Aurality: Musical Modes of Knowledge Inscription

Music and Culture Seminar organized by Barbara Titus Keywords: aurality, sound studies, epistemic privilege, musicking, postcolonial studies Programme: t.b.a.

In recent years, acquisitions and formations of knowledge and the dynamics of power that govern these formations are increasingly theorized through a renewed interest for the ear with physical, mechanical, organic, physiological, psychological and cognitive subject potential. Some even describe this recent orientation as an auditory turn in critical theory, observing an increased formalization of sound studies in the humanities (Ochoa Gautier 2014, 6).

A crucial potential for new insights into questions of culture, power and knowledge lies in observations that “sound rests at the in-between point of culture and nature” (Sterne quoted in Ochoa Gautier 2014, 21), and that “sounding and listening [are] a knowing-in-action” being “simultaneously social and material” (Feld 2015, 12). Such observations and claims foster critical thought about written and symbolic technologies of knowledge inscription that are privileged in global exchanges of academic knowledge and that sustain the fantasy of an autonomous and self-sufficient epistemic metropolis vis-à-vis dependent  or subservient epistemic frontiers. Yet, it is important not to regard the aural and acoustic as a constitutive Other of the visual and the written, since separating the aural from the visual has also been (and still is) a colonial strategy of othering, assigning the former to archaic, affective, polymorphous and embodied human agencies, and the latter to modern, rational, singular and discursive ones.

Thus, this seminar/workshop intends to engage with a wide range of modes of knowledge inscription and transmission through the employment of a variety of musicking acts (Small 1998, 9): we aim to voice a song or a praise or a judgement, we perform an argument or debate or encounter, we conceptualize a discourse, a movement, a process or gesture, we constitute synchronizations, disjunctions or confrontations, etc.. In doing so, the workshop intends to raise questions about technologies of transmission, dissemination and inscription of knowledge (sounds, imagery, speech, writing, performance, etc.) and the material on which they inscribe: memories, (human) bodies, paper, hard drives, or songs.

Pointing out the overlaps and intersections between various modes of knowledge inscription serves the larger aim of addressing and interrogating the differences in epistemic status attributed to musical and sonic expression and communication in various times and places. This ranges from music’s ambivalent epistemic status in many eurogenic traditions, being regarded as epistemically inferior to conceptual forms of knowledge acquisition, to its high epistemic status in traditions that are less reliant on the (written) word, being considered as a stable and culturally authoritative form of knowing.

Possible participants (unconfirmed): Citra Aryandari (Institut Seni Indonesia, Yogyakarta); Floris Schuiling (Utrecht University); Birgit Abels (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen); Juan Montoya Alzate (University of Amsterdam); Oliver Seibt (University of Amsterdam); Lila Ellen Gray (Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA); Rebekah Arendt (Utrecht University).

Published by  ASCA

5 July 2017