Columbia Music Scholarship Conference 2022: Body. Time. Technology.

The annual Columbia Music Scholarship Conference will be held via Zoom on April 23, 2022. Our keynote speaker will be Matthew Morrison (NYU).

The theme of the conference is “Body. Time. Technology.” The conference aims to reconsider the relationship between performance and temporality throughout history, particularly as mediated by modes of knowledge and scientific inventions.

Registration: Registration is free and open to the public, via this form. The synchronous event on April 23 will consist of 20-minute papers, followed by 10 minutes for discussion.

Please contact CUMusicConference2022 [at] gmail.com with any questions.

Conference Schedule

(All times EDT) 

10:00am–10:15am — Conference Welcome and Opening Remarks


10:15am11:45am — Session 1: Blackness and the Body

  • Abigail Lindo, “Sounding Geography: The Black Atlantic Traversing African American Popular Music”
  • Alex Alston, “The Sound and the Fury: Blackface Minstrelsy & Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Jessie Cox, “Music Theory in Black: Charles Uzor’s Bodycam Exhibit 3 George Floyd in Memoriam

 ~BREAK~


12:00pm1:00pm — Keynote Address by Matthew Morrison  "Blacksound as a Technology of the Self”


 ~LUNCH BREAK~


2:30pm3:30pm — Session 2: Technologies and Identity

  • Chris McGuinness, “Deepest India: Authorship and Alterity in South Asian Sampling”
  • Callum Blackmore, “Parlour Music, Railways, and the Sonic Politics of Land After the New Zealand Wars”

~BREAK~


3:45pm4:55pm — Session 3: Music as Function

  • Grant Woods, “Functional Music in the Age of Self-Optimization: Disciplining the Body and Mind”
  • Devon Tipp and Cullyn Murphy, “!ruletheworld! — A New Videogame Composition for Shakuhachi”

4:55pm5:10pm — Closing Remarks

Session 1

10:15am11:45am — Blackness and the Body

Sounding Geography: The Black Atlantic Traversing African American Popular Music (Abigail Lindo, University of Florida)

Abstract:

Sound is geographic: tethered to ideas of place and spatiality in being, knowing, and understanding nature, other individuals, and affective states. In her book Demonic grounds, Katherine McKittrick states that “geography holds in it the possibility to speak for itself” because “geography is always human” and “humanness is always geographic” (2006, ix). McKittrick acknowledges that the land is always marked by bodies and bodies themselves are mapped as a way of knowing, by those who inhabit them and those around them. Geographies are not concrete. They can shift and be remapped to express diverse narratives through the bodies existing on and transforming functions of the land. This can also be sonically understood.

Geographies in the US for African Americans as citizens, persons, creators, and members of communities are therefore, necessary in the production of new collective geographies that account for Black realities as evolving and reflective of American belonging with the knowledge that their lived experience has extensively shaped the sociocultural terrain present in media, arts, and culture, within the US and globally. This brief, exploratory analysis of African American popular music genres and creative practices throughout the 20th century aims to identify shared motivators and terrains whereby new geographies of spatial awareness are sonically presented as a liberator practice. This aim is not divisive but acknowledges the sonic contributions of a group whose existence has historically been rendered ungeographic and to demonstrate how the materialization of cultural products in new geographies aids in the collective decolonization of these spaces.

Bio:

Abigail Lindo is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. She is a Jamaican-born, African American vocalist and researcher who recently received a Fulbright U.S. Student Fellowship to complete fieldwork in Portugal during the 2022-2023 academic year. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally, with academic interests including African American sonic expression and identity, Jamaican popular music and gender dynamics, the politics of community music-making, and Portuguese popular music consumption and festival culture in the Azores - which is the topic of her dissertation. Lindo is also a former music educator who taught instrumental and vocal music for six years while pursuing her masters degree, motivation for her interest in the relationships between music education, performance, and ethnomusicology. She is a classically trained mezzo-soprano who enjoys writing songs in her downtime.


