"Current Topics In Music and Electricity" (PhD seminar, Fall 2018)
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MUS541 "Current Topics in Music and Electricity"
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Prof. Benjamin Tausig, Stony Brook University. Fall 2018.
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Course description
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This course examines electricity in relation to circuits of musical practice and musical thought. Adopting a broad historical and geographic vantage, we will consider how scientific knowledge about electricity has shaped sound and aurality, particularly from the 19th century forward, feeding into different musical discourses. Electricity is of course a charged topic; plugging in (in different places and at different moments) sparks complex discussions about modernity, progress, nature, and humanity. Our readings will span a breadth of electrical epistemologies and traditions, and we will read a combination of historical and ethnographic work, as well as primary sources.
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Students will read articles and/or books each week, and post about those readings on Blackboard. A substantial final project, three in-class presentations, and several shorter writings are also required.
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This course is for MA/PhD students primarily, though DMA students may enroll with instructor permission.Nigel Stanford, "Cymatics"
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Clara Rockmore
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a 🔥 track
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Week and themeReadings (+ other material)AssignmentsOptional additional readings
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Week 1 (8/30) - Introduction: How, Why, and When Electrification?- Jill Jonnes, Empires of Light (excerpt; in class) + Daniel R. Wilson, "Failed Histories of Electronic Music" (read before class) - James Kennaway, “Stimulating Music: The Pleasures and Dangers of “Electric Music,” 1750– 1900" (read before class) - Tara Rodgers, "Synthesis" (Keywords In Sound) (read in class)- David Nye, Electrifying America
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Week 2 (9/6) - Electricity in Media Studies and Informatics- Friedrich Kittler, "Gramophone" + Marie Thompson, "The Parasite and its Mileu" - Andrea Bohlman and Peter McMurray, “Rewind: Or, Rethinking the Phonographic Regime” + Ilana Gershon, "Media Ideologies: An Introduction"- Karin Bijsterveld, Mechanical Sound
MUSIC AND ELECTRICITY J. Murray Barbour Papers Read by Members of the American Musicological Society at the Annual Meeting (DEC. 29 and 30, 1937), pp. 3-10
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Week 3 (9/13) - The Anthropology (and Musicology) of Electricity- Akhil Gupta, "An Anthropology of Electricity from the Global South" + Alexander McCall Smith, "The Anthropology of Electricity" - Ronen Shamir, Current Flow: The Electrification of Palestine + J. Murray Barbour, "Music and Electricity" (from Papers Read by Members of the American Musicological Society at the Annual Meeting, 1937) - Tanja Winther, "Tentacles of Modernity: Why Electricity Needs Anthropology"
ENOUGH; 50 pages plus doc, unless we watch it in class? maybe one more article
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Week 4 (9/20) - The Electric Studio- Susan Schmidt-Horning "Introduction," "The Studio Electrifies" (Chasing Sound) + Soundbreaking, "Going Electric" (PBS; view at home)
- Jonathan Sterne, MP3: The Meaning of a Format
NEED SOMETHING HERE
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Week 5 (9/27) - Connections: Music, Electricity, Cinema, and War- Dave Tompkins, How to Wreck a Nice Beach (Book One) + Taylor, Katz, and Grajeda, Music, Sound, and Technology in America (230-300)Bring in (and give a 15-minute presentation about) a piece of music that comments upon electricity, either by design or incidentally
- Albert Glinsky, Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage
Laura guest?PLENTY
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Week 6 (10/4) - Radio (Guest visit by Skype?)- Daniel Fisher, "Radio" (Keywords in Sound) + Laura Kunreuther, "Diasporic Voices" (Voicing Subjects) - Theodor Adorno, "Currents in Music" + Debra Spitulnik Vidali, "Mobile Machines and Fluid Audiences: Rethinking Reception through Zambian Radio Culture"
ENOUGH, but WOULD BE A GOOD WEEK FOR A GUEST
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Week 7 (10/11) - Global Electric Modernities I- Amanda Weidman, "Guru and Gramophone" + Leo Coleman, A Moral Technology: Electrification as Political Ritual in New Delhi - Michael Denning, "Phonographing the Vernacular" (Noise Uprising)- Christopher Scales, Recording Culture: Powwow Music and the Aboriginal Recording Industry on the Northern PlainsNEED MORE
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Week 8 (10/18) - Electroacoustics- Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Women Composers and Music Technology in the United States: Crossing the Line + Roland Wittje Osiris, "The Electrical Imagination: Sound Analogies, Equivalent Circuits, and the Rise of Electroacoustics, 1863–1939"
NEED AN ADDITIONAL THING
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Week 9 (10/25) - Midterm presentations- Céline Frigau Manning, "Singer-Machines: Describing Italian Singers, 1800–1850" + Johann Wilhelm Ritter, On the Science and Art of Nature ("Appendix to the Fragments")Give a 10-minute presentation on a final project related to the course theme- Jacob Smith, Eco-Sonic MediaENOUGH
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Week 10 (11/1) - Global Electric Modernities II
- Kerim Yasar, How the Telephone, Phonograph, and Radio Shaped Modern Japan, 1868–1945
NEED MATERIALS
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Week 11 (11/8)NO CLASS MEETING Write a 5-page critical review on any one of the semester's "optional additional readings" (or another text, with approval)
- Elijah Wald, Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties
NEED SOME ASSIGNMENT HERE
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Week 12 (11/15) - Electricity and Development (Global Electric Modernities III)- Craig Lockard, Dance of Life (excerpts) + Sujit Wongthet, "Second Nature"
Dissertation on electrification: https://www.mcgill.ca/music/farley-miller
Guest speaker?
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Week 13 (11/29) - Microphones and Loudspeakers- Cathy van Eck, Between Air and Electricity: Microphones and Loudspeakers as Musical Instruments + Brian Larkin, "The Mediality of Loudspeakers In Nigeria"should be fine
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Week 14 (12/6) - Final presentationsNo required readingGive a 20-minute presentation (conference paper format) on the topic of your final paper
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12/12 - Final papers due
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General history/further reading:
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Networks of Power https://www.amazon.com/Networks-Power-Electrification-1880-1930-Softshell/dp/0801846145
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Cutting room floor
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Steege: https://www.amazon.com/Helmholtz-Modern-Listener-Benjamin-Steege/dp/1107015170
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https://www.amazon.com/Mediamorphosis-Understanding-Journalism-Communication-Century/dp/0803990863
maybe too simple
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intersections between the technical and the cultural
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Electricity /= electronics
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Electrification is a contingent, local process
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Musical electrification is always more than the sum of its parts
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Electricity is more than an empowering; it's also a transformation
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Kittler; why don't things that are possible emerge earlier? electricity has always been around; moreover, electrification doesn't happen at the same time everywhere
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Walt Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric"
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https://www.musicologie.org/16/electric_music.htmlConference
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Key words:
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Modernityhow do electricity and electrification square with these terms? what epistemological variations exist, and how do we think electricity philosophically?
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Nature
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Circulation
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Reproduction
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