Panel #1: Sonic Placemaking
Panel #2: Lost and Found in the Urban Sound Maze: Improvisers on the Work-Place Continuum (Panel)
Panel #3: Technology
Henry Spiller (Professor and Chair, UC Davis): Sundanese Bamboo Music and the Landscape of West Java
Riding the train from Central to West Java in Indonesia dramatizes the different ecologies that nurtured the cultures of the Javanese and Sundanese (the island’s two dominant ethnic groups): as the train chugs westward, Central Java’s flat expanses of rice fields give way to expanses of dramatic mountainous scenery, with magnificent stands of bamboo. This paper explores indigenous Sundanese bamboo technology’s fundamental role in the aesthetics of Sundanese music, especially in contrast to the non-egalitarian, hierarchical social values promoted by imported bronze music.
The Sundanese proverb, “lir awi sumear di pasir” (“like bamboo murmuring on the hill”), locates basic Sundanese values—mutual cooperation, acting in harmony, and recognition of individual talents—in both the visual and audible artifacts of the bamboo that characterizes the landscape. The musical processes associated with bamboo’s inherent sonic tendencies, including short ostinatos, interlocking parts, fluid melodies, and aspects of timbre and tuning, persist in Sundanese music, including that played on Sundanized gamelan ensembles (gamelan salendro and degung) and even on westernized diatonic angklung ensembles.
These musical aesthetics are rooted in a connection to the unique environment of highland West Java as created and epitomized by bamboo. This long-standing relationship also illuminates the proliferation of bamboo music revivals in and around the West Javanese capital, Bandung, since the end of the Suharto era in 1998; no longer bound by rigid imported notions of modernity, and eager to invigorate local values, residents have turned once again to bamboo, which has long symbolized and sustained uniquely Sundanese identities.
About Henry: Henry Spiller’s research focuses on Sundanese music and dance from West Java, Indonesia and gender and sexuality issues in the performing arts. His books include Javaphilia: American Love Affairs with Javanese Music and Dance (Hawai`i 2015), Erotic Triangles: Sundanese Dance and Masculinity (Chicago 2010), and Focus: Gamelan Music of Indonesia (Routledge, 2008). He also performs as a musician with a variety of gamelan groups in Northern California. He has taught at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Kenyon College, and currently is Chair and Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis.
Sabine Feisst (Professor, Arizona State University): Sonic Placemaking in the American Southwest: The Listen Project
Sound gives life to our environment. Sound heightens our experience of place. Initiated in 2013 by composer Garth Paine, the Listenn project capitalizes on the power and beauty of environmental sound in the American Southwest. As indicated by its title and superscript n, the project explores multiple (including new) ways of listening. It promotes listening in a multiplicity of physical and virtual locations. It is collaborative and interdisciplinary, combining research, technological innovation, the creation of new music and community engagement.
This presentation provides insight into Listenn’s fieldwork undertaken in 2014 and 2015 in Joshua Tree, Sequoia & Kings Canyon and Organ Pipe Cactus National Parks and the Mojave Desert Preserve to create, with ambisonic audio recording technology, the largest online database of geo-located and geo-tagged field recordings of Southwestern landscapes in the US. Light is shed on the series of compositions crafted from these recordings, including Becoming Desert by Paine and Contested Landscapes by Douglas Quin (both 2014). Attention is also drawn to workshops for communities near the parks and to the pairing of desert sounds with 360-degree panoramas of the sounds’ place for display on the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headset (EcoRift) to offer distant communities experiences of being remotely present in a landscape.
Listenn builds on acoustic ecology-based research and music and various sound mapping projects (Biosphere Soundscapes, Nature Sound Map, Living Symphonies, and Canada’s 2011 National Parks Project), but it is unique in its scope, extended time span, multi-platform design and engagement of local and global communities.
About Sabine: Sabine Feisst is Professor of Music and Senior Sustainability Scholar at Arizona State University. Focusing on twentieth and twenty-first century music studies, she published the monographs Ideas of Improvisation in New Music (1997) and Schoenberg’s New World: The American Years (Oxford University Press, 2011) which won the Society for American Music’s Lowens Book Award. She is currently editing the Oxford Handbook of Ecomusicology. With Denise Von Glahn, she is editing the book series Music, Nature, Place for Indiana University Press. With Garth Paine, Leah Barclay, and Daniel Gilfillan, she is working on the large-scale Listen(n) Project devoted to acoustic ecology.
