Getting Started

Dear group members,

There was a bit of a delay getting this started (turns out dissertations take time to write??) but Eamonn and I had a brief chat and felt like the end of the year would be a good time to dig in.

To introduce yourself and help shape the direction of the group, we were thinking we’d all share (in a comment on this post):

  • a few lines about our research interests
  • 100-200 words about what you’ve recently been reading
  • what you are looking forward to reading in the near future

No real deadline, but I’ll try to follow up early in January to see where we might want to bring all this first.

To reiterate from Twitter: direction of the group will be shaped as much by the shared interests of the members than any single research program or theme. As it turns out, we all appear to be interested in sound and technology, which remains the banner under which are currently organizing.

Happy holidays!

Ezra and Eamonn


Ezra

research interests: my dissertation focuses on connecting technical decisions taken in the design, assembly and maintenance of homemade electronic music instruments to understand which timbres, rhythms and melodies are the result of everything from realized intentions to accidental and unexpected experimentation. Practically, this means reverse engineering electronic music hardware and software and documenting the context of their geneses to better appreciate their authors intents and labor. This research serves as the basis for my composition projects, which are variations, extensions and developments of the various sonic mechanisms I’ve documented during these reverse engineering and historical inquiries.

what I’ve been reading: I’m currently annotating Wolfgang Ernst’s “Chronopoetics” (2011) to identify every technical concept used in the book, evaluate the extent to which I agree with his descriptions (I tend not to) and offer alternative assessments of his underlying points. As my own project relates extensively with media archaeology, this is done mostly in an attempt to better understand the extent to which I need to rely on Ernst in my dissertation. I’ve kept a list of all the other books I’ve read this year here, some fun ones included Pickering’s “Cybernetic Brain,” Simondon’s “Mode D’Existence des Objets Techniques,” Wendling’s “Marx on Technology and Alienation,” Gabrys’ “Digital Rubbish,” Mattern’s “Code and Clay,” or Kittler’s “Discourse Networks.” Throughout these books I am interested in identifying helpful templates to discuss the mechanisms by which humans, artworks and electrical systems co-construct each other in the context of global / oppressive chains of production and consumption of late technocapitalism.

Looking forward to:

  • the two books that made this group happen,Hansen, Mark, and N. Katherine Hayles. Embodying technesis: Technology beyond writing. University of Michigan Press, 2000. Hansen, Mark Boris Nicola. New philosophy for new media. MIT press, 2004. (both were uploaded to the reading list  – let me know if you can’t access it?)
  • Wendy Chun, “Programmed Visions”
  • Bourdieu “Distinction” and “Esquisse D’Une Theorie de La Pratique”
  • Van Eck “Between Air and Electricity”
  • Lojek “History of Semiconductor Engineering”
  • Henriques “Sonic Bodies”
  • Benjamin “Race After Technology”
  • McKittrick: “Sylvia Wynter on being human as praxis”

4 comments on “Getting Started

  1. Eamonn Bell (www.eamonnbell.com)

    Research interests: I am currently working on a project about the compact disc (CD) audio format as it is specified in the so-called “Red Book”. After writing a dissertation about the early use of computers in music theory and computational musicology, I’ve become increasingly interested in music and the history of technology in the twentieth century. The CD project will draw on both media theory (in particular “media archaeology”) and musicology, because a significant part of the project deals with music compositions and performances (broadly construed) that involve CDs and CD players in some way. Technical observations about the format and music-analytical observations will meld seamlessly together in a characterization of the history of an already historic digital media format that provides ample opportunity for reflecting on the function and meaning of human-machine assemblages in the late twentieth-century. Ideally.

