Spring 2012 Course Offerings

SHUM 4961 Musicology in the Flesh: Sound and Senses

(also MUS 4161, DANCE 4961, THETR 4961)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
N. Eidsheim
T 12:20 - 2:15

Although music consists of sound waves and appeals primarily to hearing, our full range of senses interacts and converges in intricate ways. When one sense is called upon, secondary senses are also activated, and each contributes to our compound experience of music. 

How do senses other than hearing act on our perceptions of the sonic components of music? How have the senses been prioritized differently at different historical moments, and how have those prioritizations affected notions of value in musical culture? How may the changing values that we assign to each of our senses shape our perceptions of music and the ways in which we are affected by it? How have questions about human sensory capacity been posed, as both enabling and limiting conditions, in relation to knowledge? What kinds of relative virtues have been ascribed to different senses with regard to various types of knowledge and experience? Do currently available analytical methods and theoretical frameworks adequately facilitate such inquiry? What may constitute a musicology in the flesh?

Nina Sun Eidsheim is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her teaching and research interests include avant-garde and popular vocal practices from the 1950s to the present, focusing on issues of vocal timbre, the relationship between the body and the voice, and sound in its material manifestations. She is currently producing both a monograph and a collaborative installation piece on the multi-sensorial experience of music. And as scholar and musician Eidsheim explores various music technologies.

SHUM 4962 Islamic Aural Cultures

(also GOVT 4565, NES 4962) 
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
J. Jouili
M 10:10 - 12:05 

The Islamic tradition, having placed from its inception heavy emphasis on the word and on listening to the word, is distinguished by a rich and ambiguous relation to aurality. The course will take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of this tradition that builds upon a strong theoretical framework. In the early weeks of the course we will discuss different philosophical approaches to the question of the senses and (recent) Western philosophy’s re-discovery of the auditory sense (Aristotle, David Howes, Veit Erlmann). We will also consider the relation between listening and power (Jean-Luc Nancy; Jacques Attali), especially in regard to modern secular sensibilities (Talal Asad, Eric Leigh Schmidt). The course will then examine the changing conceptions of listening in Islamic contexts from classical times to contemporary settings (Al-Ghazzali; Jean During; Martin Stokes). It will particularly look at how (Islamic) ethics of listening have been reconfigured through the introduction of modern media technologies (Walter Benjamin; Steven Connor; Jonathan Sterne; Charles Hirschkind), as well as through processes of commodification and influences of popular culture. In this context, we will also explore the quick proliferation of modernized popular Islamic music genres throughout Muslim communities worldwide. Finally, we will look at specific case studies from different regional settings that elucidate how Islamic soundscapes and forms of listening have come to be progressively addressed and refashioned by secular liberal governance, a process that has been exacerbated in the political context of the ongoing ‘War on Terror.’ In addition to the wide spectrum of theoretical and anthropological literature, the course will make use of various audio-visual materials. 

Jeanette S. Jouili just finished a post-doctoral research position at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research at Amsterdam University where she did research on the (pious) Islamic cultural and artistic scene in France and the UK.. In 2007, she received her PhD jointly from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris (France) and the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder (Germany). Jeanette has published in various journals includingFeminist ReviewSocial Anthropology, and Muslim World. She is also completing a book manuscript based on the material of her PhD dissertation provisionally titled “Pious Practice and Secular Constraints: Women in the Islamic Revival in France and Germany.” Jeanette’s research and teaching interests include Islam in Europe, Islamic revivalism, secularism, pluralism, popular culture, moral and aesthetic practices, and gender.

SHUM 4963 Sounding the Animal

(also COML 4117, ENGL 4963, VISST 4963) 
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
J. Skinner
R 10:10 - 12:05

In an age of mass extinction, the meanings of human being, cultural differences and the uses of technology meet in the question of the animal. How do nonhuman beings, both animal and nonorganic, fashion the human? In response to the disappearance, and the transformation, of nonhuman beings, how do human beings refashion animals? This seminar follows a postmodern current in animal studies, and in thinking about the “posthuman,” that assumes aesthetics offer a privileged realm for such questioning. What is it we value, and how do we listen for it?

