Conference Program

Music and Sound Studies: Techniques of Listening Conference
Oct. 13-14, 2017
University of Minnesota

Thursday, October 12, 2017

7:00 pm-10:00 pm
Social Event: Kitty Cat Klub
315 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

Please come join us for an informal opening to our conference! Members of our conference committee and additional Music and Sound Studies graduate students will be found in the back corner at KCK.

Friday, October 13, 2017

9:30 am-10:00 am
Room: 280, Ferguson Hall

10:00 am-12:00 pm
Panel A:

Memory, History, Listening
Chair: Amanda Leger
Room: 280, Ferguson Hall

David Kjar, Boston Early Music as Co-Performers of Localized Global Difference
David Andrews, Kant Don’t Dance: Participatory Listening in Postwar America
David McCarthy, Listening for Lachenmann’s GOT LOST (2008): What Calls for Hearing?

10:00 am-12:00 pm
Panel B:

Silence and Surveillance
Chair: Joseph Sannicandro
Room: 614, Social Sciences Building

Elizabeth Parks, Constitutive Silence: Ethical Invitation to Dialogue Across Difference
Lily Kass, “A Sound that Shall Deeply Pierce the Soul”: The Sonic Landscape of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, 1830-1850.
Erol Köymen, From Coups that Silence Ezan-s to Ezan-s that Silence Coups!

12:00 pm-1:30 pm

1:30 pm- 3:30 pm
Panel C:

Urban Listening
Chair: Jeremy Smith
Room: 280, Ferguson Hall

Tarek Adam Benchouia, Digital Echoes: Mahraganat as Aural-Technic
Yung Emily Wang, Shopping and Chopping: Diasporic Intimacy through everyday Embodied Listening in Chinese Toronto
Daniel Munoz, A Community of Listeners: Listening Practices in the Los Angeles Experimental ‘Noise’ Scenes
Andrin Uetz, Listening in Place—Listening in Hong Kong: On the Challenges to Listen in a Hyperdense Urban Environment

1:30 pm- 3:30 pm
Panel D:

Identifying and Embodying
Chair: Emily Capper
Room: 614, Social Sciences Building

Alison Maggart, Traversing Time and Space through Music at the Integraton
Sophie Benn, Resonant Anatomies: Embodied Listening in Systems of 19th Century Dance Notation
Steven Moon, Listening Elsewhere: Enacting Affective Exodus in Gay Azerbaijan
Laura Schwartz, Listening as Skateboarding: Jennifer Walshe’s This is Why People O.D. on Pills/and Jump from the Golden Gate Bridge (2004)

3:30 pm-4:00 pm
(coffee & tea outside Ferguson 280)

4:00 pm-5:30 pm
Keynote Speaker: Charles Hirschkind
Ultan Recital Hall, Ferguson Hall

Flamenco and the Rediscovery of Islamic Spain: In this talk, I will explore the importance of Flamenco within Andalusismo, a movement founded on the principle that contemporary Andalusia is historically continuous with al-Andalus (medieval Islamic Iberia), and that the challenges faced by Andalusians today require a recognition of that historical identity. Examining the lives of a few of the prominent exponents of this movement, from its origins in the late 19th century through to the present, I give particular attention to the role of this musical tradition in the cultivation of historical sensibilities, and thus, in the forms of historical inquiry and reflection pursued by its advocates of the movement. As I highlight, Andalusista sensibilities are profoundly musical, honed through engagement with the sonic figures and passional resources of Andalusian song, especially cante jondo and flamenco. In their writings, the pioneering figures of this movement, including Gil Benumeya and Federico Garcia Lorca, returned again and again to these musical forms, tracing out each line and curve of their emotional geometries, as if the Mediterranean universe they were assembling demanded such a musical infrastructure. These lines and curves invariably led to the south and east, to the Arabs, Jews, and Gypsies whose historical experience on Iberian soil resonated in the cry of the Flamenco singer and the strum of the guitar. Through an exploration of this tradition of historical reflection, I hope to contribute to a discussion on the place of aesthetic, and particularly musical, sensibilities in the shaping of historical consciousness.

5:30 pm-6:00 pm

6:00 pm-8:30 pm
Dinner/Social Event: Republic

221 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454
A room has been reserved for conference participants; however, food and drink are not provided for.

Saturday, October 14

9:00 am-11:00 am
Keynote Speaker: Emily Dolan
Ultan Recital Hall, Ferguson Hall

The Time Horizons of Musical Technologies: To access the history of listening—a daunting, sometimes impossible task—we often turn to technologies that make music possible. Indeed, part of the appeal of studying musical technologies—instruments and other media—has been the sense of conceptual solidity that they offer, as sonic archives of soundworlds and access points to past listening cultures. Technology, we might say, binds music to a particular time and place. Of course, some of the devices that we use to make and experience music, have extended histories themselves, ones that span decades and centuries. Their allure is precisely the ways in which they are transhistorical: they exceed human time frames, serving as links between past and present. In this talk, I consider different relationships between musical instruments and history by looking at two categories of instruments in nineteenth-century Europe. This period witnessed the fevered invention of many new, experimental instruments, the merits and artistic possibilities of which were often widely debated and discussed. At the same time, this period also saw the rise of the “historical” instrument, understood as something that did not belong fully to the present, but was nevertheless playable. I explore the ways in which stories of invention and obsolescence are deeply bound together. Looking at the twinned lives of these objects sheds light on emerging practices of listening and conceptions of musical instrumentality.

11:00 am-12:00 pm
Panel E:

Listening and Faith
Chair: Kathryn Huether
Room: 280, Ferguson Hall

Sonja Wermager, I Hear Your Message, But I have no Faith: Listening, Memory, and Crisis of Meaning in the Cantata Scene of Goethe’s Faust I
Katelyn Medic, Listen and Obey: The Voice of Worship for Twin Cities Evangelical Congregations

11:00 am-12:00 pm
Panel F:

Responsive Listening
Chair: Olga Tchepikova-Treon
Room: 107, Ferguson Hall

Paula Harper Claire, Viral Musicking: Contagious Listening
Harshit Rathi, Listening to Laughter: If Someone Cracked a Joke in a Forest and a Kookaburra ‘laughed,’ is the Joke still Funny?

12:00 pm-1:30 pm

1:30 pm-3:00 pm
Panel G:

Islam, Music, and Community
Chair: Charles Hirschkind
Room: 280, Ferguson Hall

Jon Bullock, The Politics of Representation in Mawlid Celebrations
Saman Fazeli, Listening to the Traditions of Naqqālli

1:30 pm-3:00 pm
Panel H:

Epistemologies of Listening
Chair: Ryan O’Dell
Room: 107, Ferguson Hall

Brent Ferguson and T.J. Laws-Nicola, Virtual Stops: The Pipe Organ in Japanese Video Games
Greg Nightingale, Field Recordings, Sonic Information, and Sound Libraries: The Importance of Original Recordings, Context, and Repatriation

3:15 pm-4:45 pm
Panel I:

Instruments of Listening
Chair: Emily Dolan
Room: 280, Ferguson Hall

Josh Dittrich, Techniques of Listening and the Geosonic Imaginary
Joseph Klett, Instrumentalities: How Experts Use Instruments to Organize Sound in Space
Stephen Kovaciny, Embodiment, Sympathy, and Resonance in Chabanon’s Musical Physiology

3:15 pm-4:45 pm
Panel J:

Politics of Listening
Chair: Scott Currie
Room: 107, Ferguson Hall

Samuel Chan, The Politics of a Howl: Listening in Hong Kong Now
Joseph Nelson, Sound and Power in Early Modern England
Anne Briggs, Coming of Age: Neo-Fado, Nostalgia, and Identity


