María Edurne Zuazu


María Edurne Zuazu works in music, sound, and media studies, and researches the intersections of material culture and sonic practices in relation to questions of cultural memory, social and environmental justice, and the production of knowledge in the West during the 20th and 21st centuries. María has presented on topics ranging from sound and multimedia art and obsolete musical instruments, to aircraft sound and popular music. Her essays on telenovela, militarized uses of sound, music and historical memory, and music videos have appeared in Latin American Music Review, Women & Music, and edited volumes about Spanish popular music and new audiovisual media. She received her undergraduate degree from the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, Barcelona, and her PhD in Music from The Graduate Center, The City University of New York, where she also completed the Film Studies Certificate Program. María has been the recipient of Fulbright and Fundación La Caixa fellowships.

Research Focus

Ruin Sound

As a Society Fellow at Cornell University, I will develop Ruin Sound, a book project that expands on my dissertation. Ruin Sound will address sonic memorials, remains, artworks, technologies, weaponized uses of sound, examining the work that music and sound perform as mnemonics, as artifacts, and as anticipations of events in settings of modern ruination. I focus on intersections between material and auditory cultures in the context of media practices and ecologies of power in the West during the early 21st century. By modern ruination I refer to spectacular processes of material and social destruction, such as climate disasters (e.g., hurricanes) and acts of violence recognized as such (e.g., police brutality), as well as to insidious processes seamlessly integrated in infrastructures and social dynamics (e.g., the inclusion/exclusion of specific groups in the very making of auditory environments of privilege and decay, the distribution of waste). These processes take place in the present and through forms that my study shows to be characteristic of salient contemporary trends (e.g., neoliberal disinvestments, securitization, newly-developed audio technologies of targeting and discriminating), and produce ruins that are both “modern” and unfinished, wherein modern also signals the different cultural values and positions these are assigned—often by neglect or erasure—with respect to ancient ruins. While current, these forms of ruination are neither new in the techno-social quests (e.g., control of the propagation of sound) nor in the broader political projects (e.g., biologized state racism) that animate and enable them. Indeed, the sympathetic manifestation of such processes tends to be that of nostalgic turns to the stability of “better,” white, and Western times.

Some of the questions that animate my project are: In what ways and to what extent does sound put us in touch with or make the past present? What are the slippages between the materiality of sound as evidence (e.g., making audible a material state) and as affecting (e.g., unleashing pathemic responses)? What are the social choreographies visitors enter and/or fail to listen to whenever enthralled in sonic memorials largely exclusive to the white and privileged? What are broken instruments for? What traces do weaponized sounds leave? What understandings of and sensibilities toward the tangibilities of the present do these sonic practices and artifacts advance?