We’ll begin with sound itself, reading books written to entrain our hearing: the chapter on Sounds in Walden, with Cavell’s read on Thoreau’s soundings; R. Murray Schafer’s classic study, The Soundscape; David Rothenberg’s history of bird song transcription; Pauline Oliveiros’s Deep Listening exercises; and Steven Feld’s ethnomusicology of “bird sound” culture, amidst the Bosavi Kaluli. We may look at the connection between bird song and lyric, with instances from medieval, modern and contemporary poetry.

Only from this basis of listening, can we open up more general questions about the animal. What are animals doing in our dreams? Can they be spiritual teachers? Is it their “bare life” that challenges our ethics? Must we train (and be trained by) animals, to know what they mean? Does language--which seems prior to our relationship to animals, a confounding afterthought, or both--get in the way, or can it open communication? Do “ambient” arts bode well or ill for our relation to animals? We’ll bring information from the emerging discipline of bioacoustics, and a focus on sound, to each question.

We’ll also consider some theories grouped recently as “posthuman” (Wolfe, What is Posthumanism?): Deleuze and Guattari’s mixology of becoming-animal, in all its problematic loudness, systems theory (Maturana and Varela, Luhmann), and a return to phenomenology, influenced by thinking about the multiple (Lingis). “What Is It Like to Be A Bat?” Thomas Nagel asks. The skeptic wants to know how sound persists, outside the history of human hearing. Is there an affective economy of sound beyond acoustics? What is the hauntology in our hearing of animals? Let’s bring a range of cultural perspectives to the discussion, including the perspectivism of animist ontology, where listening differently orients different humans, as outlined by anthropologist Viveiros de Castro. Throughout the seminar we’ll attend to how we sound the animal, to what Agamben calls “the practical and political mystery of separation,” in the very way we speak and the kinds of language we use.

In addition to work by authors mentioned, we’ll consider writings by Steve Baker, Jacques Derrida, Vicki Hearne, James Hillman, Timothy Morton, and a range of works in sound, visual and language art. (Bill Viola’s videos; Nina Katchadourian’s installations; digital creatures in popular culture; field recordings, acousmatic and soundscape compositions—by David Dunn, Luc Ferrari, Francisco Lopez, Pauline Oliveiros, Douglas Quinn, and Hildegard Westerkamp; a range of transcription practices in contemporary poetry, including “conceptual writing.”) There will be a field component, as we test our ideas in the soundscape, and we’ll take on a different Deep Listening exercise each week. 

Jonathan Skinner founded and edits the journal ecopoetics(www.ecopoetics.org), which features creative-critical intersections between writing and ecology. Skinner also writes ecocriticism on contemporary poetry and poetics: he has published essays on the poets Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Ronald Johnson, Bernadette Mayer, Lorine Niedecker, and Charles Olson; on Poetries of the Third Landscape, Documentary Poetics, and Poetry Animals; and an ethnographic study of the Tohono O’odham Mockingbird Speech. Skinner’s poetry collections include Birds of Tifft (BlazeVox, 2011), Warblers (Albion Books, 2010), With Naked Foot (Little Scratch Pad Press, 2009), and Political Cactus Poems (Palm Press, 2005). Skinner’s latest creative project is a book on the urban landscape designs of Frederick Law Olmsted. He teaches Environmental Studies at Bates College.


SHUM 4964 Signal to Noise: The Politics of Sound

(also AMST 4964, GOVT 4252)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
E. Lott
T 2:30 - 4:25

Who has the right at any given moment to legislate and regulate sound? How does sound produce space and intervene in the power relations that define it? How does it take up the everyday soundscape of its location—clipped speech, screeching industry, the sound of the street—and give it significant form? This seminar will serve as a sort of adjunct laboratory for my ongoing work on urban soundscapes. It comes in three parts. Part I (perhaps three or four sessions) will survey excerpts from some of the most provocative theoretical work on sound, soundscapes, and music’s relation to space, politics, and the body. Thinkers here include John Cage, Ralph Ellison, Amiri Baraka, Roland Barthes, Jacques Attali, Wayne Koestenbaum, Christopher Small, Suzanne Cusick, Douglas Kahn, and Fred Moten. Theoretical readings will be paired with apposite musical and sonic examples, from John Philip Sousa to punk.