4:45 pm-5:00 pm
outside InFlux Space in Regis Center for Art

5:00 pm-6:30 pm
Closing Event: A Live Audiovisual Performance by IE
InFlux Space Auditorium, Regis Center for Art, East

6:30 pmSocial Event: Nomad World Pub

501 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

Brought to you in part by: Institute for Advanced Study . School of Music . Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature . Department of Art . Department of Anthropology . Early Modern History . Center for Philosophy of Science . Spanish & Portuguese Studies . Department of History . Religious Studies . Department of Political Science . Moving Image & Media Studies Graduate Group


Name: Andrews, David

Title: Kant Don’t Dance: Participatory Listening in Postwar America

Keywords: Ishmael Reed; Adrian Piper; Norman Mailer; Clement Greenberg; Kant; Nietzsche; formalism; medium specificity; purity; disinterest; ownership; copyright law

Abstract: This paper considers the politics of listening in postwar American life—and the role of criticism in shaping those politics—as exemplified in Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo-Jumbo, Adrienne Piper’s Notes On Funk, and Norman Mailer’s “The White Negro.” These works were written in reaction to earlier critical edifices undergirding 1950s “high modernism,” best represented in the ideas of art critic Clement Greenberg, which were based in a Kantian aesthetics that privileges form over content, calls for “disinterested spectatorship,” and subscribes to a teleology that runs in a straight line from past to present (because limited to a western European canon). But such a model of formal artistic “purity” hinders the ability of society to adequately adapt and improve, felt necessary particularly in the age of the Civil Rights and New Left movements (and no less in our own). Replacing Kant and the Western canon, Reed, Piper and Mailer argue instead for alternative models based in Nietzschean aesthetics and the musical vernaculars of African diasporas in America (namely, jazz and funk). This replacement, in turn, shifts the role of listening in aesthetics: instead of critical “disinterest,” it encourages participation (embodied, at least metaphorically, through the act of dancing). Such a shift, I will argue, is not a rejection of formalism as such, but rather a call for syncretism within formalism, able to embrace difference, community, participation, improvisation, and organic (as opposed to top-down) change.

David Andrews is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Minnesota, where he studies mid-century material poetics of the diasporic avant-garde. He is the author of Why Does The Other Line Always Move Faster (Workman, 2015).


Name: Armstrong, Stephen

Title: Sound and Semiosis in the Selenitic Age: Navigating Presence and Absence in the Soundscapes of Myst

Keywords: Sound studies, soundscapes, semiotics, ludomusicology, sound design.

Abstract: Myst (1993) shocked audiences by placing them in a surreal world with no action, no clear goal, and no way to die. The brainchild of American developers Rand and Robyn Miller, Myst became a breakout hit and attracted the notice of critics such as Edward Rothstein. The literary ambitions and innovative art direction of Myst have since occasioned numerous studies in literature, ecocriticism, psychology, educational design, and video game theory. Yet the sophisticated sonic puzzles of Myst have received little attention within sound studies and ludomusicology.

In this paper I examine the sound design of Myst, drawing on the insights of semioticians and sound specialists such as Niklas Luhmann, Eduardo Kohn, Bernie Krause, and R. Murray Schafer. The soundscapes of Myst derive their difficulty from their unusual shuffling of sounds within shifting networks of meaning; sound effects that at first seem irrelevant gradually coalesce into a range of semiotic networks, and these networks organize the sonic data into coherent solutions. Yet while environmental sounds become meaningful, human voices devolve into static and musical cues signify human absence. By downplaying the role of music and spoken word and forcing the player to reinterpret background “noise” as meaningful signifiers, Myst blurs the boundaries of silence, static, and semiosis, providing a rich site to explore the liminal space between the presence and absence of sonic meaning.

Stephen Armstrong is a PhD candidate at the Eastman School of Music. He has presented papers at AMS-Vancouver (2016) and the North American Conference for Video Game Music, among others. His articles have been published in the Journal of the American Liszt Society (2015) and Women & Music (forthcoming 2017).


Name: Benchouia, Tarek Adam

Title: Digital Echoes: Mahraganat as Aural-Technic Praxis

Abstract: This presentation tracks mahraganat, a contemporary musical-aesthetic phenomenon in Egypt, at the intersection of listening and technology. I argue that mahraganat both indexes and is produced by this convergence; that mahraganat shapes and is shaped by technologically mediated listening practices, or what I term “aural-technics.” The paper locates the emergence of mahraganat between its artistic production as a digital aesthetic practice and its aural reception via variable performative listening practices, and in doing so demonstrates the entanglement and mutual constitution of these two seemingly separate processes. In other words, I understand mahraganat production techniques as listening praxis on the one hand and listening to mahraganat as productive of the genre’s aesthetics on the other. This presentation thus seeks to trace the conditions of the genre’s emergence through and between practices of production and consumption that are produced in and informed by the convergence of listening and technology in the contemporary urban Egyptian context.

The paper is separated into three sections that are meant to interpenetrate and inform one another. The first section seeks, in conversation with Édouard Glissant and others, to offer a dynamic and relational definition of genre from which mahraganat might be analyzed as a sonic-aesthetic phenomenon emergent in a digitally mediatized world. The second section mobilizes this definition to partially trace the genealogy of mahraganat through a consideration of some of the digitally mediatized listening practices (the “aural-technics”), such as DJing and auto-tune, that its artists are simultaneously interpellated by and engaged in. The third section moves from the site of musical production to the lived domain of aural reception to elucidate how mahraganat is listened to and/as embodied in Egypt, and moreover how the sonic infrastructure of mahraganat itself echoes these listening practices and the digital technologies through which the genre is broadcasted, felt, and heard.

Tarek Adam Benchouia is a PhD student in the department of performance studies at Northwestern University.


Name: Benn, Sophie

Title: Resonant Anatomies: Embodied Listening in Systems of Nineteenth-Century Dance Notation

Keywords: Embodied listening, dance, notation, intermedia, ballet, Stepanov, Saint-Léon, Marey

Abstract: Studying dance from a sonic standpoint highlights the deeply embodied forms that listening can take. Dancers listen to music differently than others, and what they value about music is particular to their needs. These forms of kinesthetic listening can leave traces in the choreography that is created, particularly in dance styles which value a close relationship with music. In these styles, such as nineteenth-century ballet, embodied listening practices become preserved in the danced text. Thus, investigating dance becomes highly relevant to the field of sound studies, which concerns itself with broadening our understanding of practices and modes of listening. Despite the apparent value of such inquiries, they remain disappointingly rare in scholarly discourse.


This paper, which is located at the nexus of sound studies, historical musicology, and dance studies, examines two nineteenth-century systems of dance notation which adapted music notation to inscribe physical movement. The first of these, published by choreographer Arthur Saint-Léon in 1852, highlights the symbiotic relationship between music and dance through the appropriation of the musical staff and numerous auxiliary symbols. Vladimir Ivanovich Stepanov’s system from 1892 goes further, collapsing music and dance into the same visual language. Stepanov’s work also participates in a contemporary fascination with using graphical means to represent natural phenomena. Étienne-Jules Marey, one of the most assertive voices in this turn towards graphical representation, considered it a form of “natural writing” and “the language of phenomena themselves.” Stepanov’s system is an application of these ideals to the anatomical actions of dancers’ bodies as they execute choreography, and the graphical matrix that he chooses to represent these movements is music notation. The choices made by Saint-Léon and Stepanov emphasize the importance of embodied listening to dance, and invite us to view choreography as a sonic artifact.

