Techniques of Listening | Conference

Organized by the Music and Sound Studies
Interdisciplinary Student Group

MSS Fall 2017 Conference Poster Donwood copy

As a way of knowing and interacting with the world, techniques of listening constitute a wide range of socially and historically circumscribed practices that shape our subjective positions and collective identities. Techniques of listening orient the ear and represent sound in distinct and often contradictory ways.

Techniques of listening are bound up in the materials and instruments we listen with and to, but they are also found in the ideologies and cultures that define, use, and misuse sound and music. With this conference, we wish to shed light on the aesthetic, scientific, technical, legal, medical, historical, social, cultural, religious, and philosophical ways of listening as they pertain to any kind of music and/or sound.

Conference Program


Charles Hirschkind’s research interests concern religious practice, media technologies, and emergent forms of political community in the Middle East, North America, and Europe. He gives particular attention to diverse configurations of the human sensorium, and the histories, ethics, and politics they make possible. Taking contemporary developments within the traditions of Islam as his primary focus, he has explored how various religious practices and institutions have been revised and renewed both by modern norms of social and political life, and by the styles of consumption and culture linked to global mass media practices. Hirschkind’s first book, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (Columbia 2006), explores how a popular Islamic media form the cassette sermon has profoundly transformed the political geography of the Middle East over the last three decades. His more recent project is a study of the different ways in which Europe’s Islamic past inhabits its present, unsettling contemporary efforts to secure Europe’s Christian civilizational identity. Taking southern Spain as his focus, Hirschkind explores the forms of history and memory that mediate and sustain an active relation to Europe’s Islamic heritage, and the impact these forms have on the ethical and political possibilities of finding a place for Islam in Europe today.

Emily Dolan specializes in late Enlightenment and early Romantic music and aesthetics. In particular, she focuses on issues of orchestration and instrumentality and on the intersections of music, science, and technology. Dolan has published articles in Current Musicology, Eighteenth-Century Music, Popular Music, Studia Musicologica, Keyboard Perspectives, and 19th-Century Music. She is interested in the intertwined history of musical and scientific instruments: in 2011, she published a co-authored essay with John Tresch (UPenn, History of Science) in Opera Quarterly on the role and reception of machines in French grand opera and in 2013 Tresch and Dolan published “Toward a New Organology” in Osiris. In April 2008, she organized an interdisciplinary conference at Penn, Herder, Music, and Enlightenment, which explored the role of music in Herder’s philosophy. Dolan’s first book is The Orchestral Revolution: Haydn and the Technologies of Timbre(Cambridge University Press, 2013). Currently, Dolan is working on a collaborative project on timbre with Alexander Rehding and on her second book, “Instruments and Order.”


For more info or questions, email:


The Commons Hotel (on campus, very close to conference venue).
Days Inn on University (on campus, walking distance to conference venue).
Marriott Courtyard Minneapolis (close to campus, walking distance to conference).
The Westin Minneapolis (downtown, easy lightrail transport to campus).
The Hotel Minneapolis (downtown, easy lightrail transport to campus).
The Depot Renaissance Hotel (downtown, easy lightrail transport to campus).
Minneapolis International Hostel (uptown, bus connection to campus).


Getting Around

Conference venue:

School of Music, 100 Ferguson Hall
2106 4th St S
MinneapolisMN 55455

Transport from the airport: take the light rail (blue line) north towards downtown Minneapolis. If going to campus change to green line towards St. Paul at US Bank Stadium station and get off at West Bank station.