Naomi Waltham-Smith’s research sits at the intersection of music theory and Continental philosophy. She is interested in how the critical resources of recent French and Italian thought might be deployed to interrogate the ethical significance of the processes and structures of music and listening. In particular her work analyses encounters with music’s sounding materiality. Attempting to address both the experience of listening and the ways in which music might stage its own encounter with its aurality, she has published and presented on subversive constructions of space in listening to recorded sound, on the musical moment as an exposure of sonic materiality, on Voice as an instance of impotentiality that destabilizes the distinction between sound and sense, and on the inscription of the temporality of listening within music’s unfolding. She has also written on the structural negativity of the Classical style, on the problem of repetition and on the sound of potentiality in the new Formenlehre. In approaching these questions, she has engaged with the thought of Aristotle, Heidegger, Agamben, Badiou, Deleuze, Derrida, and Nancy among others.
She has nurtured these interests in England, Germany and, more recently, in the US. A graduate of Selwyn College, Cambridge, she spent a year as a DAAD Research Scholar at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität in Heidelberg before embarking upon a Master’s and PhD at King’s College London. After completing her thesis on “Adorno’s Augenblick and the Ethics of Late Beethoven,” she held post-doctoral positions at City University in London and Indiana University in Bloomington.
She is currently writing a book on “Music and Belonging Between Restoration and Revolution.” Construing the twin notions of belonging as ownership and as inclusion in a community as a binary system for constructing an ontology both of humanity and of German instrumental music, this project explores how the stylistic and structural characteristics of the Classical style register a crisis of belonging in modernity and at times threaten to halt the workings of this binary machine.
At the same time, she is embarking upon a project that negotiates the debate between phenomenology and deconstruction to investigate the significance of touch in instrumental genres and how the sensation is expressly thematicized alongside hearing in the operatic tradition. Beyond that, she has plans for a project on sound and/as glory.
“Rethinking Difference and Community in Parsifal,” Opera Quarterly (forthcoming).
“Badiou contra Badiou [substantial review-essay of Badiou, Five Lessons on Wagner],” Current Musicology (forthcoming).
“[Book review of] William E. Caplin, James Hepokoski and James Webster, Musical Form, Forms & Formenlehre: Three Methodological Reflections, ed. Pieter Bergé,” Eighteenth-Century Music 8/1 (2011), 105–107.
“A Minimal Violence: Seven theses on the Classical style,” Les Cahiers de la Société québécoise de recherches en musique 11/1–2 (2010), 71–80.
“Disruptive Spatiality and the Experience of Recordings of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites,” Current Musicology 82 (2006), 33–59.