Sophie Benn is a second-year PhD student in musicology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She studies French and American dance music in the long nineteenth century. Sophie is also a professional cellist who specializes in contemporary music, a Baroque cellist, and a burgeoning Baroque dancer.


Name: Briggs, Anne                               

Title: Coming of Age: Neo-Fado, Nostalgia, and Identity

Keywords: diaspora, transnationalism, Azores, Portugal, identity, fado   


Abstract: Traditional Portuguese fado typically consists of two guitarists—often both a Portuguese and acoustic—along with a vocalist. However, a new instrumentation of the genre has yielded a modern style—neo-fado—popular throughout Portuguese communities. Fado singer, Pepita Cardinali said in an interview that, “Older generations like it as long as [players of other styles don’t overwhelm fado with the other rhythms. Once they start overbearing it—Fado is fado…other cultures are other cultures. It’s well taken as long as it’s done with good taste.” Her response exemplifies the hesitant, skeptical view taken by older generations toward this new style.

More than the music, this modernization of a historic cultural artifact reveals the globalization and pluralism of diapsoric Portuguese communities. Michael Arnold’s research highlights the hybridity neo-fado represents in mainland Portugal, especially Lisbon. Estellie Smith, Don Warrin, and João Leal similarly examine cultural expression and comportment in Portuguese- and Azorean-American communities. In this paper, I focus neo-fado as a lens onto pluralism in Azorean- and Portuguese-American communities. Ultimately such an exploration will reveal how younger generations in immigrant communities reject the Portugal of their parents to construct one of their own.

Anne Briggs is a MA Musicology student of Dr. Matthew Rahaim at the University of Minnesota, focusing on music in the Portuguese diaspora and gender and sexuality in music. A recent graduate of Wichita State University (WSU), Briggs received a MM in Opera Performance in May 2017 under the tutelage of Dr. Pina Mozzani. She recently presented her work at the Royal Musical Association’s 2017 Conference in Liverpool, England as well as several AMS chapter meetings and graduate student conferences. Additionally, she was a 2016-2017 recipient of the Stettheimer Graduate Education Fellowship at WSU.


Name: Bullock, Jon

Title: The Politics of Representation in Contemporary Mawlid Celebrations
Keywords: Mawlid, Islam, Music, Representation

Abstract: Scholars of Muslim culture have described a variety of Islamic sonic phenomena that are not designated as music in their original cultural contexts. However, traditional Islamic interpretations of sound as musical or non-musical are being reshaped by American Muslim communities enmeshed within Western taxonomies of sound. In this paper, I examine the role of conscious choice in the presentation of nasheed (a genre of sung poetry celebrating the birthday of the Prophet) in contemporary American mawlid celebrations, focusing on three of these celebrations that took place in Chicago from December 2016 through April 2017. Each event included the presentation of nasheed by performers accompanying themselves on the drum, yet the organizers of only one of these events described the nasheed as “music.” The choice of the organizers to describe the events as either musical or non-musical reveals a striking difference not in the performances themselves, but rather in the ways the events’ organizers chose to represent themselves within the American Muslim community. I locate this discussion within ethnomusicological research describing the various genres of Islamic extra-musical sonic phenomena (Nelson 1985, Touma 1996, Rasmussen 2010), and I suggest a reframing of the dialogue concerning these genres from one centered on classification (music or non-music) to one centered on representation.  Framing these choices as such thus challenges long-held assumptions about what music can or must be within the Muslim world and offers new insight on the role of musical discourse in mediating the shared spaces of Islam and the American public sphere.

Jon Bullock (B.A., religion, M.A., ethnomusicology) is a PhD student in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago. His research interests include the influence of migration(s)/diaspora on contemporary Kurdish music, and music and religion, especially music censorship in evangelical Christian churches and musics of the Muslim world.


Name: Chan, Samuel

Title: The Politics of a Howl: Listening in Hong Kong Now

Keywords: listening, politics, popular music, voice


Abstract: In this paper, I focus on a short vocalization in “A.I.N.Y.,” a song by Hong Kong singer G.E.M. (Gloria Tsz-kei Tang). When it was first released in 2009, this wordless vocalization was seen as a showcase of technical proficiency; yet, in recent years, it is ridiculed as a “fucking howl” (鳩叫, gaugiu). What triggered this turn from admiration to abjection? I argue that the reception of this vocalization—a few seconds of a love song—is related to the market structure of the Hong Kong popular music industry, singing contests in mainland China, and Hong Kong–China relations.


By deliberately choosing a wordless vocalization, I also aim at articulating the limit of the continuous foci on lyrics in Hong Kong popular music studies. I argue that, to study contemporary modes of critical and creative musico-political engagements in Hong Kong and beyond, we must turn from lyrics analysis towards the technology and mechanisms of circulation and reception.


Samuel Chan is pursuing a PhD in Music—Integrative Studies at University of California San Diego. His current research focuses on the politics of listening in Hong Kong popular music. He graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a BA in Music (First Class Honors).   


Name: Dittrich, Josh

Title: Techniques of Listening and the Geosonic Imaginary

Keywords: acoustic ecology; sonification; earthquakes; media theory

Abstract: This paper proposes the concept of the “geosonic imaginary” to describe the configuration of listening, instruments and scientific knowledge by which we sense—and make sense of—the earth. There is a tradition in Western philosophy and the arts that imagines the earth in acoustic, indeed musical terms: from the Pythagorean “music of the spheres” to R. Murray Shafer’s notions of soundscape and acoustic ecology, listening has had the aesthetic potential to transform the earth into an acoustic object embedded in an ordered cosmos. By contrast, modern science and engineering use sonic techniques that “listen” to the earth for instrumental and exploitative purposes: military communications and the mining and petroleum industries, for example, render the earth as an acoustic object in order to control and exploit it. My paper explores the aesthetic and technical questions that arise along the fault lines of these ecological and instrumental techniques of earthly listening.

I will focus on Florian Dombois’ Earthquake Sounds Vol. 1 (1995), a sequence of sonifications of seismographic data gathered from Japanese earthquakes of the early 1990s. What does it mean to say we are “listening to” an earthquake and what are the (scientific and/or musical) instruments that makes this listening possible? What are the aesthetics of data sonification, and does sonification have a place in the soundscape? What role does the imagination play in scaling down immense geological phenomena to an audible format?

Josh Dittrich is a 3rd year PhD student in the joint program in Communication & Culture at York and Ryerson Universities in Toronto, Canada. His research takes a philosophical approach to questions of media, instrument and environment, with an emphasis on sound, listening and technology.


Name: Fazeli, Samani

Title: Listening in the tradition of Naqqāli

Keywords: Naqqāli, Naqqāl, Storytelling, Oral tradition, the Shahnameh, Rowzeh Khāni, Fazāel Khāni, Shi’ite epics

Abstract: In this paper, I want to discuss the significance and role of listening in Naqqāli tradition. Naqqāli is one of the most popular oral traditions in the history of Iran, since Pre-Islamic era up until now. In this tradition, a person tells a story for a group of audience usually melodically. People gather to listen to a story; a story they have heard several times. Yet, they laugh or cry with the very same story for many times. These stories might have been selected from different contexts. They could be merely for amusing people, at least at the surface, such as stories from the Shahnameh which was the most popular source of Naqqāli. Besides amusing people, Naqqāli might function religiously, as in Rowzeh Khāni and Fazāel Khāni, which try to induce sympathy with the difficulties in the lives of Shi’a Imams and religious heroes or to venerate them for their sacred actions.

