In three keynote lectures, Steven Feld will present participants with ways in which acoustemology may be understood to resonate with general theoretical issues and their sociopolitical implications, and thus contribute to some of the most urgent questions of our time.
Lecture 1 will feature a full-length documentary concert film: “Voices of the Rainforest”. This project uses the medium of sound to dialogically represent how the sounds of work and leisure songs, instrumental music, and ceremonial music produced by the Kaluli people were inspired by and performed with ambient biosphere sounds of the rainforest. The Kaluli people discuss the present state and fate of the forest and their hopes for a more equitable future. Here, “acoustemology” meets with the claims for “symmetrical” approaches to human-nonhuman interaction, as well as with ecological concerns.
Lecture 2, “Nostalgia and/for Modernity”, discusses the “alternate” or “bush” modernity of remote villagers in Bosavi today, people whose knowledge of the world and global capitalism is vastly out of alignment with their actual way of life in a 5 mile radius of their location of birth. It presents the world of Bosavi’s younger generations, people with cellphones but no toilets, bank accounts but no money, and questions the use of a new technologies by young people – guitars, ukuleles – to reinvent nostalgic music based on the poetic inheritance received from their parents and grandparents. “Acoustemological” approaches to music, sound and technology are here brought together with the local dynamics of globalization and neoliberal capitalism in rather remote places. The starting point of the lecture is a criss-cross moment when a Bosavi guitar band CD was confused by the media with post-9/11 Americana country music nostalgia.
Lecture 3, “Hearing Heat”,comes back to the topic of the first lecture, in that it relates the story of climatic and environmental change in the Bosavi rainforest to global concerns about the Anthropocene. It takes a historical as well as comparative stance, however, in order to re-evaluate the theoretical contribution of “acoustemology” in relation to what is arguably the most important issue to the future of organic survival, environmental climate action. It might once have been considered a quaint oddity that Bosavi people sing to, about, and with birds, insects, and waterways. But now more than ever these eco-aesthetic practices explain music making as cartography, environmental data-gathering, and acute ecological observation. As a specific example, the lecture presents the history of cicadas, stimulated by light and heat, and songs sung to, with and about them in Bosavi. This history is juxtaposed with others, ancient (Greece) and modern (post-nuclear Japan), to link what was once a remote project in the anthropology of sound to a comparative discussion of sonic ecology in general.