Jada Watson (Undergraduate Research Coordinator, U. of Ottawa): If They Blow a Hold in the Backbone: Sarah Hamer’s Campaign to Protect the Niagara Escarpment
In her 2005 “Escarpment Blues,” Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer questioned the fate of her native Mount Nemo family home at the prospect of a quarry development project blasting through what she calls the “backbone” of the Niagara Escarpment region. Profits from the single’s sales were given to the Protecting Escarpment Rural Land conservation group that she co-founded to protect the region. The song also became the centerpiece of the Escarpment Blues—a film documenting her “I Love the Escarpment” tour along Bruce Trail, in which Harmer and her band performed in community halls and theatres. After eight years of active campaigning, the local and provincial government rejected the application for a below-water-table quarry in the region.
Ecomusicology offers a critical framework for interrogating the role that Harmer’s music and tour played in the fight to protect Mount Nemo from development. Although there is a tendency to approach such narratives through an apocalyptic lens, ecomusicology (Guy 2009; Rehding 2011; Stimeling 2012) encourages audiences to reconsider the ways in which music envoices the environment and engages local communities to participate in public debate. Indeed, while Harmer’s mission emerged from a sense of political urgency to protect her homeland, her discourse takes a more romantic line, invoking a sense of nostalgia for the landscape of her youth. Drawing on a close reading of “Escarpment Blues,” and performances, interviews and speeches in the tour documentary, this study considers the ways in which Harmer deploys nostalgia lyrically, musically and visually in her campaign against the destruction of her Escarpment home.
About Jada: Jada Watson is a sessional lecturer at the University of Ottawa, where she is also the Undergraduate Research Coordinator. She holds a Master of Information Studies from the University of Ottawa and a PhD Musicology from Université Laval. Her research interests include issues of geography, environment, politics, gender and identity in country music. Her work on the Dixie Chicks appears in the Journal of the Society for American Music, Popular Music and Music, Sound and the Moving Image and has forthcoming articles in the American Music, The Cambridge Companion to the Singer-Songwriter and the Oxford Handbook of Country Music.
10:50am: Panel #2: Lost and Found in the Urban Sound Maze: Improvisers on the Work-Place Continuum (Panel)
About the Panel: Recent political debates over labor, migration, and economic disparity have brought to the fore the ways in which urban environments resonate drastic societal changes. Studies of labor in neoliberal economies have emphasized the growing importance of affective labor in urban art worlds, while sound scholars and urban designers have urged ethnographers to pay close attention to the ways sonic environments construct and reflect social relationships. This panel draw on these discourses to frame ethnographic case studies of sonic improvisers in New York City. The first paper is a study of how the production of not-for-profit live jazz performances in Harlem entails the live sound engineering and amplification of cultural repatriation amid the changing urban soundscape of gentrified Harlem. The second considers how affective labors frame the ways improvisers composers respond to increasing competition over urban spaces by examining the motivations and ideologies that facilitate the construction of performance spaces in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The third paper draws on ethnographic performances at Terraza 7, a music venue in Jackson Heights, Queens, to examine how instrumental, compositional and improvisational practices allow immigrant jazz musicians to construct social spaces that transcend ethnic boundaries. The final presentation discusses labor and mobility in Roscoe Mitchell’s improvised percussion piece The Maze (1978), analyzing the meticulous construction and performance of varied instrumental pathways in this composition. This panel will promote a timely discussion of an often neglected aspect in music discourse, namely, the influence of social and economic boundaries on the construction of urban soundscapes.
Whitney Slaten (Columbia University): Amplifying Jazz as Cultural Repatriation in Harlem: Jazzmobile and the Urban Soundscape
Harlem serves as a global headquarters for historical and current black cultural production. Along with literary, political, architectural, culinary, and religious cultural phenomena, scholars have situated jazz as central in the historical and current urban soundscape of this cultural mecca. While the black majority of Harlem disperses, and so called gentrifying populations grow, Harlem remains a center for jazz production and expression in the global imagination. This paper addresses the sound engineering of expressive culture in Harlem’s changing milieu, namely the role of live, amplified, outdoor jazz performances. In response to the increasing inaccessibility of jazz performances in Harlem, Dr. Billy Taylor founded Jazzmobile in 1964, a not-for-profit arts organization that presents free, professional, live jazz concerts in order to bring jazz “back to Harlem.” Jazzmobile audience regulars include the faithful who have consistently attended the concerts for fifty years, and African American baby boomers who no longer live in Harlem, but attended Jazzmobile concerts as children and return to their home neighborhoods to hear concerts. Amidst the rampant relocation of the audience members and changes to Harlem’s outdoor civic spaces, I argue that the current Jazzmobile audience continues to listen for cultural repatriations of professional jazz performances at Grant’s Tomb, city parks, and block parties. This research intersects Steven Feld’s acoustemology, John Jackson’s work on racial sincerity and the politics of cultural repatriation by Aaron Fox. Drawing from sound studies and ethnographic fieldwork, this paper reconsiders Jazzmobile concerts as acts of repatriation through the social construction of an urban soundscape.