However, it is hard to draw a clear border between these kinds of Naqqāli; as we can find noticeable notions of similarity, in different periods, between what is considered merely as a way of entertaining and what is clearly religious. Naqqāli in all its contexts always seeks for a single goal: to affect people- who are merely listeners. Their act of listening indeed is beyond what it seems. The survival of a tradition depends on the listeners. The listeners who recall what is vital in the tradition, while someone reminds them. The tradition of Naqqāli is the best way for reminding and recalling the essence of the tradition. This tradition could be, for instance, the story of Karbala or the death of Siāvash, a hero in the Shahnameh. However, these different contexts can be converted to each other and create a unique body in which the Shi’ite spirit incorporates the epic, heroic desires. The act of listening to storytellers is a collective ritual for restoration of the promise, to remind the whole tradition.

Graduate Student of Religious Studies, University of Colorado Boulder. Fazeli is a student of Aun Ali. M.A.: Iranian Studies, the department of Old Iranian Cultures and Languages and Iranian Studies, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.


Name(s): Ferguson, Brent (University of Kansas) and T.J. Laws-Nicola (Texas State University)

Title: Virtual Stops: The Pipe Organ in Japanese Video Games

Keywords: Video Games, Pipe Organ, Antagonism, Semiotics, Japan

Abstract: Multimedia works since the eighteenth-century opera have employed the pipe organ to evoke a range of indexical signs. In Western culture, we attribute various pipe organ timbres to the church, marriage, death, and antagonism. Western film and television draws on these representations, expounding on some and subverting others. Through globalization, these tropes have been transferred to non-Western cultures, but not necessarily with the same intertextual baggage. This research focuses on the adoption and transformation of the pipe organ in Japanese video games. Through a study of 30 games, this paper demonstrates how the pipe organ has come to represent antagonistic elements, including vampires, large-scale destruction, and the corrupt church. Given the Western origins of the instrument and its Western tonality, the pipe organ in Japanese culture acts as a signifier for a nationalistic view of the world from which the pipe organ came, the West. This antagonism toward the West often parallels the video game’s antagonist — the boss(es) — including the ancient vampire in Suikoden (1995), an evil mime in Final Fantasy VI (1994), or the church itself in Tales of Beseria (2016). However, xenoneutral yet equally destructive enemies such as the turtle Bowser from Super Mario 64 (1996) and the space alien Lavos in Chrono Trigger (1995) are accompanied by pipe organ themes as well.

Brent Ferguson is currently a graduate student in music theory at the University of Kansas, and T.J. Laws-Nicola is a graduate student in music history at Texas State University.


Name: Harper, Paula Claire

Title: Viral Musicking: Contagious Listening

Keywords: viral, social media, internet, media theory, musicking

Abstract: Cats at keyboards. Dancing hamsters. The Numa Numa song, a flashmob of Beethoven 9, and videos set to “Harlem Shake” and “Black Beatles.” All of these audiovisual objects are recognizable as “viral” phenomena—artifacts of the early twenty-first century whose production and dissemination were facilitated by the internet, proliferating social media platforms, and ubiquitous digital devices. In this paper, I argue that participation in such phenomena (producing, watching, listening to, circulating, or “sharing” such objects) has constituted a significant site of 21st-century musical practice: viral musicking, to borrow and adapt Christopher Small’s seminal 1998 coinage. While scholarship on viral media has tended to center on visual parameters, rendering such phenomena silent, the term “viral musicking” seeks to draw media theory metaphors of voice and listening (Crawford 2009, 2012; Bucher 2012) into dialogue with musicology, precisely at the intersection of audiovisual objects which are played, heard, listened to.

I track viral circulation as heterogeneous, capacious, and contradictory—a dynamic, relational assemblage of both “new” and “old” media and practices. Further, I seek to situate this variegated musicking within a tangled genealogy of virality. The notion of a virus as a metaphor for cultural spread is often credited to and traced through computer science and science fiction, and subsequently co-opted into marketing and media studies through popular-press works like Rushkoff’s 1994 Media Virus! However, the work of scholars such as Nelson (2002), Weheliye (2002), Browning (1998), and others offers an entwined alternate history, in which fears of cultural and biological “infection” concord with anxieties surrounding African diasporic circulation. Viral musicking activates the utopian promises of digital advocates, through the cooperative social operation of “sharing,” even as it resonates through histories and presents of racialization, miscegenation, appropriation, and the realities of porous, breachable borders, cultures, and bodies.

Paula Clare Harper is a PhD candidate in Historical Musicology at Columbia University. Her research focuses on issues of circulation, sharing, sociality and social media, fandom, gender, and representation; her work will be published in forthcoming issues of The Soundtrack and Popular Music & Society.


Name: Kass, Lily

Title: “A sound that shall deeply pierce the soul”: The sonic landscape of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, 1830-1850

Key Terms: historical soundscape; sound and surveillance; effects of silence

Abstract: The Eastern State Penitentiary, located in Philadelphia, was opened for use as a prison in 1829 and closed in 1971. As the world’s first true penitentiary, the institution has been studied from a variety of angles. In this paper, I examine the Eastern State Penitentiary in its earliest decades from a unique perspective: its sound. Listening to the Eastern State Penitentiary brings into perspective previously overlooked aspects of the prisoners’ experience at the institution and demonstrates new alignments between the goals of the penitentiary and its day-to-day functioning.

The penitentiary’s early practice of placing all inmates in solitary confinement has often misleadingly been referred to as the “Silent System.” Sounds were carefully controlled within the prison and channeled towards the primary goal of the institution, i.e. forcing the prisoners to experience true penitence. The sounds that were purposefully made audible to the inmates were meant to signal the purpose of their imprisonment. Looms clattered inside cells as inmates were made to weave cloth; alarm bells rang from the central tower, discouraging escape; and perhaps most importantly, the gate clanged shut, symbolizing the permanence of the inmates’ separation from the outside world.

Other sounds were harder to control, however. Despite the strict regulations surrounding communication between inmates, human voices were also heard in the penitentiary, raised in preaching, hushed in conversation and even lifted up in song. My paper also addresses the internal soundscapes of the inmates, shaped by silent reading practices and, in some cases, by hallucinations due lack of proper sensory stimulation. Although these soundscapes can only be imagined based on the testimony of inmates and visitors, I propose that the penal institution attempted to control these psychological spaces just as strictly as they did the prison’s external spaces.

Lily Kass received her PhD in Music History from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 and her AB in Literature from Harvard University in 2010. Lily is an independent scholar in Philadelphia who mainly studies issues of translation in both historical and contemporary opera performance.


Name: Kjar, David

Title: Boston Early Music Listeners as Co-Performers of Localized Global Difference


Abstract: Early music leaders often resurrect new “old” performance practices by disseminating a so-called authentic identity of difference, empowering them to engage in a dynamic two-way interaction with audiences. However, the role of audiences in the critical discourse on early music is almost non-extant. Inquiries about the movement as a sociocultural phenomenon—such as Shelemay’s ethnography on Boston early music performers, Shull’s study of Thomas Binkley, Taruskin’s performance critiques, and Butt’s Playing with History—focus mostly on professional performers’ styles and philosophies. Through my ethnography on Boston early music listeners, however, I identify an audience-based notion of sonic authenticity that enables a localized movement within a global context. Essentially, these listeners are co-performers of authentic local difference. Flagshipped by the Handel and Haydn Society, Boston Baroque, and The Early Music Festival, Boston’s global scene has flourished at more local levels, where up-and-coming ensembles cultivate devoted audiences and financial supporters. My fieldwork highlights these individual supporters who hear early music’s differentiated and differentiating sound as a locality, as a sense of place. Diehl’s assertion that “the global is, ultimately, experienced locally” is evident in my findings. One listener claimed, “the Boston early music scene is part of what I mean when I say my roots are in Boston, not somewhere else, yet I still feel part of Jordi Savall’s world.” Focusing on how individual listeners identify with early music’s otherness, this ethnography points toward a new sociocultural understanding of what it means to hear an authentic sound as a signifier of localized global difference.

