- Music 1145
The twentieth century was witness to an ethical discourse about the scope of the human that took its cues from a discussion of how people should sound. Specifically, the tones and timbres of vocal and instrumental music became key reference points in a dialogue about how to maintain one’s humanity under the conditions of modern urban industrial capital. In this presentation I trace some of the resonances between three strands of this discourse—historical performance movements, folk revivalism, and the emergence of ethnomusicology. The three represent multiply layered and overlapping attempts to reclaim an ethical human existence within the contexts of the perceived dehumanizing processes of industrial modernity. All three present arguments about the human body and shared social participation as important locations in which to find continued expressions of humanity in the contemporary world.
David Samuels, Professor and Chair, Music Department, New York University, is a linguistic anthropologist, folklorist, and ethnomusicologist. His book, Putting A Song On Top of It: Music and Identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, was the first book-length monograph exploring popular music’s place in the formation of contemporary Indigenous identities. His current work focuses on missionary encounters in the refiguring of language, culture, and aesthetics, and the sense of ethics informing the discourse of various musical movements in the 20th and 21st centuries.