Aurality: Musical Modes of Knowledge Inscription

Seminar Series of the Research Group Music and Culture

Organizer: Barbara Titus (

In recent years, acquisitions and formations of knowledge and the dynamics of power that govern these formations are increasingly theorized through a renewed interest for the ear with physical, mechanical, organic, physiological, psychological and cognitive subject potential.

This seminar/workshop intends to engage with a wide range of modes of knowledge inscription and transmission through the employment of a variety of musicking acts (Small 1998, 9): we aim to voice a song or a praise or a judgement, we perform an argument or debate or encounter, we conceptualize a discourse, a movement, a process or gesture, we constitute synchronizations, disjunctions or confrontations, etc.. In doing so, the workshop intends to raise questions about technologies of transmission, dissemination and inscription of knowledge (sounds, imagery, speech, writing, performance, etc.) and the material on which they inscribe: memories, (human) bodies, paper, hard drives, or songs.

Thursday 14 March 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: Vondelzaal – Universiteitsbibliotheek Singel 425

Emily Hansell Clark (Columbia University), “Wiet Wiet, Kiaauw”: Birds and Men in Suriname and the Netherlands

On Sunday mornings in Paramaribo, Suriname, dozens of men gather in the central Independence Square to “race” twatwas, small songbirds native to the region. The birds are caged and trained to sing competitively in elaborate months-long tournaments that are considered a Surinamese national sport. The same birdsong competitions can also be witnessed in cities in the Netherlands, Suriname’s former colonizer, where the birds are both smuggled and bred.

My paper dialogues with ethnomusicology/sound studies/anthropology scholarship (Mundy 2018, Kohn 2013, Seeger 1987, Feld 1982) that considers birds and birdsong not as an aural realm of nature separate from the human, but rather as the grounds for taxonomies and discourses that organize human concerns and experiences of self in a world where nature and culture cannot be fully disentangled, whether in the densely green tropical climate of the Caribbean coast of South America or the cosmopolitan urban environment of the Dutch metropolis. I situate this examination in the context of historical representations of culture and nature, the civilized and the wild, as well as present-day concerns including freedom, migration, masculinity, and ecotourism.

Emily Hansell Clark is a PhD student in Ethnomusicology. She holds a BA in Ethnomusicology and Composition from Oberlin College and an MSIS (Information Studies) from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus in sound archives. Emily has long been interested in the archive as an area of phenomenological investigation, as well as in conceptualizations of preservation, tradition, and memory that lie outside of the modern Western archival institution. She is currently involved in a number of community-based repatriation projects with Columbia’s ethnomusicology archive. Drawing from over a decade of experience studying Javanese music and culture, Emily’s currently-developing dissertation project concerns ethnicity, migration, memory, governance, difference, and selfhood explored through fieldwork with ethnically Javanese musicians in Suriname and the Netherlands.

Thursday 4 April 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: Belle van Zuylenzaal – Universiteitsbibliotheek Singel 425

Attila Faravelli – Sound artist, The Aural Tools Project

Aural Tools uses editions of simple objects to document the material and conceptual processes of specific musicians’ sound production practice. It is a series of acoustic devices for relating sound to space, the listener, and the body in ways unavailable through traditional recorded media such as CDs or LPs.

Attila Faravelli lives and works in Milano (Italy). In his practice he explores the relationship between sound, space and body. His solo music is released by Die Schachtel and Senufo Editions. Together with Enrico Malatesta and Nicola Ratti he is founder of the sound performance trio ~Tilde. He presented his work in Europe, USA, China and South Korea. In 2010 he participated in the 12th International Biennial of Architecture in Venice. Since 2011 he curates The Lift, a series of experimental music concerts. He is founder and curator for the Aural Tools project.

Thursday 2 May 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: to be announced

Luc Rombouts (University Carillonneur, Leuven), Carillons: Musical Heritage of the Low Countries

For many centuries, tower bells served as voices of local authorities and structured the daily life of citizens in Europe. Some 500 years ago, people in the Low Countries transformed functional tower bells into musical instruments. This innovation was the first ‘music in the cloud’ – one may call it an alpha version of Spotify. Surprisingly, carillon music didn’t die out after the radio, CD’s and the internet arrived in order to offer a cheaper technology of bringing music to large audiences.

