Anthropology of Music Lecture Series 2019
Prof. Steven Feld, University of New Mexico
Is the once-supposed incommensurability of being African and avant-garde just a special case of the once-supposed incommensurability of being rooted and cosmopolitan? Of what utility is “acoustemology” to the project of theorizing expansive agency against the persistence of these historical binaries? Indeed, can “acoustemology” aid the project Frantz Fanon called “the always impossible,” the story of how colonialism grinds into the postcolony as a modernist machine for epistemological violence and categorical oppression? This lecture addressed these questions by revisiting the portrayal of the “acoustemology” of urban and diasporic intimacy told in Feld’s Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra project (book, 5 films, 10 CD recordings) including feedback on the book from the musicians whose stories are featured.
The lecture was followed by 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.