    Reading lately: I’ve been reading around “glitch” in both music and in art more generally. I’ve recently read Michael Betancourt’s *Glitch Art in Theory and Practice: Critical Failures and Post-Digital Aesthetics* (2016). and Rosa Menkman’s *The Glitch Moment(um)* (2011). There is a palpable gap between writing about glitch more generally (visual arts/film) and music (some touchstones are, for better or worse, Kim Cascone’s “The Aesthetics of Failure: “Post-Digital” Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music” 2000 and the [better] Hannah Bosma, “Gender and Technological Failures in Glitch Music” (2016)) that I’m trying to bridge by reading around in contemporary art history. Since I’m interested in media archaeology, I’ve (finally) finished Kittler’s *Discourse Networks* (orig. 1985) after stops and starts, had a go at most of Siegert’s collection in English *Cultural techniques : grids, filters, doors, and other articulations of the real* (2015), and Jussi Parikka’s intro/prospectus *What is Media Archaeology?* (2012). Plenty of jumping off points in that last-mentioned book; forbiddingly more reading to do. I like the idea of keeping a list of books on Worldcat, nice idea Ezra!

    Finally, I had a first pass of Kyle Devine’s excellent book *Decomposed: A Political Ecology of Music* (2019), definitely worth checking out if you care about music-in-the-world. I think his call for a “musicology without music” will resonate with a lot of us here that are interested in continuing to decenter the sonic or or symbolic representation of music as the object of musicology.

    Looking forward to reading:

    – Carolyn Kane, High-tech trash: glitch, noise, and aesthetic failure (2020) [Now available on luminosaoa.org]
    – Jacob Smith, Eco-sonic media (2015)
    – Ernst and Parikka, Digital memory and the archive (2013)
    – Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New: Media, History and the Data of Culture (2006)
    – Yuk Hui, On the Existence of Digital Objects (2016)
    – Dominic Pettman, Sonic intimacy: voice, species, technics (or, how to listen to the world) (2017)
    – Joanna Demers, Listening through the Noise: The Aesthetics of Experimental Electronic Music (2010)
    – Thor Magnusson, Sonic writing: technologies of material, symbolic and signal inscriptions (2019)

  2. Hi all, and thanks Eamonn and Ezra for getting this going!

    I can’t tell if this thing will display my name when I post, so this is Brian Miller.

    My dissertation deals with the intertwined fates of computation and the concept of musical style in the recent history of music theory. The main focus is on Leonard Meyer’s work and the ways information theory and cybernetics appear and then recede from the surface of his thought but still stand behind a lot of aspects of his later theory of style (which is itself important for many later strands of music theory, especially music cognition and corpus studies). I try to deal with Meyer’s often overly ambitious interdisciplinarity by reading him with/against approaches to style in visual culture, and I put computational music theory in conversation with more recent critical work on algorithms and big data. Along with doing close readings of some recent corpus studies, I have a chapter that looks at the computational modeling of style in the context of improvising computer systems.

    With job apps, the dissertation, conferences, and other writings to work on, I haven’t done much new reading lately. The most relevant thing I’ve read this semester is probably Mack Hagood’s Hush, which deals with media as technologies of self control—white noise machines, noise canceling headphones, etc. It has a few interesting things to say about cybernetics and subjectivity, and tries with mixed success to make a dent in some debates around affect theory. Last year, when I was reading much more productively, I had a short-lived reading group with some colleagues that got us through some important texts on the philosophy of technology/technique: Leroi-Gourhan, Mauss, Simondon… we were hoping to get to Stiegler but didn’t quite make it. I’ve also read a couple chapters of John Durham Peters’s The Marvelous Clouds, but would like to do the rest of it.

    A few things I’d like to get to, among others that have already been mentioned:
    —Bernhard Siegert, Cultural Techniques
    —Dennis Tenen, Plain Text
    —Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, Epistemology of the Concrete (I’d also like to revisit Toward a History of Epistemic Things)
    —David Golumbia, The Cultural Logic of Computation

  3. Hi All!

    I’m going to try posting again, since my original got lost in cyber translation…

    Research Interests: History of electronics/science/computers as related to music, gender, sexuality, race, class, geography and other aspects of human networks. These interests result in two intersecting projects, one investigating how (un)conscious biases regarding gender, race, and physical ability become embedded in and tacitly reinforced by music hardware and software, the other examines problems of categorization in “electronic music” (relating to genre, but also to AI and Eugenics).

