Crosslisting: AMST 278, ENVS 287
Course Cluster: Animal Studies
This seminar engages questions of musical difference by addressing representations, tropes, and examples of posthuman performance, animal musicalities, music mimetic of nonhuman aurality, and cross-species and multi-species performance. Throughout the course we will think across varied types and categories of sounds to explore and contextualize familiar questions about how we sing, play, perform, stage, and sound musical identity, examining the intersections among the humanities, science and technology studies, and the sonic arts. “Animanities” is the name attributed by scholars to the musical response to the dilemma facing the humanities to value, take into account, and take seriously the aural and performance worlds of the nonhuman. It is necessary to include all human, more-than-human, sentient and non-sentient, machine, and animal sounding and musicking into the fields of musicology, ethnomusicology, and sound studies. By listening across different kinds of auditory culture and sounding, scholars can interrogate questions addressing how traditions of listening shape our habits of perceiving others: how we hear nonhuman animals, how we incorporate nonhuman sounding into music composed by humans, how technology has played a role in the study and development of nonhuman and human musicality, and what it means to listen to and value sonic difference more broadly. Through discussions of musical and cultural difference that enrich ongoing discussions of race, gender, and sexuality we will come to a stronger understanding of music’s role in imagined and experienced natural worlds. Topics and case studies will include the pedagogies of audio bird guides; new age nature recordings, multi-species “collaborative” performances; sampled and electronically rendered animal and nature performance in digital video games; wildlife field recording and documentary soundtracks/sound design; forms of animal and environmental mimesis used by composers; the jazz aviary of exotic songbirds and chirping canaries in the publications and reception history of the 1930s–1960s that document female jazz singers and virtuosic operatic sopranos; they way nonhuman animal behavior influenced experimental music communities; and how human musical language and terminology was used to describe the musicking of nonhuman animals in documents circulated by the National Audubon Society and other wildlife guides and field recording initiatives. This seminar draws on the classroom community’s interdisciplinary backgrounds and interests as well as readings and case studies that cross and challenge disciplinary boundaries. Students can achieve success in this course without previous musical knowledge.