The Sound and the Fury: Blackface Minstrelsy & Their Eyes Were Watching God (Alex Alston, Columbia University)

Abstract:

This paper proposes to experimentally apply or transpose Matthew Morrison’s theoretical framework of “Blacksound” to Afro-American literature, and specifically Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (Morrison: 2019). My guiding question is how does thinking Blacksound in or through the medium or genre of early twentieth century black fiction might inflect or augment the warp and woof of Morrison’s emergent theory? Hurston’s novel was very much caught up in it’s contemporary moment’s discourse of what constituted blackface minstrelsy. Indeed, Richard Wright’s 1937 review described Hurston’s prose as “cloaked in that facile sensuality that has dogged Negro expression since the days of Phillis Wheatley.” Hurston, he continued, “voluntarily continues in her novel the tradition which was forced upon the Negro in the theater, that is, the minstrel technique that makes the ‘white folks’ laugh” (emphasis original). In a bit more nuance than Wright could muster, Otis Ferguson pointed out that while the text was “absolutely free of Uncle Toms” the particular execution of Hurston’s technique for writing dialect “is to set up a mood of Eddie Cantor in blackface.” The invocation of Uncle Tom and the minstrel technique point us to the sonic elements of the novel. Crucially, Janie’s partners, Joe Starks and Tea Cake, each die in extremely sonic scenes (Joe is identified as sounding like a hog, Tea Cake is growling like a dog given his being seized by the rabies virus). They are each, in a sense, (sonically and symbolically) becoming-animal at the scenes of their death. But do these scenes reflect or echo the caricatured, contorted, and violently sexualized image of Jim Crow or Zip Coon that circulated on the minstrel circuits of the 19th century? And what can “Blacksound” teach us about locating the textual performance of minstrelsy in black literature? In a paper that aims to tease out the theoretical problem of any kind of neat distinction between white(-over-black) projection, to borrow Anthony Farley’s term, and “black reality,” whatever that might be, I want to dive deeper into the problem of blackface minstrelsy in Their Eyes Were Watching God using Morrison’s theory of Blacksound as my compass.

Bio:

Alex Alston is an educator, pursuer of the black outdoors, houseplant enthusiast, and Ph.D. Candidate in English & Comparative Literature at Columbia. His dissertation, Animal Ambivalence: Black Literature and the Discourse of Species, explores the semiotics of (non)human animality as it shapes 19th and 20th century Afro-American and Afro-diasporic literature and culture.


Music Theory in Black: Charles Uzor’s Bodycam Exhibit 3George Floyd in Memoriam (Jessie Cox, Columbia University)

Abstract:

Charles Uzor’s Bodycam 3 George Floyd in Memoriam poses questions of blackness and antiblackness evinced though its unique score—a score mainly composed of the audio recordings of George Floyd’s murder, made available to the performer as audio files to be imitated. The practice of retelling through musical instruments points to a shift in telling; a shift that also points out how digital recordings are not neutral—are made, archived, and distributed by structures that reproduce antiblackness. With this Uzor critically engages digital memory as it pertains to the consumption of blackness and Black death—recording black lynching as a question of reperformance vis a vis inspiration to resistance against antiblackness. Uzor’s piece points to the question of blackness as a problematic of not only shifting in space (or milieu) but also time: it is within a skipping of time in the middle of the piece that Uzor marks an alternate sounding of this scene (a shift in telos). Duration and narration, which after Frank B. Wilderson III’s elaboration is unavoidably always a move towards another black death (or silence), is messed up by a skip and a series of shifts of/to retellings.

Through this questioning of what retelling engages, that is to say also on what structures and resources it relies, Uzor is asking the listener, which includes the analyst, to consider their own positioning within the scene of such telling. Bodycam 3 as a work calls upon the music theorist to rethink the role and the practice of music analysis and theory. It is through this invocation by the musical work that the necessity for a Music “Theory in Black” (see, Lewis R. Gordon) is announced, not simply for the sake of analysing music with and about Black people but also because music theory itself is made out from and on the backdrop of blackness.