Today, the carillon is still a genuine part of the soundscape of the cities in Belgium and the Netherlands, and the carillon culture is gaining importance, as is demonstrated by the recognition by UNESCO of the carillon culture in Belgium. However, keeping this sonic heritage alive remains a challenge. How do carillonneurs manage in keeping their messages relevant? How can the old social medium of the carillon connect with the social media of today? How can the carillon contribute to the experience of time and space in the city? And is this geographically embedded musical culture transferable to other regions in Europe and beyond?

Luc Rombouts is city carillonneur of Tienen (Belgium) and university carillonneur of Leuven (Belgium), where he plays the carillons of the University Library and the Great Beguinage. He has given recitals in Europe and in the USA and has performed during festivals and congresses.

He wrote an award-winning book on carillon history, entitled Zingend brons. 500 jaar beiaardmuziek in de Oude en de Nieuwe Wereld (Davidsfonds, 2010). This book was published in English in 2014 under the title Singing Bronze. A History of Carillon Music (Leuven University Press / Cornell University Press). In 2016 he obtained a PhD degree cum laude from the University of Utrecht on a thesis about the origin of the carillon. Luc coordinated the project that led in 2014 to the recognition of the Belgian carillon culture as a best safeguarding practice in intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO.

Thursday 27 June 2019

16:00-18:00 hours
Venue: University Theatre (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16) – Theaterzaal

Juan Diego Díaz (University of California, Davis), Embodied Listening Capoeira Workshop

Capoeira is a Brazilian art combining, among others, instrumental music, song, dance, martial arts, ritual, and theatre, developed by enslaved Africans in the sixteenth century.

The workshop is accessible to all – no prior experience with music, dance or martial arts is required.  The workshop will include physical movement (learning ginga, the basic step of capoeira, plus one attack and one defense), rhythm (clapping the basic pattern and singing some of the berimbau variations), and song (learning the refrain of a couple of songs). Participants will learn how to correlate these three aspects of capoeira through exercises as a group and by couples. These moves and movements will be emphatically connected with “intellectual” exchanges with the participants, raising questions about the aural knowing, learning and experiencing of this practice.

Juan Diego Díaz is an ethnomusicologist with a geographic research interest in Africa and its diaspora, particularly Brazil and West Africa. He is interested in how African diasporic musics circulate and transform across the Atlantic and how they serve individuals and communities in identity formation. This research has produced a book called Tabom Voices: A History of the Ghanaian Afro-Brazilian Community in Their Own Words (2016) and the documentary film Tabom in Bahia (2017), documenting the visit of a Ghanaian master drummer to Bahia, Brazil.He uses a variety of approaches including close musical analysis, timeline theory, groove analysis, phenomenology of the body, and discourse analysis. He is also a long-term Capoeira Angola practitioner and has led capoeira and samba ensembles.


The Challenge of Scaling: How Infrastructure is Lived

Lecture by Asher Boersma (Locating Media, Siegen University) ASCA Cities seminar Repairing Infrastructures, Thursday 14 March, 15:00-17:00 hrs., P.C. Hoofthuis (Spuistraat 134), Room 1.05.

Asher Boersma specialises in the history and practice of mediated control. His work connects media studies with historical anthropology, science and technology studies, workplace studies and sociology at large. In this lecture, he explores how West-European inland navigation infrastructure can be grasped synchronically, as a whole. A multisided ethnography of those who do the infrastructuring (Star 1999) revealed the isolation of key actors, like control room operators and skippers, while mobility also demands integration into larger sociomaterial constellations. How do they manage this situation, how do they gain overview? According to Latour and Hermant isolation is a prerequisite, as overview is found when one refrains from looking outside and instead focusses on sheets and screens, on the “view from nowhere,” which is the view from an “oligopticon,” from a “small whole” (Latour/Hermant 2006: 32, 45). Given that the mediated vision of steering huts increasingly resembles that of control rooms (Boersma 2018), we would only have to go to these places, zoom in and study technology in action (Heath/Luff 2004). Yet the actors living these infrastructures are constantly scaling, they oscillate between the micro (body, waterscape, fog), the meso (journey, traffic, water level) and the macro (market, network, climate). They do this from particular, embodied positions, as their ships are on the move and their control rooms are located at critical intersections. They prefer being able to look outside.