Bio: Assistant Professor of Music History and Core Music Studies Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University


Name: Klett, Joseph, Chemical Heritage Foundation & UC-Santa Cruz                    

Title: Instrumentalities: How experts use instruments to organize sound in space

Keywords: bodies, ecology, instruments, perception, space


Abstract: In this paper I consider how experts use instruments to design relationships between experimental audio technology and the bodies of users. I use data from a laboratory ethnography to analyze how a group of experts construct relationships between objects and subjects. My subjects are R&D engineers at an audio technology firm working to develop immersive audio platform. These engineers work with theories and the experimental setting to produce data for modeling auditory effects. Data is not self- evident, but requires interpretation according to group norms. The meaning making process is in part ideological, reflecting design philosophies and aesthetic preferences; yet much of this process is presupposed in the laboratory instruments with which they work. The design of an instrument constrains what knowledge we can capture in using that instrument. The settings in which we use those instruments further situate what we learn from them. The practices that result, while contingent on the bodily requirements and motivations of the user, nevertheless develop from a series of decisions in the making of the instrument. In this sense, the motivations of the user are further constrained by the motivations of the maker by iterating the instrumental process as a user. Instruments thus provide a critical link between design and listening practices via laboratory culture.


Joseph Klett (PhD, Sociology, Yale University) is a research fellow at CHF and a visiting scholar in the Science & Justice Research Center at UC-Santa Cruz. His currently writing a book about the reproduction of auditory culture in audio engineering and public school music education.



Name: Köymen, Erol

Title: From coups that silence Ezan-s to Ezan-s that Silence Coups![1]

Keywords: affective listening, urban soundscape, nationalism, sonic resistance, Turkey Summer 2016 coup

Abstract: In the early morning hours after the July 15, 2016 Turkish military coup, Turkish President Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan Facetimed in to CNNTürk to issue an apparently desperate call for Turkish citizens to occupy city squares and “defend democracy.” Erdoğan’s call was loudly repeated by calls of Islamic recitation from muezzins synchronized nationwide via text message. Hearing these calls, thousands of Turks ventured out and collectively reclaimed urban streets and squares for Erdoğan’s government. In this paper, I ask how Islamic recitation forged Turkish citizens into a unisonous body that claimed and transformed secular urban spaces, initiating an epochal neo-Ottoman shift in Turkish politics. I explore this question via a hybrid virtual-physical ethnographic site derived from coup resistance, treating YouTube videos and contemporary Turkish media as both windows into on-the-ground resistance and sites at which Turks negotiate their political subjectivity. To unpack the role of sacred sound and affective embodiment in leading coup resistance and transforming space (Hirschkind 2006, Massey 2005, Thrift 2009), I employ Turino’s theories of Peircian semiotics and participatory music making. I argue that Islamic recitation-led resistance not only turns the tables on the repressive sonic regimes of Republican Turkey, but also challenges understanding of twenty-first century nationalisms rising in the twittersphere. In the early hours of July 16, 2016, Facetime and text message laid the foundations, but it was Islamic recitation resounding in streets and squares that forged citizens into a unisonous body capable of transforming secular urban space and the future of Turkish politics.

Erol Köymen is a PhD student in ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago, having recently completed a master’s in musicology at UT Austin. He is interested in sound studies, urban space, and nationalism, with a particular focus on the late Ottoman Empire and Turkey.  


Name: Kovanciny, Stephen

Title: Embodiment, Signification, and Resonance in Chabanon’s Musical Physiology

Keywords: epistemology, phenomenology, embodiment, resonance, sensation/sentiment, language, instrumentality, mind-body, physical/metaphysical, physiology, anatomy.

Abstract: In 1785, Michel-Paul Guy de Chabanon published his De la Musique considérée elle-même, an expansion of his 1779 treatise, the Observations sur la musique. Both versions consider music disencumbered from elements of mimesis, arguing for a true musical autonomy. In doing so, Chabanon elicits numerous Enlightenment arguments, such as the role of sensation in consciousness, the origin(s) of language, and music’s aesthetic function. His study enables him to create a new “metaphysics,” one that treats the listening subject’s hearing of musical objects in new ways. To perform such a feat, he borrows elements from Descartes’s mind-body dualism, Cordemoy’s atomistic occasionalism, and de Brosses’s theory of etymology, all of which entrain the physical before the cognitive. Chabanon’s premiere instrument of understanding is the body.

This paper examines Chabanon’s discussions of the body as machine (à la Descartes), as music (à la Rameau), and as instrument. I argue that the corporeal acts as part of a mediation between “sensation extérieur,” the physical act of listening, and “sentiment inné,” the metaphysical act of understanding. By distinguishing between sensation and sentiment, Chabanon actualizes an external and internal phenomenology best exemplified as a kind of conceptual instrumentality (but one that is nevertheless a product of the physiological and philosophical undercurrents and overtones of the time); only when one embodies musical sensation(s) through the instrument of the body can one represent associated musical sentiment(s) through the instrument of the mind.


Stephen M. Kovaciny is currently a doctoral candidate in music theory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying with Lee Blasius and Charlie Dill. His research interests and dissertation concern the aesthetics, philosophy, epistemologies of music (theory), phenomenology of sound, language, bodies, and issues of mediation in late eighteenth-century France.


Name: Maggart, Alison

Title: Traversing Time and Space through Music at the Integratron

Keywords: Materiality, embodiment, temporality, New Age, sound baths, meditation, ritual

Abstract: The Integratron is a large, white-domed structure located on the outskirts of Joshua Tree, California. Designed and built by the UFOlogist George van Tassel in 1953 upon instructions that he received from an alien encounter, the structure is renowned among New Age metaphysicians as an “acoustically perfect sound-chamber.” According to van Tassel, the Integratron was a time travel machine that could “recharge energy into living cell structure [and] bring about longer life with youthful energy.”

Since the early 2000s, the Integratron has been a pilgrimage site for New Agers interested in “sound bath” meditations: immersive sonic “healing sessions” during which an energy practitioner plays crystal quartz singing bowls in order to provide “deep relaxation, rejuvenation, and introspection.”3 In this paper, I examine the ideologies and metaphysics behind the Integratron’s musical culture from a musicological perspective. I am particularly interested in exploring how sound baths transparently engage and complicate relationships between music, materiality, embodiment, and temporality. For example, practitioners often legitimize sound bath meditation’s metaphysical dimensions (i.e., promises of time and space travel, out-of-body experiences, and healing powers) by emphasizing its foundations in material architectures. Pitches are correlated to chakras, and the Integratron’s geographical location—upon a purported geomagnetic vortex—and proximity to other topographical features, such as Giant Rock, are invoked to justify the Integratron’s energy potential. The ability of sound baths to induce time travel is also imputed onto the bowls’ circular geometry: clockwise rotations of the mallet along the edge of the bowl inspire divination of the future and counterclockwise rotations stimulate memories of past lives. Ultimately, I argue that the listening strategies encouraged by sound bath meditation encourage a particular orientation toward the world: one that is intense and deeply focused, gives license dreams, and encourages receptivity.       

Alison Maggart received her PhD in musicology from USC in 2017. Her dissertation reconsidered the aesthetics and reception of Babbitt in the 1980s. She is also interested in Chinese ritual shadow puppetry and aspiration in middle-class music-making in the South. She is currently researching sound bath cultures in Los Angeles.