Bio:

Jessie Cox is a composer, drummer, and scholar, currently in pursuit of his doctorate degree at Columbia University. His scholarly writing has been published in Critical Studies in Improvisation, American Music Review, Array Journal, Sound American, and Positionen Texte zur Aktuellen Musik. A publication is forthcoming in liquid blackness published by Duke University Press. He has presented his work at numerous conferences and festivals such as AMS, SMT, Society for Musicology in Ireland, ICMC 21, and more. At Columbia University he is a co-organizer of the Comparing Domains of Improvisation, a group that facilitates talks by prominent and emerging scholars so as to engage in interdisciplinary meetings around improvisation, which has led to conferences titled New Materialist Approaches to Sound, and Improvisation and Time; as well as being a co-founder of openwork an interdisciplinary journal published by Columbia University libraries.

Session 2

2:30pm3:30pm — Technologies and Identity

Deepest India: Authorship and Alterity in South Asian Sampling (Chris McGuinness, The Graduate Center, CUNY)

Abstract:

Sohan Lal was a lesser-known Sufi singer from Punjab, India whose voice was recorded for British company Zero G’s 1997 sample library, Deepest India. Over the last two decades, the sample library proliferated in a wide range of popular music and Lal’s voice has appeared in numerous famous songs. Despite such prominence, the singer’s identity has gone unrecognized. This is due, to a large extent, to sampling technologies rendering Lal's voice as disembodied and atemporal.

Drawing on ethnography between 2017–20 in Punjab, India, as well as interviews with music producers in Europe and India, this paper traces the Deepest India project, revealing a network of agencies between sample library manufacturers, consumers, and sampled voices. I examine how the legality, economics, and aesthetics surrounding authorship are shaped not only by sampling technologies, but also by Sufi kafi texts authored by 17th-century poet Bulleh Shah. Lastly, I discuss the ramifications of sounds from marginalized spaces. Sample libraries are frequently employed in contemporary music production spanning a wide range of genres, and this paper uniquely contributes to scholarship of music production, music technology, and South Asia.

Bio:

Chris McGuinness is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His dissertation focuses on electronic music production in Mumbai, India and his research interests span social movements and audio technologies. He is currently a Futures Initiative fellow. He is an experienced music producer in South Asia.


Parlour Music, Railways, and the Sonic Politics of Land After the New Zealand Wars (Callum Blackmore, Columbia University)

Abstract:

In 1870, Julius Vogel, then the colonial treasurer of the New Zealand government, embarked on one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the nation’s history. Borrowing enormous sums of money from various London banks, and shipping over many thousands of workers from the British Isles, Vogel launched a large-scale public works project aimed at supercharging the colonial economy in the wake of the New Zealand Wars. What he proposed was nothing short of a miniature industrial revolution: railway lines, harbor and port facilities, roads, bridges, and even a telegraph system – infrastructure designed to allow European settlement on stretches of land that had previously been fought over during the New Zealand Wars. “Vogelism,” the series of economic policies pursued by the colonial government in the 1870s, thus amounted to the systematic dispossession of Māori land through state-sponsored technological development, conceived by Vogel as a more efficient form of colonization than military conquest.

These vast economic changes gave rise to a trend for instrumental parlor music about colonial land development. These short pieces, usually written by local composers for amateur players and published by local piano importers, invariably referenced specific geographic locations that had been opened up for development by Julius Vogel’s economic policies. Specifically, a number of pieces referenced regions served by the North Island Main Trunk Line, a major artery in Vogel’s railway plan, their frontispieces depicting the agricultural development of the land adjacent to this rail line.

In this paper, I argue that Pākehā composers of the 1880s and 1890s used parlor music – and more specifically, dance music for domestic consumption – to engage in an aestheticized reenactment of Vogel’s technological and economic colonial policies. Through shared music-making, colonial households could use these topical parlor pieces revel in the expropriation of Māori land afforded by Vogelist expansionism. Popular Victorian dances like the waltz and the polka, when used to depict land that had been confiscated from Māori in the wake of the New Zealand Wars, came to signify European dominion in both physical and cultural spheres. Ultimately, I suggest that this locally produced parlour music played a significant role in New Zealand’s colonial nation-building, providing a musical aesthetic for the British colonial project and formulating a sense of musical “place” that was predicated on Victorian notions of domestic musical pleasure.