About Whitney: Whitney Slaten is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology at Columbia University. His forthcoming dissertation Doing Sound: An Ethnography of Fidelity, Temporality and Labor among Live Sound Engineers examines the relationships between technological and social examples of fidelity within the context of professional live sound reinforcement engineering. His publications appear in Souls, Current Musicology, and Ethnomusicology Review. He has designed and taught courses about sound at Columbia and The New School and he regularly presents his research at national and international conferences. Slaten’s research has been a part of his work as a live sound reinforcement and recording engineer.
Amanda Scherbenske (Montclair State University): Labors of Immateriality and Solidarity in New York Experimental Music Venues
In New York City, space is increasingly contested between the state, real estate market, local residents and artistic subcultures. Music scholars have suggested that for new music, the current critical impasse is attributable to the production and preservation of institutions and spaces harboring experimental and improvised musics. The anxiety for these authors is largely material. Michael Hardt, on the other hand, has argued for the import of immaterial labor in a postmodern cultural economy. My field work on overlapping improvised, new music and experimental music scenes in New York City has shown that improviser-composers express concern over spaces as it relates to artistic practice, leading some artists to take matters into their own hands, initiating and operating performance, teaching and rehearsal spaces, as well as curating series and house concerts. In this paper I reassess what music scholars have deemed a current “crisis” in new music, an anxiety over space, to encompass more than disputes over the physical. I argue that musician-cum-venue proprietors harness collective and personal labor in the production of affects for reasons beyond economic expediency. They employ such strategies to make places commensurate with a web of ethic, aesthetic and economy predicated on distinction and to nurture an imagined authenticity of self, and in tandem, of place—motivations that are central to the construction and conservation of such limited-budget, musician-run venues in New York.
About Amanda: Amanda L. Scherbenske, PhD (Wesleyan University) is an ethnomusicologist whose research spans American and East European Jewish musics, with theoretical interests in musical multiplicity, space and place, affective labor and genre construction. Her work has been published in Ethnomusicology, Yearbook for Traditional Music, American Music Review, and MUSICultures, among others. Her current book project, Sounds Like Post-Genre: New York Improviser-Composers and the Politics of Multiplicity, is an ethnographic study of contemporary avant-garde, jazz and experimental musicians who perform across a variety of overlapping scenes and art worlds. She currently teaches at The New School and Montclair State University.
Ofer Gazit (University of California, Berkeley): Jazz, Terraza 7, and Immigrant Folk in Jackson Heights, Queens
This paper examines the ways jazz improvisation constructs immigrant social spaces in Queens, New York. Studies in cultural geography have identified the ways jazz scenes and styles are associated with particular urban spaces, such Harlem in 1930s, 52nd street in the 1950s, and the Lower East Side in the 1980s. In ethnomusicology, studies of immigrant communities have emphasized the ways particular musical practices can delineate immigrant social spaces within a multicultural city like New York. The important ground these works cover does include immigrant jazz spaces, and the ways in which immigrants use jazz to form musical interactions across immigrant communities in the city. Drawing on ethnographic observations gathered as a performing bass player as well as interviews with musicians, community organizers, and venue proprietors, I map and analyze the musical and social contexts in which musicians create immigrant jazz spaces in Queens, New York. I argue that immigrant musicians develop specific musical, discursive and visual strategies to construct, perform and transform public spaces, jazz venues and ethnic institutions into immigrant jazz spaces. Moreover, I follow Nina Glick Schiller in arguing for a methodological move away from the ethnic construction of migrant music and towards locality based studies that are open to a wider range of immigrant interaction and socialization.