Name: McCarthy, David
Title: Listening for Lachenmann’s GOT LOST (2008): What Calls for Hearing?

Keywords: Lachenmann, theories of the comic, hearing/listening, critical philosophy

Abstract: An essay by Lachenmann has been translated as “Hearing [Hören] is defenseless—without Listening [Hören]” (1985). However, the composer’s distinction between Hören and Hören belongs more to German critical philosophy than vocabulary and cannot be reduced to any opposition between hearing and listening. After the manner of Heidegger in Was heißt Denken? (1952), one could first ask, “What calls for hearing in Lachenmann’s evidently more profound second sense?”

New music for Lachenmann calls upon a listener’s capacity to hear not merely new forms but rather what can be called a “production of aspects.” Instead of predetermining a set of sound categories such as melody, harmony, and rhythm, the listener must hear a work’s events generating unforeseeable categories. For example, GOT LOST (2008) for voice and piano produces aspects in the form of correlated ranges: an ordered grouping of unvoiced “phonetic actions” (Lachenmann’s term); continua between high and low, bright and dark, sharply and softly articulated, and closed and open; and a complex continuity stretching across the composition’s twenty-eight minutes.

Just as these aspects make sense of incongruous events, so Lachenmann finds what he calls a “message of ridicolas” unifying three “only seemingly incompatible texts.” One of Nietzsche’s wanderers gives up on all pathways; Álvaro de Campos, one of Pessoa’s best-known heteronyms, meditates on the character of love letters; and an anonymous person circumlocutiosly requests the return of a laundry basket that “got lost.” Each text moves across an irreducible, contradictory terrain. Yet a remark by Pessoa in an essay entitled “Aspects” (ca. 1920s) provides a possible clue as to their unity: “What’s surprising is that there are things that don’t seem strange.” For GOT LOST, what calls for listening is the ridiculous, surprising, marvelous revelation of congruous incongruities unknown to any foreordained technique of listening.

David McCarthy served most recently as a Visiting Lecturer at Central Michigan University. His research on the mediations of audible/audile practice and ideology in contemporary society appears in The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media, and Twentieth Century Music.


Name: Medic, Katelyn

Title: Listen and Obey: The Voice in Worship for Twin Cities Evangelical Congregations

Keywords: voice, evangelical, worship, Twin Cities, & listening

Abstract: Human and divine voices take a leading role in Sunday worship. For example, a church greeter holds open the door, stating, “Welcome, welcome! We’re so glad you’re here with us today.” Later, a sanctuary filled with congregational voices are overpowered by amplified worship band voices all together singing praise songs. A pastor’s voice gives instruction to his listening congregants as he recites God’s printed voice in the Bible. In these situations, we hear voices greet one another with signs of peace, sing praise songs to God, lead listeners into prayer, and instruct congregants on biblical teachings.

In this paper I examine the way congregants in the Twin Cities hear the human voice as a divine mandate for evangelism and praise. I argue that these congregants strive through singing and preaching to exhibit a certain idealized sincerity as their model. I show how their aim is to cultivate an authentic voice that advertises an inclusive community while broadcasting congregations’ specific theological principles and values. To understand this cultivation, I examine the voice in sermon performances. For preaching, I analyze sermons performed during Sunday services to show how the preacher’s voice serves as an established authority over the congregation in church practices. Here we can better understand the relationship between qualities of a sincere preaching voice and its role in translating God’s authority to his obedient listeners.

Katelyn Medic is currently a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include intersections of and relationships between music, pop culture, and spiritual practices, sacred and secular theories, evangelical communities in the United States, critical whiteness studies, and gender and sexuality.


Name: Moon, Steven

Title: Listening Elsewhere: Enacting Affective Exodus in Gay Azerbaijan

Keywords:  Affect, phenomenology, orientation, acoustemology

Abstract: For young gay men living in Baku, Azerbaijan, a sense of being is continually constructed through the city, through sound, and through one another. Under a violently heteronormative state, and with social ostracization and physical violence a daily threat, these men look elsewhere in the world for sonic markers of their gay identity, for music with which they might closely identify. This paper focuses on three men who turn to American rap music, English-language pop music (broadly defined), and Italian pop music in order to sonically resituate themselves within the city of Baku. These intersections of identity—blackness, whiteness, gayness, nationality—are affective incorporated into the listeners’ body as technics for enacting a gay sonic agency.

In this paper, I propose the notion of affective exodus, or the purposeful recreation of particular affects and emotions in order to withdraw from pathological social conditions and to know the city differently. My interlocutors enact their affective exodus through directed listening practices. As these objects become ‘sticky’ with affect, to use Ahmed’s term, music becomes a tool for altering their sense of being-in-place. By altering their acousteme, these young men change how their bodies, their senses of self, are oriented towards others and their home. Building upon Feld’s acoustemology and Bull’s auditory nostalgia, I propose an affective-phenomenological approach to the study of listening so that we might understand not only how the ear itself is oriented, but also how the ear orients the listener towards objects, others, and the city.

Steven Moon is a third-year graduate student in ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh. Their work broadly focuses on the connection between listening and affective experience. These themes are taken up in their work on music consumption in Azerbaijan, as well as in the performance politics black American artists.  


Name: Munoz, Daniel

Title: A Community of Listeners: Listening Practices in the Los Angeles Experimental ‘Noise’ Scenes

Keywords: Musicology, ethnomusicology, listening, noise, sound, sound art, timbre, extrasonic, ontology, novelty.

Abstract: How does one listen to some of the most novel examples of experimental musics? My dissertation (May 2017) involved ethnographic work on the aesthetics of the experimental ‘noise’ music scenes in Los Angeles. My main thesis is that the ‘noise’ idiom is characterized by: 1) the prioritization of timbre over pitch, and 2) the tendency toward aperiodicity and ametricality. My research is based on traditional ethnography (participant observation and immersion in the ‘noise’ scenes), and interviews with twenty-three participants associated with three venues. In the last chapter, I devoted almost sixty pages to a subsection called “Listening Habits” where I evaluated and synthesized the testimony from the participants in my research.

I found that the listening techniques that most of the people I interviewed fell under one or more of the following four categories. They listened for 1) new sounds, 2) the induction of unique extrasonic experiences, 3) mastery and intentionality, and 4) the analysis of form.

I make two arguments for this proposal. First, that listening to new sounds means listening to new timbres. I define timbre as: 1) the simultaneity of frequencies, and 2) the morphology of sound. Secondly, that to listen to ‘noise’ formally, sounds having a particular character (timbre) can be used as signposts to measure temporal lengths from one event to another: timbral events articulate form.

Timbre is ontology. It is the ontology of sound, through its harmonic characteristics and its changes over time. Listening to timbre is not only an analysis of sound, it can teach us how we listen and what we value.

Daniel L Munoz recently finished the PhD program in cross-cultural musicology at UC Santa Cruz with his dissertation, “Los Angeles Noisescapes: Culture and Aesthetics in the Early Twenty-First Century Experimental ‘Noise’ Scenes.” His interests include aesthetic theory, music theory, music philosophy, sound art, music and identity, and urban ethnography.

