About Our Colloquia Series

FALL 2017

CANCELLED:  28 NOVEMBER: Marc LeMay (PhD Alumn, Composition, University of Pennsylvania)


Title: "The Composer Acts:  Opera Composition Through the Lens of Acting Theory" CANCELLED


14 November: Julie Napolin (The New School)

Title:  "Narrative Acoustics"

"If there is a space of thinking, either real or virtual, then within it there must also be sound, for all sound seeks its expression as vibration in the medium of space,” writes Bill Viola. We think of narrative as being with “space”  and, while we understand literature as being with a poetics and rhetoric, we do not ask after its acoustics. What, then, is narrative acoustics? In a triple gesture, it is the making of narrative space by sound, the virtual hearing of sounds in narrative and intertextual space, and the narrative of sonic change.



Past Colloquia

19 September:  Naomi Waltham-Smith (University of Pennsylvania)

Book Talk:  "Music and Belonging Between Revolution and Restoration" (Oxford University Press, 2017)

Penn's own Naomi Waltham-Smith will be discussing her newly-published book, "Music and Belonging Between Revolution and Restoration".


Talking about her recently published book, Naomi Waltham-Smith argues that a revolution—both music-theoretical and political—takes place where we least expect it: at the heart of the Austro-German canon in the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Today she will discuss ten of the book’s most provocative claims. Insofar as revolution is always also a matter of turning back again, a revolution in how we under musical listening is possible only be retrieving and radically transforming some of the most unimpeachable concepts in music theory and historiography.

Naomi Waltham-Smith is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research sits at the threshold between music theory, recent European political philosophy, and sound studies. She is currently finishing a second book on The Sound of Biopolitics and working on a sound archive project entitled “Listening under global Trumpism” which will be hosted by the Slought Foundation.

3 October:  Paula Matthusen (Wesleyan University)

Title:  "Walks with Electronics: Recent Compositions, Collaborations, and Field Recordings"


Walks with Electronics discusses recent compositions and projects related to various field recording projects, from aqueducts of New York City and Rome to caves in Kentucky. The talk discusses very broadly the concept of sociality in field recording, through a series of complementary and differing ideas of walking.

10 October:  Dominic Pettman (The New School)

Title:  "Sonic Intimacy:  Voice, Species, Technics"


In this talk, Dominic Pettman asks us who - or what - deserves to have a voice, beyond the human.  Arguing that our ears are far too narrowly attuned to our own species, Pettman will gloss his new book, Sonic Intimacy, which explores four different types of voices:  the cybernetic, the gendered, the creaturely, and the ecological.  In doing so, he will demonstrate some of the ways in which intimacy is forged through the ear, perhaps even more than through any other sense, mode, or medium.  The voice, then, is what creates intimacy, both fleeting and lasting, not only between people, but also between animals, machines, and even natural elements:  those presumed not to have a voice in the first place.  Taken together, the manifold, material, actual voices of the world, whether primarily natural or technological, are a complex cacophony that is desperately trying to tell us something about the rapidly failing health of the planet and its inhabitants.  As Pettman cautions, we would to well to listen.


17 October:  Maria Murphy/Shelley Zhang (PhD candidates, University of Pennsylvania)


Title:  "Voicing the Clone:  Laurie Anderson and Technologies of Reproduction"  


Title:  "Material Nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution Era:  The Affective Practices of Revolutionary Music in Contemporary China"  


7 November: Philip Gentry (University of Delaware)

Book Talk: What Will I Be: American Music and Cold War Identity. Oxford University Press, 2017.


In the wake of World War II, the cultural life of the United States underwent a massive transformation. At the heart of these changes during the early Cold War were the rise of the concept of identity and a reformulation of the country's political life. A revolution in music was taking place at the same time-a tumult of new musical styles and institutions that would lead to everything from the birth of rock 'n' roll to the new downtown experimental music scene. Together, these new cultural and musical trends came to define the era. In the search for new social affinities and modes of self-fashioning, music provided just the right tool. What Shall I Be follows the concept of identity as it developed alongside new post-war music making. Author Philip M. Gentry travels through four very different musical scenes: the R&B world of doo-wop pioneers the Orioles, the early film musicals of Doris Day, Asian American cabaret in San Francisco, and John Cage's infamous 4'33". The lives of musicians, composers, critics, and fans reveal how individuals negotiated the social changes sweeping the country in the initial days of the Cold War. As we are again swept up in a time of significant transformation, these early strategies help to inform the political and musical narratives of today.