No registration necessary for this event, but please feel free to contact one of the organisers to gain access to the preparatory reading (Kasia Mika:, Jeff Diamanti:, Carolyn Birdsall:, or Simone Kalkman:

Launch First Issue of Soapbox: Practices of Listening

Soapbox Issue 1.1 Launch: Practices of Listening
28 February 2019, 20:00 – 21:30

SPUI25, Spui 25-27 | 1012 WX, Amsterdam

On February 28, student-run journal Soapbox will launch their first issue with a celebratory evening at SPUI25.

The event will feature a discussion with the authors of Soapbox 1.1. Presenting a variety of perspectives on the concept and practices of listening, these graduate researchers will come together to discuss the common thread of their work: perhaps it is less what we say that affects our social and political condition, than the various ways in which diverse practices of listening take place. For these writers, acts of listening are not simply an individual choice, but rather subject to infrastructural distributions of listening channels – aesthetic, technological, and political – amplifying voices from some directions and muting those from others.

While we may have always been talking, the practice of listening is undergoing a transformation. For this event, Soapbox, a graduate journal for cultural analysis, invites the authors of this first issue to discuss their work on the conditions, practices, and policies of listening in political protest, speech to text software, and audiovisual ‘time crystals’.

New practices of listening come at us from all sides, complicating rules, relations, and expectations set in place by the old. Emerging forms of political activism and the cacophony of digitally distributed voices make the act of directing attention itself politically saturated, while speech recognition software and audiovisual distribution platforms tether the listener to the listened to in new and unexpected ways. Presenting a variety of perspectives on and examples of listening, these graduate researchers share one idea: perhaps it is less what we say that affects our social and political condition than the various ways in which what we call the practices of listening take place. For them, acts of listening are not simply an individual choice, but rather subject to infrastructural distributions of listening channels, both aesthetic, technological, and political – amplifying voices from some directions and muting those from others.

Soapbox is an open-access platform for cultural analysis, run by students from the University of Amsterdam. Its website and each biannual issue both give the floor to students, PhDs and young researchers, publishing forward-thinking and experimental work on a broad range of cultural artefacts, concepts and phenomena.

Love With(out) Optimism

Women in Theory – ASCA Reading Group: Love With(out) Optimism with Tashina Blom

A post-Valentine’s intervention, the February session of Women in Theory  will focus on theories on love and its more/less desirable aspects. The session will be led by Tashina Blom (Universiteit Utrecht) and includes readings from Ahmed, Berlant, and Illouz.

Friday 15 February, 15:00-17:00, PCH 5.56

Contact: Nadia de Vries


Aesthetics of Death Workshop

Aesthetics of Death Workshop 

14 March 2019, University Library, Belle van Zuylen room


This workshop asks how death – and specifically the moment of dying – is portrayed in different media, from Renaissance painting to contemporary film, literature and the digital realm. In their 2018 book Corpse Encounters: An Aesthetics of Death, Jacqueline Elam and Chase Pielak argue, as Philippe Ariès did before them, that there is an “aesthetics of erasure at work on the dead body,” a taboo around the dead or dying body. However, in art and on the internet images of dead and dying bodies proliferate, often aestheticized (along gendered and racialized lines) but also as objects of desire, fascination and ridicule. In looking at different cultural objects, their aesthetics and politics, we ask: what forms does death, and the affects associated with it, take?  What kinds of deaths are portrayed and what kinds of deaths remain invisible? On what aesthetic traditions do portrayals of (the moment of) death draw? And what kind of knowledge about death – its nature (when does death occur?), its meanings, how to face it – do aesthetic portrayals of death reflect and generate? The workshop features five speakers from different disciplines (art history, film studies, Latin American studies and new media) and a closing discussion around shared readings.

Organizer: Esther Peeren

The number of participants is limited to 25. Please email Esther Peeren ( to register and to request copies of the reading materials. Research-MA students can earn 1 EC by attending the workshop and preparing a discussion question about the readings.