Name: Nelson, Joseph

Title: Sound and Power in Early Modern England

Abstract: Sound was an important part of delineating boundaries between classes and the physical spaces they inhabited in seventeenth-century London. Bourgeois and aristocrats of the ownership class escaped neighborhoods of the working poor and professional classes, where streets rang with the noise of industrial labor and street markets. These well-to- do escapees of the urban environment lived at a time where the harmonia of the political state, with its rational divisions of classes and property rights, appeared in the musical conventions of learned or artful music of courtly entertainment, juxtaposed against the social disorder of street songs and rustic entertainments. This paper examines the politics of ‘rough music,’ a term used to describe a variety of musical styles associated with the rural and urban poor, music that would also be associated with the sonic landscape inside Bethlem asylum. It then explores how the boundaries between ‘rough’ and courtly music blur when one investigates the audiences that consumed these musics. By looking at these practices, we can better understand the ways courtly music replicated the same social and political order one sees in the planning and architecture of London after the Great Fire of 1666.

Joe Nelson is a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology with a Cultural Studies graduate minor at the University of Minnesota. He received his B.A. with a dual major in Music and Gender Studies from Lawrence University, a M.M. in Vocal Performance from the Chicago College of the Performing Arts, and a M.A. in Musicology from the University of Minnesota. His research interests include seventeenth- and eighteenth-century opera, early modern philosophy, the history of medicine, and modern Continental philosophy and critical theory. He has presented at several graduate student conferences such as the Newberry Library’s Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, and at the Midwest Chapter of the Society of Ethnomusicology. His dissertation explores the relationship between sound in the environment of madhouses in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century London, and musical representations of madness, focusing especially on madmen as symbolizing political and social disorder. Past projects have included research on the operas of George Frederic Handel, and issues of masculinity in gay pop music.


Name: Nightingale, Greg

Title: Field  Recordings,  Sonic  Information,  and  Sound  Libraries:   The  Importance  of  Original  Recordings,  Context,  and  Repatriation  

Keywords:   sound  libraries,  sound  archives,  field  recordings,  sonic  information

 Abstract: Grounded   in   the   importance   of   context,   this   study   puts   forth   several   novel   ways   of   considering  the  informational  properties  of  field  recordings,  particularly  as  holdings  in  sound   libraries  and  archives.  Understanding  the  contexts  behind  the  sounds  is  an  example  of  what   Scott   (2011)   calls   the   move   “from   sounding   to   listening”   (232).   Field   recordings,   which   bear   witness  to  specific  places  and  times,  comprise  three  main  categories,  based  on  subject  matter:   natural  sounds,  ethnographic  or  ethnomusicological,  and  other  anthropogenic  sounds.  Field   recordings   capture   sonic   information,   which   is   contextual   rather   than   textual.   Contextual   information  includes  factual,  social,  and  emotional  information.  Furthermore,  narratives  and   songs  contain  orally-‐based  information,  which  is  either  extended  or  replaced  by  the  process   of   field   recording.   Sound   libraries   and   archives   often   specialize   in   certain   categories   of   field   recordings,   although   there   is   no   major   institution   devoted   to   other   anthropogenic   sounds.   Through   a   close   examination   of   major   sound   libraries,   I   argue   that   Ranft’s   (2004)   ten   principles  of  an  institutionalized  natural  sound  archive  can  be  applied  to  other  types  of  sound   libraries   and   archives,   with   the   addition   of   three   principles:   original   recording   projects,   the   importance   of   context,   and   repatriation   to   source   communities.   Focusing   on   context   is   essential   for   sound   libraries   and   archives,   given   the   contextual   information   present   in   field   recordings.   I   demonstrate   that   context   can   be   enhanced   through   cataloguing   and   classification   efforts   related   to   accessibility,   metadata,   music   information   retrieval   (MIR)   principles,  the  cataloguing  of  oral  information,  extensive  descriptions,  and  organizing  archival   collections   based   on   source   communities.   I   conclude   with   three   commendations:   1)   Repatriation  efforts,  done  in  partnership  with  source  communities,  must  remain  a  priority  for   all   sound   libraries   and   archives.   2)   Natural   sound   libraries   offer   the   possibility   of   adding   an   environmental   context   to   the   information   contained   in   their   holdings.   3)   There   is   still   room   for   improvement   in   the   collection,   preservation,   and   provision   of   sound   library   services   related  to  field  recordings  of  other  anthropogenic  sounds,  which  have  a  growing  importance   in  sound  art  and  interdisciplinary  research.     


Biographical Information: Greg   Nightingale   is   a   former   public   librarian   and   current   doctoral   student   in   Library   and   Information   Science,   Faculty   of   Information   and   Media   Studies,   University   of   Western   Ontario.   His   research   interests   include   public   libraries,   library   as   place,   community-‐led   libraries,  anarchist  theory,  sound  libraries,  and  field  recordings.  


Name: Parks, Elizabeth S.                                 

Title: Constitutive Silence: Ethical Invitation to Dialogue across Difference

Keywords: Silence, Listening, Difference, Discourse Equipment

Abstract: Silences are not all the same. Although silence is sometimes colloquially conceptualized as a “nothing,” it still actively communicates (Beaulieu & Hoybye, 2011). Silences have been understood in a variety of ways, with semantic differences dependent on socio-cultural contexts (Jaworski, 1992). Although many studies of silence have ignored context, others have recognized that the performance and relative privileging of silence can lead to misinterpretation and miscommunication cross-culturally (Acheson, 2008; Molina-Markham, 2014). Silence, and listening in that silence, creates a space in which what is unspoken can emerge in dialogue and create new identities and worlds (Fiumara, 1990; Gammelgaard, 1998). Communication does not fill silence. Communication constitutes and is constituted by it. In other words, silence is a discursive act. It is not the absence of discourse.   

In this paper, I present a portion of my 2016-2017 dissertation research related to silence and ethical listening as investigated through dialogic philosophy, corpus linguistics, and value analysis of 11 intra- and inter-cultural video-recorded discourses (each 43-112 minutes long) of multiple communities of difference (including Asian, Caucasian, Deaf, First Nation, Latino, LGBTQ and Allies communities). Based on empirical and philosophical consideration, I propose that constitutive silence is the practice of selective invitation and active opening to co-created dialogue and the dialogic other. In contrast, silencing is a rejection and closing of that same dialogue and to objectifying another as noise. I challenge the idea that silence is complete absence and suggest that an ethical listener decides when and how to open space and invite dialogue through constitutive silence. I argue that ethical listening involves two types of positive discourse strategies: silence as sound absence and silence as encouraging response and show how these discursive performances are impacted by gender, ethnicity, and disability.

Elizabeth S. Parks is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Minnesota Duluth as of Autumn 2017. Her research explores themes related to language and discourse, diversity and difference, philosophical ethics, critical and cultural theory, deaf and disability studies, hybridity and listening.


Name: Rathi, Harshit

Title: Listening to laughter: If Someone Cracked a Joke in a Forest and a Kookaburra ‘laughed,’ is the Joke still Funny?

Keywords: laughter, the humanimal, philosophy, biosemiotics, voice, communication

Abstract: Whether understood as relief, superiority, or incongruence, laughter’s sonic dimension remains relatively undertheorized in favor of its social context or function and written representation. Sound studies has engaged the role of laughter by analyzing responses to recorded laugh tracks in televisual media. Laughter in such accounts sutures the gap between the individual viewer and a laughing collective, the organic and mechanical, the uncanny and heartening, the authentic and phony, the spontaneous and programmed. In this paper, I will explore further the sonic elements of human (and non-human) laughter and its relation to meaning and voice and offer some speculative hypotheses on sonorous laughter’s simultaneous universalizing and particularizing effects. Instead of a cognitive or formalist approach, I will utilize an anthropological sensibility to locate laughter in various soundscapes such as comedy clubs, roadside cafes, cinema theaters and so on.

Harshit Rathi is a PhD student in the department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. He holds a BA in Mathematics and Philosophy from Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. His research interests are in biocapitalism, the body, and postsecularism.