    Recent Reading: I’ve been reading Feminist Technology Studies (FTS) , starting with the basics (Lucy Suchman, Judy Wajcman, Oudshoorn et al., Kate Crawford, JS Light “When Computers were women”), relevant music histories (Georgina Born, Marie Thompson, Jennifer Iverson, Martha Mockus) and aesthetics (Johanna Demers), and/as these meet race (Alexander Weheliye, Paul Miller, George Lewis, Imani Perry, Michael Veal, André Brock, Wendy Chun, Louis Chude-Sokei, Lisa Nakamura, Umoja Safiya Noble, Robin James).

    I want to continue reading about socio-technical bias and ethics alongside issues of “categorization”:

    Heidi Grasswick, “Feminist Social Epistemology” (2018)

    Elizabeth Anderson, “Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science” (2019)

    Helen E. Longino, “The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge” (2019)

    Ruha Benjamin “Race After Technology” (echoing Ezra)

    Brown, Nicole Marie. “Methodological Cyborg as Black Feminist Technology: Constructing the Social Self Using Computational Digital Autoethnography and Social Media.” Cultural Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies, January 8, 2018.

    Jones, Steve. “Music and the Internet.” Popular Music 19, no. 2 (April 2000): 217–30.

    Sieckenius de Souza. The Semiotic Engineering of Human-Computer Interaction | The MIT Press. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2005. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/semiotic-engineering-human-computer-interaction. (Out of Print, may be hard to find?)

    Weisbard, Eric. Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music. Duke University Press, 2007.

    Brackett, David. Categorizing Sound. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2016.

    There’s a lot I want to read, but I joined to learn about stuff I don’t know, so I’m happy to read anything you lot recommend! (Citations above are wonky because I copied some from citation software, and figured I’d leave the added info rather than conform.)

  4. Hello everybody! Thanks to Eamonn and Ezra for taking the initiative here.

    I’m Joseph Pfender (josephpfender.wordpress.com)

    My research interests are mainly focused on the cultural origins of magnetic tape technology in the US in the late 19th century. I look at American technical consciousness in the Gilded Age, where religion, science, and industry all played a part in defining the culture of technology where magnetic tape originated. The cultural priorities affiliated with Spiritualism, empiricism, and mechanical engineering pop up in interesting ways during the later musical developments of tape experimentalism. This means my interest in how technology produces aesthetics comes from a similar place to Ezra’s. But my tools for getting there come more from historiography and cultural history than from the more concrete causal chains of network theory.

    what i’ve been reading:
    I’ve been making my way through the compiled anthologies of Simondon’s lectures and other writings, Sur la technique and Sur la philosophie. I’ve immensely enjoyed the summer 2016 special issue of Critical Inquiry on technical media that makes good (not gimmicky) use of “quirk history” to bring Spiritualist thought into media studies. Also almost anything by Edward Jones-Imhotep, though that’s dangerously undefined considering how broadly he publishes. I’ll return to this as we go, I think.

    Emily Ogden, one of the CI issue contributors, just put out a monograph “Credulity” on similar themes.

    My own historiographical contribution to this theoretical direction mostly comes in talking about people like Oberlin Smith, Andrew Jackson Davis and John Murray Spear, Spiritualists who had specific and somewhat peculiar ideas about the relationship between technological progress and spiritual enlightenment. There isn’t a lot about either Spear or Davis, but my own work on Smith is looking to do some biographical exposition and critical intervention in historiography of sound media, in specific conversation with music studies.

    I’m looking to get more familiar with a range of media theory, including :
    Siegfried Zielinski, Deep Time of the Media (!)

    geoffrey bowker & susan star, Sorting Things Out (despite my interest in more historiographical & discursive methods)

    Ernst Kapp, Elements of a Philosophy of Technology (new historical edition by leif weatherby and jeffrey west kirkwood)

    Ruha Benjamin (as others have mentioned)

    This is only a smattering; I wanted to get something down before too much time had passed. Looking forward to continuing conversations!

    warmly,
    Joe

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