Bio:

Callum Blackmore is a graduate student in historical musicology at Columbia University in the City of New York studying French opera in the long eighteenth century. His dissertation, “Opera at the Dawn of Capitalism: Staging Economic Change in France and Its Colonies from Rameau to Cherubini,” explores representations of economic life on the operatic stage in the lead-up to the French and Haitian Revolutions. He has been published in Current Musicology, Nineteenth-Century Music Review, Eighteenth-Century Music, and Naxos Musicology International and has presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Musicological Society, the Society for Music Theory, and the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. His research has been supported by the M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet Fellowship for Research in France, the Barker Fellowship and the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life.

Session 3

3:45pm4:55pm — Music as Function

Functional Music in the Age of Self-Optimization: Disciplining the Body and Mind (Grant Woods, Columbia University)

Abstract:

In the last few decades, new technologies have dramatically altered the contexts in which people listen to music. Not only does most music listening now occur online, but the entire economy of the industry has changed: online marketplaces like iTunes have given way to subscription services like Spotify or Apple Music, such that consumers no longer purchase individual songs or albums, even digitally. Instead, we live in a world of endless playlists, which are tailored towards every imaginable mood and activity. As a result, music is increasingly valued not in terms of artistry or aesthetic interest, but in terms of its function. This coincides with a modern obsession with productivity, efficiency, and time-management, which, buttressed by disciplinary power and neoliberal attitudes towards self-governance, pressure individuals to optimize themselves in every way possible, by every possible means.

In this paper, I examine the phenomenon of “functional music,” wherein music is regarded as a tool for performance-enhancement in various contexts, such as sport, work, or sleep. I argue that this view, and the products that stem from it, amounts to a Foucauldian “functional reduction of the body,” as well as a “functional reduction” of music and the mind. Although utilitarian valuations of music are certainly not new, these new technologies, combined with the conditions of late capitalism, represent a revolutionary shift in how music is valued and consumed.

Bio:

Grant Woods is a PhD student in historical musicology at Columbia University studying music and identity in the British Empire at the turn of the twentieth century. His dissertation, provisionally titled “‘By right of inheritance’: Empire and Identity in the First British Folk Revival, 1890-1940,” contextualizes the First British Folksong Revival within its wider imperial context, interrogating the Revival’s relationship to the Empire as expressed in its ideological underpinnings and relationship to British identity. He argues that, rather than being a localized movement, the Folksong Revival actually had wide-ranging, global impacts on the shaping of both British and colonial identities. Originally from Indianapolis, Grant received a Bachelor of Musical Arts from DePauw University (summa cum laude), where he also minored in History and European Studies. In his spare time, he is a saxophonist and avid runner.


!ruletheworld! — A New Videogame Composition for Shakuhachi (Devon Tipp and Cullyn Murphy, University of Pittsburgh)

Abstract:

"!rule the world!" is a video game composition for shakuhachi that explores the common peripheral artifacts of game environments such as easter eggs, accidental softlocks, and clipping out of bounds. The player responds to an electronic score created in MAX/MSP that is constantly generating new variations on rudimentary shakuhachi gestures and complicating the traditional linear path of score interpretation by requiring the player to frequently shift tempos or change reading directions. The player's accuracy determines the triggered electronic samples, what artifacts can be found, and how the piece is inevitably completed. This work as something that cannot be interpreted “correctly” as the score is never the same twice and strikes a fascinating chord with certain aesthetics described in the 1823 Hitori Mondo of Hisamatsu Fuyo. The mondō (Zen dialogue between student and teacher) ponders questions about the shakuhachi including notions of “right” and “wrong” within the context of performance and information transmission. Most traditional shakuhachi repertoire is taught through rote memorization and a student imitates a teacher to the best of their ability. This videogame score flips this power relationship on its head, creating a new “teacher” with each new iteration of the score. The MAX patch signals a return to older forms of notation for Japanese instruments which describe what is being sounded, rather than describing the desired result. Our co-presented lecture recital will comprise of a ten-minute introduction to the work followed by its US premiere.