Part II (perhaps three sessions) will delve into certain classics of popular music scholarship, grounding us even more in concrete examples and charting a genealogy of musical study. I have in mind such books as Charles Keil’s Urban Blues (1967), Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train (1975), Albert Murray’s Stomping the Blues (1976), Dick Hebdige’s Subculture (1979), and Tricia Rose’s Black Noise (1994). Listening to the music these writers study, we’ll test their claims, evaluate their methods, voices, and strategies, and think about their legacies and influence.

Part III, the longest section of the seminar, will focus on five cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New Orleans. (Other cities come immediately to mind as well, among them Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Memphis, and Austin, but life is short.) Each of these storied places has more than one cultural-historical narrative, to say the least—the whole point indeed being that these often bump up against one another—and for each place we’ll try to examine something of its politically overdetermined, multiply-ramifying cultural and musical history. New York, from 1940s bebop dissent to the “urban-crisis,” post-Robert Moses Bronx origins of rap, with the advent of punk in between; Chicago, urbanizer first of jazz in the 1920s and blues in the 1950s and 60s, then host of house in the 80s, all of it implicating various aspects of the Chicago School of Sociology’s urban visions, from Robert Park to William Julius Wilson; Los Angeles, racially segmented culture-industry capital, scene of Central Avenue sounds in the 1940s, pop manufacture in the 60s, the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter retreat in the 70s, punk renewal soon after, and a “Tijuana sound” both invented and imported; Atlanta and its environs, from its classic soul infusions to Athens-based indie efflorescence to Dirty-South rap takeover, all of it amounting to some vast allegory of the rise of the Sunbelt; and New Orleans, something of a bedrock, from the rise of jazz and second-line street marching to its post-Katrina status as what Dr. John calls the “lower 9/11.” The point of these inquiries will be to investigate the discontinuous, internally contradictory, oftentimes intra-combative relations of these musics; to learn something of the rich cultural history and social-sonic forces by which place gives rise to musical expression; and to think about mediation—just how it is one gets from spatial-political context to musical form and back again.

Eric Lott teaches American Studies at the University of Virginia. He has written and lectured widely on the politics of U.S. cultural history, and his work has appeared in a range of periodicals including The Village VoiceThe Nation, New York NewsdayThe Chronicle of Higher EducationTransitionSocial TextAfrican American ReviewPMLARepresentationsAmerican Literary History, and American Quarterly. He is the author of the award-winning Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (Oxford UP, 1993), from which Bob Dylan took the title for his 2001 album “Love and Theft.” Lott is also the author of The Disappearing Liberal Intellectual (Basic Books, 2006). He is currently finishing a study of race and culture in the twentieth century entitled Tangled Up in Blue: The Cultural Contradictions of American Racism.


SHUM 4965 The History of Pre-Industrial Noise in Europe, 1400-1800

(also HIST 4965)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.   
D. Corpis
T 10:10 - 12:05 

This seminar investigates the social and cultural meaning of “noise” early-modern Europe (1400-1800) in order to assess whether noise has a history. How did the meanings, perceptions, and effects of noise change over time, especially in a period that experienced major transformations in religious practices, scientific knowledge, urban life, political state formation, and Europe’s relationship to the rest of the world? Did such immense changes affect how Europeans listened to the world around them, or how and what they heard? How did early modern Europeans use noise as a way of assigning meanings, differences, distinctions, and hierarchies? What moral, aesthetic, and even political values were imposed upon sound and noise in early modernity? We begin with a series of readings that theorize the social, cultural, and political dimensions of sound and noise. Next, we turn to a series of specific case studies that explore how dissonance operated in historically specific cultural and social contexts. For example, in areas of religious pluralism after the Reformation, both Protestants and Catholics often expressed their competitiveness with one another by loudly ringing their church bells, singing their hymns, and publicly performing their own prayers. What one religious denomination heard as pious music, sounds, or speech acts, the rival religious community complained was nothing more than disturbing clamor. When Europeans encountered new peoples during their global projects of exploration and colonization, they frequently commented upon the dissonance they heard in the foreign languages and dialects, the music and feasts, as well as the market places and city streets they came across in their travels. As European cities became bigger and bigger, the racket of everyday life seems to have gotten greater and greater, or else city magistrates were instead becoming more and more sensitive to the commotion and disorder that filled their streets. Can we say whether cities became objectively louder? Or were the complaints of mayors and town councilors about noise more a product of changing political assumptions and principles? Some of the types of books we might read include the following, though this is not a definitive or finalized bibliography: Emily Cockayne, Hubbub: Filth, Noise, and Stench in England, 1600-1770; John M. Picker, Victorian Soundscapes; Mark Smith, Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting and Touching in History; Richard Cullen Rath, How Early American Sounded; Leigh Eric Schmidt’s Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment; Alain Corbain, Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the 19th-century Countryside; Brandon LaBelle, Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life; Veit Erlmann, Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening and Modernity; Garret Keizer, The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise; David Howes, Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory; Michael Bull, The Auditory Culture Reader; R. Murray Schafer, The Soundscape; Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music; Jean-Luc Nancy, Listening.

