Sounding Home in the Unknown: Tracing Self Determination from the Streets to the Void
Chapter contribution in the forthcoming edited volume, Sonic Identity at the Margins (Bloomsbury, 2021)
ABSTRACT: Upon first listen, clipping.’s record Splendor & Misery (2016) is a strange document: an Afrofuturist record that is as much Euro-American avant-garde as it is hip hop. In its swarms of beats, harsh noise, hip hop flow, and gospel it tells the story of an enslaved man lost among the stars. This chapter discusses the admixture of the record’s sound world and considers how the activity of listening is itself mobilized in the construction of the subject’s agency and self-determination. Constitutive of the self, listening also points the way to engagement with plurality and the political. With the void of the cosmos as a stand-in for the existential void of the human predicament—fated to make meaning in a cosmos to which humanity may have no consequence—Splendor & Misery reflects a type of a nihilist perspective that invites the listener to transcend annihilation and engage with the promise of the unknown.
2019, Journal of Jazz Studies, 12 (1): 51-71
In this article I invoke the concept of intertextuality and develop its role in meaning-making in musical worlds. This theoretical deployment of intertextuality, I argue, celebrates the virtuosic interpretive act of musical improvisation and aids in refutations of “great man” theories of history, canon formation, and essentialism – racial or otherwise. I offer historically- and musically-intertextual readings of Joe Farrell’s “Moon Germs” (1972) as supporting examples.
A Reply to Yee’s “The Psychodynamics of Chronic Depression in Music: An Agentially-Enriched Narrative Reading of Beethoven’s “Kreutzer” Sonata, Op. 47, Movement I”
2018, Association Society for Aesthetics Graduate E-Journal, 10 (1): np.
This piece is one of a series of riposte’s to an article by Thomas Benjamin Yee regarding an agentially-enriched narrative analytical hermeneutic as deployed in an analysis of the titular work. I admire Yee’s work, though I take issue with what I perceive as several problematic theoretical imbibings, methodological glosses, and assumed conceptual givens.
2018, Doctoral Dissertation
This dissertation comprises an ethnography and mixed methodological analysis of Los Angeles’ contemporary DIY experimental music scene. By means of information gathered through participant observation and interviews, I describe the scene in the context of its historical precedents and its present state. From these observations I discern a sensibility of alterity and openness as a primary characteristic of the scene. This manifests as an investment in musical experimentalism as a mode of research into the unknown, anticipating as-yet unrealized possibilities of the as if. This leads to further reflections regarding how the aesthetics and practices of musical experimentalism that eschew conventionally-musical sound terms are nonetheless capable of affecting their auditors. I note that the common lack of typical analytical handles (melody, harmony, etc.) can confound some of contemporary musicology’s methodological frameworks. Following clues about ontological openness and musical meaning suggested by the act of listening, I deploy an explanatory methodological intervention offered by philosophical hermeneutics to negotiate this problem. This theoretical scaffolding helps to make sense of connections between the silences, non-musical, and un-structured sounds deployed in Los Angeles’ DIY experimental music scene and connected testimonies of aesthetic experiences occasioned thereby to refigure listeners’ horizons of understanding. The dissertation culminates in chapters that consider implications of philosophical hermeneutics in terms of musical experimentalism as related to sociological theories of the judgment of taste, and a metamodern characterization of the Los Angeles DIY experimental music scene’s post-postmodern structure of feeling.
The Problematic Role of “Thingliness” in Experimental Music Canon Formation: The New York School, Free Jazz, and Recombinant Ontology
2018, The International Journal of New Media, Technology, and the Arts, 13 (1): 1-6.
The variety of compositional and performative practices associated with musical experimentalism and improvisation in the mid-20th century highlight problems of identity, thingliness, taxonomy, and canon formation of musical works. Canons of cultural products are valuable in that they work to perpetuate ideological values inscribed in the works they collect. But if there is no “real” body of works, how can a representative canon of experimental and improvised works be constructed? By exploring the idea of domains of conceptual possibility in experimental composition, authorial voice in free jazz, and embodied cognition theory, I arrive at the idea of a recombinant ontology of experimental musical works. While I concede that musical works are not “things,” I argue that a recombinant consideration of a work’s thingliness—to be deployed as is methodologically and theoretically convenient—recognizes the complexity of taxonomization and canon formation. This is an imperfect mediation of the problem, but contributes to the conversation by offering conceptual handholds for how we might talk about these otherwise slippery pseudo-objects.
2017, The American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter, 37 (2): 4-5.
The editors of the ASA newsletter generously invited me to write a little more than 2000 words regarding my interest in experimental music and how I’ve deployed a framework from philosophical hermeneutics to help make sense of it. I’m always excited by meta- methodological criticism in music study woooo.
2016, Ethnomusicology Review‘s “Sounding Board”
This article develops the idea that Dave King’s attitudes communicated in his instructional video series, RATIONAL FUNK, reflect some of those being developed in the New Jazz Studies. Also, Dave King is boss.
2015, Ethnomusicology Review‘s “Sounding Board”
I offer here some analysis of the John Zorn Marathon (which occurred in Los Angeles in summer of 2015) through the lenses of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of music as mode of territorialization, Postmodern theory, and of course my own artistic and theoretical proclivities.
2014, Ethnomusicology Review‘s “Sounding Board”
This article comprises an introduction and literature review of recent material on embodied situated cognition and mirror neuron research with an aim to suggest their relevance to music researchers.
Review | Experience and Meaning in Music Performance by Martin Clayton, Byron Dueck, and Laura Leante (eds.)
2014, Ethnomusicology Review‘s “Sounding Board”
A review of Clayton, Dueck,, and Leante’s (eds.) collected volume that features novel, interdisciplinary ethnomusicological approaches.
2014, Ethnomusicology Review’s “Sounding Board”
I show Hamasyan’s stylistically-inclusive approach to music making, especially with a focus on musical improvisation, as an example of music which can refigure the reality of those who listen. In the interest of exploring this capability, I consider Hans-Georg Gadamer’s description of “play” as related to aesthetic works and David Borgo’s characterization of improvising music as platform for change and celebration of difference.