Bios:

Devon Osamu Tipp is a shakuhachi player, composer, and visual artist, whose research and performance endeavours focus on the intersections between traditional Japanese music, contemporary musical praxis, and microtonality. He is a PhD Candidate in Music Theory & Composition at the University of Pittsburgh and conducts research on the intersection between traditional Japanese instruments and contemporary music. He has presented his research and performed at venues such as the Inter­national Shakuhachi Festival Prague, the University of Pittsburgh Music on the Edge series, the Oulu Music Festival (Finland), New Music on the Point (Vermont, USA), and Charlotte New Music Festival (USA) and universities and other festivals in the US, Asia, and Europe. For more information, please visit his website, www.greengiraffemusic.info.

Cullyn Murphy studies Composition & Theory at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has taught creative musicianship, theory, electronic music, and serves as Assistant Conductor to the University Orchestra. Murphy received his MM in Music Composition at the University of Louisville (2018) and degrees in Music Composition and Choral Music Education at Illinois State University (2016). He is currently completing his dissertation titled, "The Musical Complication of Objects in the Musical Anthropocene" which restructures the role of objects in the New Discipline through affect and media studies, and "[/-/]" a series of interlinking original compositions and accompanying objects.

Keynote Speaker

Matthew D. Morrison, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, is an Assistant Professor in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Matthew holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from Columbia University, an. M.A. in Musicology from The Catholic University of America, and was a Presidential music scholar at Morehouse College. He has been awarded the Susan McClary and Robert Walser Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies Fellow from 2021-2022, where he held a residency at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, and is currently in residence at the Dahlem Humanities Center at the Freie Universität, Berlin.

His published work has appeared in publications such as the Journal of the American Musicological SocietyWomen and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, the Grove Dictionary of American Music, Oxford Handbooks, art forums/publications, and on Oxford University Press's online music blog. He also contributes creatively as a dramaturg and artistic consultant within the arts. Matthew has served as a consultant and facilitator with arts organizations on programming and issues related to equity and justice, such as The Schubert Club and “The Sound Track of America” opening concert series at the SHED, NYC, along with Quincy Jones, Steve McQueen, and Maureen Mahon. From 2017-2018, has collaborated on planning and moderating the multi-city touring forum with the Glimmerglass Festival Opera to discuss the role of art in stimulating public discussion about equity, diversity and inclusion in opera, as well as operas commissioned by the Breaking Glass project.

Matthew’s book, Blacksound: Making Race in Popular Music in the United States, is currently under contract with the University of California Press. This book traces the aesthetic and political legacy of blackface minstrelsy in an effort to uncover the relationship between performance, (racial) identity, and (intellectual) property in the making of (global) popular music and its industry from the early nineteenth century into the present. 

Conference Organizers

Lauren Marilyn Shepherd

PhD Student in Music Theory

Lauren Shepherd recently completed her Master’s in Music Theory at the University of Arkansas where she studied with Lisa Margulis. Her thesis, Effects of Genre Tag Complexity on Popular Music Perception and Enjoyment, was completed in the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas under the direction of Dr. Margulis. Her research interests include music cognition, music theory pedagogy, emotion, timbre, embodiment, and rhythm perception, especially in post-tonal and popular music.

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Gareth Cordery

PhD Student in Historical Musicology

Gareth Cordery is a doctoral student in Historical Musicology. He broadly studies genre, gender, and spectacle. In particular, Gareth focuses on the development of the étude as a gendered site for both performance and pedagogy. His research has been published in the Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research and has been presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association. In addition, he has written regular concert reviews for The Boston Musical Intelligencer.

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David Farrow

PhD Student in Ethnomusicology

David Farrow is an American researcher, sound artist, and ethnomusicologist based in New York City. Trained in cultural and media studies, Farrow researches the limits of do-it-yourself music scenes' cultural and economic autonomy within capitalist urban development. Farrow's artistic work employs noise, synthesis, and field recordings to explore how sound and listening practices construct political space. Farrow's interests increasingly lie at the intersection of policing, repression, and the politics of solidarity.

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