Duane Corpis is assistant professor in the Department of History at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. in Early Modern European History at New York University and is currently completing a book manuscript based on his dissertation titled “The Geographies of Conversion: Crossing the Boundaries of Belief in Southern Germany, 1648-1800.” His primary research interests focus on seventeenth- and eighteenth- century German social, cultural, and religious history. He has published several monographic essays exploring the spatial conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, as they fought over social and political spaces in the early-modern German city. One of Professor Corpis’ related and ongoing research topics includes the ways that early modern Catholics and Protestants used acoustic technologies (e.g., bells, music), non-discursive aural gestures (e.g., laughter, noise), and sonic modes of communication (e.g., sermons, songs) to define and transgress the boundaries of religious difference in their social and theological competition with one another. Upcoming projects will investigate the role of gender and sexuality in Catholic pilgrimages, the globalization of German Protestant charities through missionary networks in the Americas and South Asia, and the treatment of Ottoman prisoners of war held hostage in the Holy Roman Empire. He is also a contributing editor with the journal Radical History Review and has co-edited three thematic issues of RHR that examine the politics of religion, transnational social movements, and new approaches to world history.


SHUM 4966 Science, Technology and Medicine: The Sonic Dimension

(also MUS 4466, SOC 4970, STS 4966, BSOC 4966)
Spring.  4 credits.  
Limited to 15 students.  
T. Pinch
W 2:30 - 4:30

In this seminar we will discuss the different ways in which sound is embedded in the activities and practices of science, technology and medicine. We will look both contemporaneously and historically. The course will start off with general considerations such as the neglect of sound and the greater priority given to other senses. We will examine different approaches which try to draw attention to sound by historicizing listening practices and key technologies such as the phonograph and stethoscope which have revolutionized technical fields. Students will be expected to read classic pieces on the development of acoustics as a science by Helmholtz, as well as read about modern attempts at sonifcation (the sonic representation of scientific data). We will read a detailed ethnography of scientific lab which has attempted to delineate the role of sound in the everyday practice of science. We will look at how oceanography as a field uses sound and explore some of the gender politics around medical technologies such as ultrasound. We will examine how new media technologies of gaming and animation increasingly offer new sorts of immersive sound experiences. The overall goal of the course is to critically reflect on how sound offers a new way of understanding how humans, culture and society are entwined with and coproduced by science, technology and medicine. 

Trevor Pinch is Professor of Science and Technology Studies and Professor of Sociology at Cornell University. He holds degrees in physics and sociology. He has authored and co-authored eighteen books and numerous articles on aspects of the sociology of science, the sociology of technology, the sociology of economics and sound studies. His major studies have included quantum physics, solar neutrinos, parapsychology, health economics, market pitching, the bicycle, the car, the electronic music synthesizer, internet music, product reviews and most lately smart phones. He is a founding editor of the book series “Inside Technology” with MIT Press. His books include How Users Matter (edited with Nelly Oudshoorn, MIT Press, 2003), Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer (with Frank Trocco, Harvard University Press, 2002), Dr Golem: How To Think About Medicine (with Harry Collins, Chicago University Press, 2005) and Living in a Material World: Economic Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies (edited with Richard Swedberg, MIT Press, 2008). He is the editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies(with Karin Bijsterveld, Oxford university Press, 2011)  Analog Dayswas the winner of the 2003 silver award for popular culture “Book of the Year” of Foreword Magazine. The Golem: What You Should Know About Science (with Harry Collins, Cambridge: Canto 1998 2nd edition) was winner of the Robert Merton prize of the American Sociological Association. Trevor Pinch is also a performing musician and in December 2010 released a CD, “The Electric Golem," on the Ricochet Dream recording label. Trevor Pinch is currently the President Elect of the Society for Social Studies of Science.