the rural Ukrainian repertoires featured on the recording as well as lyrical songs from neighboring regions. The concert will begin with a short set featuring Bard’s new Eastern European Ensemble.

sponsor: Bard Ethnomusicology, Urban and Environmental Studies, Russian and Eurasian Studies, and the Center for Civic Engagement

 

FALL SERIES

Celebrity Rapture: Selfie Love, Parody after Identity
Tuesday, September 30
Jesse Shipley, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology, Haverford College
Sponsored by Anthropology, Africana Studies, Ethnomusicology

There is a curiously intimate relationship between parody and identity in the era of digital circulation. Parody has shaped popular music in ways that reflect neoliberal sensibilities and how lives are lived through social media. For youth around the world, mobile popular culture and selfie-portraiture provide structures to imagine themselves as agents of change, as economically successful, as cosmopolitan. Digital music makes youth loud, literally and metaphorically, while also creating intimate channels of connection among social media users. Popular musical parodies are not simply humorous but take on authority gleaned from reference to more sincere forms of speaking and acting. In contemporary contexts, parody works by blurring the line between satire and sincerity and obscuring artistic intent. This paper examines an irreverent international Ghanaian hip-hop duo, the FOKN Bois who have built their fame through the potential and power of musical parody. They make outrageous songs that incite both fans and critics to respond with outrage, pleasure, or both. Their track “Thank God We’re Not a Nigerians” mocks the long-standing intimate ambivalence between Ghanaian and Nigerian nationhoods. While it explicitly pokes fun at Nigerian styles and moralities, it implicitly mocks how Ghanaians scrutinize and moralize about Nigerians. For young Ghanaian artists and audiences, shared language-use in multimodal digital popular music indexes membership in a pan-West African mobile community that refuses simple identities and mocks nationalism by blurring and moving between familiar register, speech practices, and ideas of moral value.

Whitehead’s Process, Music’s Reality: On some potential modifications to affect theory
Thursday, October 9
Ryan Dohoney, Assistant Professor of Music, Northwestern University
Sponsored by The Music Program

In this talk I query the recent turn to ontology in anthropology and in the humanities more broadly. I investigate how both sound and affect figure in this ontological turn and how conceptions of both have been grounded in the thought of Gilles Deleuze. While Deleuze and others have drawn upon Alfred North Whitehead to conceptualize affect and its political promise, I argue that Whitehead has been misread and that he offers a more compositional way of thinking sound and affect through his philosophy. While Deleuze and his interlocutors find affect politically valuable precisely to the degree to which it exceeds subjectivity and engenders processes of “deterritorialization,” I argue that Whitehead offers a way to think of emotion as that which holds us together in fragile yet necessary bonds, with musical experience serving as a primary example of such collectivity.

What Sovereignty Feels Like: Silence, Taboo, and Everyday Practices of Revolution
Monday, October 27
Deborah A. Thomas, Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies
Sponsored by Anthropology, Africana Studies, The Human Rights Project
Much has been written about the effects of extreme violence – and particularly state violence – on individuals and communities throughout the world.  Attention has tended to focus on the forms of marginalization and exclusion generated by and through violence, on the “bare life” and “exceptionality” that has been theorized by a range of European political philosophers.  My interest in this presentation is to think sovereignty, in both its conventional registers, outside the state by highlighting instead its everyday practice.  Drawing from narratives generated through two collaborative projects geared toward visually archiving state violence in Jamaica – the Coral Gardens “Incident” in Western Jamaica in 1963, and the May 2010 state of emergency in West Kingston – I will show that thinking about what sovereignty feels like means being committed and attuned to the non-monumental, unspectacular world of the everyday and the dynamic structuring categories through which it is lived.  On one hand, these narratives show us something about the conditions of violence that both define the parameters of legitimate citizenship and lay the foundation for the periodic eruptions of exceptional violence.  On the other hand, they provide a sense of the extent to which people are able to imagine, or imagine themselves enacting, alternative political futures.  It is this latter dimension that gives us a sense of the affective dimensions of sovereignty.  Exploring what sovereignty feels like, therefore, illuminates not only the ways alternative projects circulate in and through social communities even if the material movements that produce them “fail,” but also the entanglements across time and space that both produce and attempt to destroy them.

Neo Muyanga in Concert: A Study in Sound and Image
Tuesday, November 3
Neo Muyanga and Sarah Nuttal
Sponsored by Africana Studies and Experimental Humanities

In New Orleans, the instruments of the brass band are sound technologies utilized to communicate particular messages to a community of listeners. In the local tradition of the jazz funeral, musicians determine the emotional register of the procession: mournful hymns regulate the slow march to the gravesite and upbeat popular songs signal the transition to celebratory dancing after burial. The musicians not only organize the memorial by changing tempo and repertoire, they communicate to the living and the dead through the material sound of their instruments. Black New Orleanians occupying public spaces where lynchings, race riots, segregation, and gentrification have taken place “give voice” to these submerged histories by marching and dancing to the beat of the brass band. And the most recent generation of musicians has drawn upon hip-hop, integrating the direct language of rap into a polyphony of voices that includes horns, drums, and group singing. In this case study of the brass bands of New Orleans, a holistic approach to sonic materiality integrates the spoken, the sung, and instrumental sound in a densely layered soundscape that creates meaning and value for racialized subjects of power.

Instruments of Lament: Communicating without Words in the New Orleans Jazz Funeral
Wednesday, November 12
Matt Sakakeeny, Assistant Professor of Music, Tulane University
Sponsored by Anthropology and Ethnomusicology

In New Orleans, the instruments of the brass band are sound technologies utilized to communicate particular messages to a community of listeners. In the local tradition of the jazz funeral, musicians determine the emotional register of the procession: mournful hymns regulate the slow march to the gravesite and upbeat popular songs signal the transition to celebratory dancing after burial. The musicians not only organize the memorial by changing tempo and repertoire, they communicate to the living and the dead through the material sound of their instruments. Black New Orleanians occupying public spaces where lynchings, race riots, segregation, and gentrification have taken place “give voice” to these submerged histories by marching and dancing to the beat of the brass band. And the most recent generation of musicians has drawn upon hip-hop, integrating the direct language of rap into a polyphony of voices that includes horns, drums, and group singing. In this case study of the brass bands of New Orleans, a holistic approach to sonic materiality integrates the spoken, the sung, and instrumental sound in a densely layered soundscape that creates meaning and value for racialized subjects of power.

Agnes Kamara-Umunna: “Straight from the Heart”
Tuesday, December 2
Agnes Kamara-Umunna, CEO/Producer of One Liberia Radio
Sponsored by The Human Rights Project
Sponsored by Anthropology, Music, Ethnomusicology, Africana, HR, Experimental Humanities

Straight from the Heart Straight (SFTH) was a radio call-in program in Liberia started by Kamara-Umunna in 2004, with funding from the United Nations Mission in Liberia. It allowed Liberians to phone in live and share their stories from the second civil war (1999-2002.)  Former soldiers, many of whom were child soldiers at the time of the civil war, were frequent call-in guests, in particular.