Name: Schwartz, Laura

Title: Listening as Skateboarding: Jennifer Walshe’s This is Why People O.D. On Pills/and Jump From the Golden Gate Bridge (2004)

Keywords: Jennifer Walshe, interiority, verbal notation, listening as memory, Deep Listening®, mediation, skateboarding

Abstract: From the 1990s to mid-2000s, verbal notation, a compositional technique relying on prose notation, was a tool used by composers for shifting the litmus test of interiority away from themselves and onto exteriorizers of interiority: performers. When performers became the main generators of interiority, listening practices that lingered from the eighteen and nineteenth century fractured. Also influenced by Pauline Olivero’s concept of Deep Listening® and meditation, this outward display of interiority formed a practice of performing listening that was embedded within the document of a verbally notated score.

In Jennifer Walshe’s This is Why People O.D. On Pills/and Jump From the Golden Gate Bridge (2004) this concept of listening is satirized and exemplified. In the piece, interior listening in an exterior manner is further complicated through displacement of the listed events in terms of time and memory. These listed events, such as learning to skateboard, require preparation long before the sounding event, the concert where performer skateboards through an imagined path, occurs. Using this score as a case-study and drawing analytical techniques from John Lely’s Word Events (2012), I assert that the exteriorization of interior listening, required to perform verbally notated scores becomes a representation of memories. The past is mediated through an imaginary skateboard.

Laura Schwartz is a composer and music theorist. She attended the University of California, Davis (B.A. 2013) and Illinois State University (M.M. 2015). Currently a PhD student in Music Composition and Theory at the University of Pittsburgh, Laura is interested in acoustic noise floors, verbal notation, and electric fans.


Name: Uetz, Andrin

Title: Listening in Place – Listening in Hong Kong: On the Challenges to Listen in a Hyperdense Urban Environment

Keywords: Soundscape | Immersion | Listening in | Ontology of Place

Abstract: While strolling through the busy markets, shopping malls, parks and streets of Hong Kong I asked myself the same question over and over again: Is there any uniqueness in the soundscape of Hong Kong or does megapolis in our globalised world sound similar everywhere?

To answer this question, I focus on different aspects that are more or less standard in soundscape studies, i.e. locating soundmarks, signals, and keynote sounds (cf. Schafer). I compare different places at different times. I concentrate on the correlation between urban density, vertical expansion and sound. I also consider local traditions, youth culture, business etiquette, daily routine. And honestly, I find both, uniqueness and similarities with other cities.

What concerns me though is the question, what it means to listen to urban sounds in Hong Kong? For most time of my research I listen to field recordings of Hong Kong in other places. I am listening to the soundscape of Hong Kong, but I am listening in my flat in Vienna. I am immersed (cf. Ingold, “Against Soundscape” 10) in the sound-space of Hong Kong—I am listening to binaural field recordings with headphones—but I also am lying on the couch enjoying a cup of coffee. There seems to be an ontological difference between listening in a place and listening to the sounds of a place, i.e. a sound-space (cf. Stokes 3).

In my paper I want to propose strategies to use listening in places as basis for musicological research. This will include a differentiation between listening and hearing (cf. Thompson), an epistemology of presence (cf. Taylor 3) and an anthropology of participation (cf. Ingold, “Making” 3).

Andrin Uetz studied musicology and philosophy at the University of Basel. He is working on a dissertation on the soundscape of Hong Kong. His research is part of the  SNF-project “Sound, Density and the Environment” under supervision of Prof. Dr. Britta Sweers (University of Berne).


Name: Wang, Yun Emily

Title: Shopping and chopping: diasporic intimacy through everyday embodied listening in Chinese Toronto

Key terms: Soundscape, space, walking, diasporic intimacy, embodied listening.

Abstract: In this paper I explore how sounds not explicitly musical contribute to the ways in which people organize movements and produce spaces in everyday life, a process through which important social relations are often transformed, contested, and maintained.

Specifically, I follow how certain “sonic niches” (Tausig 2013) inform two women’s footsteps across various diasporic spaces in Chinese Toronto. One of them is an elderly woman who survived the Great Leap Forward famine and Cultural Revolution, who rents a room in her family home to a 24-year-old inculcated in Post-socialist China’s reactionary material overabundance that characterizes her generation. Living together in a housing arrangement common to new immigrants of Toronto, these two women develop a fictive kinship through weekly shopping trips in a landmark Chinese-themed indoor mall. The variegated soundscapes— local radio stations faintly broadcasting against thuds from the butcher’s block— orient my interlocutors’ navigations through this commercial public space. Strolling, pacing, walking away or toward certain sounds, speedily or hesitantly, become ways to enact different historically conditioned habitus (Bourdieu 1984) of consumption, and negotiate with one another. Following the shopping, they routinely gather in the kitchen where the grandmotherly elder teaches the young the proper ways to chop, knead, and fry, regulating their bodily movements by listening to the rhythm of kitchen clamor. I situate my analyses of these movements and sonic-spatial practices in ethnomusicological works on music and space (Abe 2010, Born 2013, Stern 1997), sense of place (Feld 1982), the everyday life (DeNora 2010), and gesture (Hahn 2007, Rahaim 2012). In so doing, I hope to demonstrate ethnomusicology’s utility in elucidating how, through sonically-informed everyday movements—a form of listening— people may sustain diasporic intimacy across the different histories they have embodied.   

Yun Emily Wang is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation explores how sound and music mediate processes of everyday home-making in the Chinese diaspora vis-à-vis Canadian multiculturalism and local immigration histories.

AV: Projector and speakers to play slideshow and sound clips. VGA or HDMI.


Name:  Wermager, Sonja                            

Title: “I hear your message, but I have no faith:” Listening, Memory, and Crisis of Meaning in the Easter Cantata Scene of Goethe’s Faust I

Keywords: Goethe, Faust, music-text relationships, memory, listening, Augustine, Barthes


Abstract: Why is it possible to listen to music, be deeply moved or changed, but still miss the message? Is message or meaning separable from music? If so, what are the consequences? Goethe addresses the complex relationship between listening and interpretation in the Easter Cantata Scene of his Faust I, in which the eponymous character is deterred from self- destruction by the sounds of an angel choir on Easter morning. While scholarship on this critical scene has focused on its centrality for Faust’s development as a character, few scholars have paid attention to the crucial role that Faust’s act of (mis)listening to and interpreting music plays in his transformation.

An examination of the intersecting relationships among listening, sound, memory, and meaning by way of Goethe’s presentation of Faust’s experience opens illuminating ways of approaching the question of what it is to hear, listen, and be changed by listening.

Drawing on Roland Barthes’s three types of listening, —alerting, deciphering, and understanding (1985)— I argue that Faust’s approach towards listening in this key moment highlights Goethe’s identification of a crisis in the relationship among listener, music and text. Faust’s selective listening results in his hearing but not accepting the distinctly religious message of the music that saves him from suicide. Therefore, his technique of listening involves separating music from message. In order to emphasize the stakes of this act of separation, I also examine the Faust scene’s implicit conversation with St. Augustine’s meditation on the nature of music and text in the Confessions. Faust’s technique of listening transgresses Augustine’s carefully balanced hermeneutics of music and text, and his doing so reveals Goethe’s exploration of the fissures and tensions threatening this precarious bond.      


Sonja Wermager is a second-year doctoral student at Columbia University, where she researches the relationship between religion and music during times of religious upheaval and transformation, specifically the Reformation and nineteenth century. She holds degrees from the University of Birmingham (U.K) and St. Olaf College.



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