CHARLES HIRSCHKIND (UC BERKELEY) AND EMILY DOLAN (HARVARD)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Musical Guest: IE