About Ofer: Ofer Gazit is a PhD candidate in Music (ethnomusicology) at the University of California, Berkeley. He holds an M.A in Musicology from Tel Aviv University (2010). His dissertation, “Sounds Like Home: Immigrant Musicians on the New York Jazz Scene,” is an ethnographic and historical investigation of the sonic, social and political incorporation of immigrant musicians in New York from 1917 to the present. His research has been supported by several grants, including a Fulbright Dissertation Fellowship and a Diller Family dissertation award. His article “Sound at First Sight: Jam sessions and immigrants in Brooklyn, New York” has recently been published in Jazz Perspective (2016).
Respondent: Matthew Goodheart (Columbia University)
About Matthew: Matthew Goodheart began his career as a free-jazz pianist in the Bay Area. Initially recognized for his work with artists Wadada Leo Smith, Glenn Spearman, Fred Frith, Vladimir Tarasov, and Cecil Taylor, his focus on instrumental acoustics, technology, and the physicality of performance has led to diverse body of work ranging from large-scale microtonal compositions to immersive sound installations. His work has been featured throughout North America and Europe, while awards include a Fulbright Grant and the 2014 Berlin Prize. He holds a Ph.D. in Music from UC Berkeley, and is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University.
Ray Lustig (Freelance Composer): Latency Canons: Challenges as Inspiration in Remote Internet Musical Connection (lecture-rectial)
With the internet an inevitably more common space for music making, new challenges, both technical and philosophical, are created: how to deal with the inescapable time lags, how ensemble is affected when musicians are no longer together in the same room, whether the idea of playing over the internet is a threat to the very essence of music-making. From a creative point of view, challenges often make the best starting points, and the response need not be an attempt to overcome them but rather to work them in, or better, to make them the expressive centerpiece. A recent work, Latency Canons, refers to this idea—the “latency” (signal delay) is used as the time-delay interval of canons, bridging an ancient technique with the media of our time. In the piece, musicians in different places play simple lines together using ordinary video-conferencing software, and the random blips freezes, and delays themselves create a counterpoint of unexpected relationships.
Along with works by Oliveros, Graham, and others, Latency Canons takes on the questions of how we make music together today, how that is changing, and what this will it mean for musical experiences. Is there a new avenue here for cross-cultural music-making? Do resource limitations risk leaving some out of this conversation?
About Raymond: Raymond J. Lustig’s music has been hailed as “entrancing…surreally beautiful…ecstatic… [and] rapturous” by the New York Times. A recipient of ASCAP’s Rudolph Nissim Prize, the Aaron Copland Award from Copland House, and the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he has had commissions, residencies, performances, and support from American Composers Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony, Juilliard Symphony, The Academy, Town Hall Seattle, Bowling Green Philharmonia, Metropolis Ensemble, tenor Nicholas Phan, cellist Joshua Roman, American Opera Projects, the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, Imagine Science Film Festival, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Copland House, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, New Juilliard Ensemble, Da Capo Chamber Players, and New Music USA. Also a published researcher in molecular biology, Lustig is deeply inspired by science, nature, the mind, and how we interact with our technology. He completed his DMA at The Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano, Robert Beaser, and Samuel Adler. He lives in New York and teaches at The Juilliard School.
Aaron Pettigrew (University of British Columbia): “Interrogating Displacement and Musical Change in Southwestern Timor-Leste”
In summer 2015 I was part of a three-person research team that traveled to Suai- Camenaça in southwestern Timor-Leste to study traditional music in four village communities. Our research found that much of the music in these communities is strongly connected to places and activities of communal work and ritual: farmers sing together in their fields, calling the wind to help with the harvest; community members sing together as they tie palm leaves for the roof of a neighbour’s house; elders gather at funerals, sitting outside the door of a family home and singing together until sunrise.
Construction has recently intensified on the south coast of Timor-Leste, with massive petroleum infrastructure developments encroaching on these historically embattled communities, redrawing borders and displacing many people from their homes and traditional territories. As people are increasingly being dislocated from their important ritual sites, daily life is changing dramatically and a multitude of longstanding cultural and musical practices is coming under threat.
In this paper I will investigate various relationships between music and place in Suai-Camenaça. I will outline the ways that many of the traditional musical genres we encountered are connected to (and enabled by) specific physical environments, and I will examine how dislocation from these environments may be contributing to significant and rapid changes in musical practice in the region. I will situate this investigation in a broader critical discourse on petroleum development and coastal states, and I will conclude with some thoughts about the relationships between cultural and environmental sustainability.
