The sensory turn in sound and music studies

18. 02. 2016

Marta Garcia Quiñones

Theories about audition (often presented in opposition to vision) are central to authors such as Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong and R. Murray Schafer, who are normally considered pioneers of the so-called “sensory turn” taken by some humanities and social sciences scholars in the 1980s. Thereafter other authors have followed the path opened by them. For instance, US ethnomusicologist Steven Feld has developed an anthropology of sound under the influence of phenomenology and the anthropology of music. British anthropologist Tim Ingold, speaking from a social anthropological perspective, has criticized some of the foundational dichotomies of the sensory turn and sound studies. My presentation will reflect on some of the tematic threads drawn by these authors (for instance, on technology, or on the notion of space) and will try to locate them on a tentative map of contemporary sound studies, while also pointing at the difficult relationship of sound studies to music studies. On the other hand, I will raise attention to the work of scholars such as US musicologists Judith Becker, Ingrid Monson or Elisabeth Le Guin, who are currently advocating a greater consideration of the senses, the emotions and the body in music studies.

Marta Garcia Quiñones, Ph.D., does research and writes in the field of Sound Studies or Auditory Culture Studies, following two main directions. On the one hand, she has studied different aspects of the contemporary transformations of music listening, for instance listening to music with portable digital players, or the current return of some forms of collective listening. On the other hand, her doctoral thesis focuses on the history of scientific discourses about audition and their relationship to aesthetic discourses on music listening. She has developed these issues in national and international publications, and at conferences and festivals. In 2008 she edited the book La música que no se escucha. Aproximaciones a la escucha ambiental (Orquestra del Caos, Barcelona) and in 2013 she co-edited with Anahid Kassabian and Elena Boschi Ubiquitous Musics: The Everyday Sounds That We Don’t Always Notice (Ashgate, Aldershot, UK). Her writings have also been included in the collection Sound as Popular Culture: A Research Companion (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA), edited by Jens Papenburg and Holger Schulze, which is an outcome of the seminars of the international network “Sound in Media Culture” (2010-2013), funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

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