About Aaron: Aaron Pettigrew is a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His research focuses on documenting the musical heritage of various ethnolinguistic groups in Timor-Leste. In summer 2015 he spent three months working with Dr. Philip Yampolsky to research and record traditional musical practices among Tetun and Bunaq speakers in the southwest of the country.
Nick Bazzano (New York University): On Holding On-Hold: Speculative Tactics toward an Accelerationist Listening Practice
In sono-speculative hopes of inhabiting, enduring, and accelerating them, this paper seeks to plumb the affective and aesthetic tools and tactics of one of sonic capitalism’s most ubiquitous sonic non-places: on-hold music. A recent proliferation of research at the intersection of sound studies and affect theory interrogates modes through which contemporary neoliberal capitalism deploys sound as a means of control, through the creation and modulation of sound affects at the collective, globalizing, increasingly ubiquitous level of the social, of attunement and mood (cf. Flatley 2008; Goodman 2012; Kassabian 2013). Often barely considered or heard as music at all, on-hold music is held in durational suspension between background and foreground, between comforting and annoying, between holding on and hanging up. What happens when modes of listeningto- and-in on-hold music are mutated to reveal and critique its aesthetic techniques, political resonances, and performative potentialities? With an ear toward recent theories of accelerationism (cf. Noys 2014; Mackay and Avanessian 2014; Shaviro 2015), this paper explores a bizarre case of retooling “on-hold” both as a musical aesthetic and a mode of ubiquitous listening: the recently-reported case of Dick Corbett, a man who “fell in love” with what he obsessively came to learn was “Opus #1,” perhaps the most pervasive song of global telecom’s on-hold repertoire as the system-standard holding music for all Cisco corporate phone systems. Might Dick’s holding, holding on, and holding out, actually hold the keys to feeling and listening beyond the logistical hold of capitalism’s relentless and ubiquitous sonic-affective entrainment tactics.
About Nick: Nick Bazzano is a Ph.D. candidate in Performance Studies at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, where he’s currently writing a dissertation on sonic capitalism and performances of accelerationist aesthetics in contemporary electronic music. Additionally, he serves as an Assistant Editor and former Co-Managing Editor for TDR: The Drama Review. His work has been published in Women & Performance, e-flux conversations, and THUMP (Vice Magazine), along with various zines and liner notes. Nick also moonlights as a techno DJ and free jazz musician based in Bushwick/Ridgewood, New York.
Michael Gardiner (University of Mississippi): Synthetic Climates and the (re)Presentation of Japanese Ecology
In this paper I consider a series of synthetic field recordings, Cryptozoon 1-5, by Japanese experimental musician KK Null. These recordings territorialize hybrid landscapes by overlapping unaltered field recordings with synthetic, electronic elements (analog/digital noise, drum programming, synthesizers, filters, etc.).
On the one hand, Cryptozoon is representative of a modern, a-signifying, techno-ecological praxis that over-codes referential sets (Guattari 1989). On the other hand, by looking at the traditional Japanese arts, long associated with nature and its shaping of nin-gen ???? (“humanity”) through overlaps that engender interactive spaces of between-ness (-gen, aida, ma ??), I believe a case can be made that Null’s Cryptozoon recordings are also indicative of a wholly Japanese soundscape (after Pedelty 2012). The traditional arts examined include “multisensible” calligraphic (shodô) figures (Lamarre 2000),??the multi-lingual poetic utterances of the Wakan Rôeishu, and the layered non-alignment of both pitch and rhythmic zones in noh drama (Gardiner 2014).
I conclude that KK Null’s assemblage technique serves as an exemplar of a phenomenological approach to fûdo ?? , the Japanese word for “climate”, as philosophized by Tetsuro Watsuji in his book Climate and Culture (1961), which describes the network of environmental and spatial influences that condition human subjectivity. Insofar as “climate is milieu” (Jantz 2011), that which we always find ourselves in the middle of, I argue that being-in-a-climate today means actively intervening and inscribing various technological tensions and oppositions into that space. These synthetic inscriptions are fed-back into, and become an integral part of their milieu.
About Michael: Michael C. Gardiner is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Mississippi, with research interests ranging from the intersection of theological and musical space in medieval repertoires, to Japanese noh drama, the keyboard works of Louis Couperin, and spectrographic images of timbral morphology. He favors an open approach to materials that views the discipline of analysis as a set of design problems and solutions. His articles have appeared in Perspectives of New Music, Asian Music, Current Musicology, and Sonus.