Current Directions in Ecomusicology: Music, Culture, Nature
edited by Aaron S. Allen and Kevin Dawe (Routledge 2016) (hardcover ISBN 9781138804586, paperback ISBN 9781138062498)
Winner of the 2018 Ellen Koskoff Edited Volume Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology
This volume is the first sustained examination of the complex perspectives that comprise ecomusicology—the study of the intersections of music/sound, culture/society, and nature/environment. Twenty-two authors provide a range of theoretical, methodological, and empirical chapters representing disciplines such as anthropology, biology, ecology, environmental studies, ethnomusicology, history, literature, musicology, performance studies, and psychology. They bring their specialized training to bear on interdisciplinary topics, both individually and in collaboration. Emerging from the whole is a view of ecomusicology as a field, a place where many disciplines come together. The topics addressed in this volume—contemporary composers and traditional musics, acoustic ecology and politicized soundscapes, material sustainability and environmental crisis, familiar and unfamiliar sounds, local places and global warming, birds and mice, hearing and listening, biomusic and soundscape ecology, and more—engage with conversations in the various realms of music study as well as in environmental studies and cultural studies. As with any healthy ecosystem, the field of ecomusicology is dynamic, but this edited collection provides a snapshot of it in a formative period. Each chapter is short, designed to be accessible to the nonspecialist, and includes extensive bibliographies; some chapters also provide further materials on [this] companion website. An introduction and interspersed editorial summaries help guide readers through four current directions—ecological, fieldwork, critical, and textual—in the field of ecomusicology.
Aaron S. Allen is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA, where he is also director of the Environment and Sustainability Program. A fellow of the American Academy in Rome, he earned a Ph.D. in music from Harvard after earning a B.A. in music and B.S. in environmental studies from Tulane. He has published on campus environmental issues, Beethoven, and ecomusicology.
Kevin Dawe is Professor of Ethnomusicology and Head of the School of Music and Fine Art at the University of Kent, UK. He has degrees in music, biology, and anthropology. His publications include the single-authored books The New Guitarscape (2010) and Music and Musicians in Crete (2007) as well as edited collections.
Tallotte, William. 2019. Transposition. Musique et Sciences Sociales, no. 8 (October). http://journals.openedition.org/transposition/3077.
- Devine, Kyle. 2019. Ethnomusicology Forum 28 (1): 127–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/17411912.2019.1580598.
- Cohen, Jacob A. 2017. Notes 74 (1): 83–86. https://doi.org/10.1353/not.2017.0088.
- Galloway, Kate. 2017. MUSICultures 44 (2): 136–41.
In the table of contents that follows, titles with a hyperlink provide further materials or complete text. Click on the “[+show]” / “[-hide]” to show/hide the abstract for each chapter, or [peekaboo onshow=”click here to hide all” onhide=”click here to show all”] abstracts.
Aaron S. Allen and Kevin Dawe
pages 1-15 [peekaboo name=”chapter1″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter1″]
This chapter is an introduction to both ecomusicology and this book. We argue that there are many ecomusicologies that constitute a dynamic field (rather than one disciplined ecomusicology). This volume provides a map of the field circa 2015, all the while acknowledging that our collective observations will change the proverbial lay of the land. Connecting twenty-two authors’ nineteen essays are four basic ideas: the importance of connections (between essays in the volume as well as between ecomusicology and other fields and disciplines); the embrace of a diversity of views (i.e., various and even divergent perspectives); the central element of environment (nature) that distinguishes ecomusicology as a field of musical and cultural study; and the understanding that ecomusicology is a multi-perspectival field rather than a unified discipline. These four ideas are elaborated after a brief overview of the definitions, history, and roles of ecomusicology. While a concise definition may confuse as much as it clarifies, we summarize ecomusicologies as studying the intersections of music/sound, culture/society, and nature/environment. Chapter abstracts are not contained in this introduction but are provided instead in the overview essays that preceded each of the four parts of this volume: ecological directions, fieldwork directions, critical directions, and textual directions.
Aaron S. Allen and Kevin Dawe
The Ecology of Musical Performance: Towards a Robust Methodology
W. Alice Boyle and Ellen Waterman
pages 25-39 [peekaboo name=”chapter2″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter2″]
Ecomusicology is inspired by ecology (a science) but it belongs to critical scholarship in music (an arts and humanities discipline). One branch of ecomusicology grows from the discipline of ethnomusicology. Ethnomusicology is the study of music in its cultural context, particularly performance. In this paper we compare methodological approaches to studying performance in animal behavioral ecology and in ethnomusicology in order to test the degree of overlap between these two approaches. We distinguish the use of the prefix “eco-” in musicological contexts that are best described as environmentalism from the branches of ecomusicology having direct parallels in science. Using examples drawn from the study of bird song, we describe three primary methodological approaches used by ecologists: observational correlative studies; comparative studies involving the analysis of sets of traits across multiple species; and controlled, manipulative experiments. We then explore the extent to which the scientific method, generally, and the specific methodological tools common in behavioral ecology might be applied to answering ecomusicological questions. By contrasting approaches to the study of human musical performance and avian vocal communication, we identify existing differences in methodology, outline constraints and advantages of current ecomusicological practices, and describe three examples demonstrating how correlative, comparative, and experimental study designs might be applied in ecomusicological contexts.
Ecomusicology, Ethnomusicology, and Soundscape Ecology: Scientific and Musical Responses to Sound Study
Margaret Q. Guyette and Jennifer C. Post
pages 40-56 [peekaboo name=”chapter3″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter3″]
Sound study has evolved to become a complex field with actors representing many different disciplines. Among them, music scholars have been engaged with soundscape research since the late 1960s, while soundscape study in biology and landscape ecology has only been identified as a distinct scholarly field since 2009. In fact, a closer look at these two fields and approaches to sound studies that engage with ecological issues, especially addressing environmental change, reveals an entanglement; they offer similarities and differences in both their approaches and goals. This essay, written by an ecologist and ethnomusicologist, presents a dual landscape ecology and ecomusicological approach to sound- and music-related studies in order to explore ways that we each might engage in the study of sound more effectively together. The focus is on how behaviors, entities, and actions can be understood within scientific, social scientific, and cultural realms within the context of two new fields: soundscape ecology and ecomusicology. Drawing on research in western Mongolia among pastoral nomadic herders, and referencing community abatement projects identified with quality of life values that include sound, in a rural island site in southern New Zealand, we consider key areas that challenge some of the new and developing themes in sound(scape) studies for both ecomusicologists and soundscape ecologists. We argue for more comprehensive studies in both music and ecology to accurately consider sound in landscapes.
“No Tree—No Leaf”: Applying Resilience Theory to Eucalypt-Derived Musical Traditions
pages 57-68 [peekaboo name=”chapter4″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter4″]
The sound-systems of Australia’s Indigenous peoples perpetuate ancient ways of coping with the immediate physical environment through creative cultural responses. A renewable musical store of material is provided in nature, as with the traditional method of sourcing didjeridus (didgeridoos) from termite-hollowed trees of the Eucalyptus genus. Fragile foliage may also become a musical instrument if it meets the criteria for selection of a gumleaf instrument. Informed by the resilience theories of C. S. Holling (and others), I gauge the impact made on these social-ecological systems by natural environmental processes, anthropogenic land use change, and climate change. I focus on the resilience of musical instrument supply from yellow box (E. melliodora, source of the so-called “Stradileaf” of southeastern Australia); Darwin stringybark (E. tetrodonta, the highly sought “didj tree” of northern Australia); and various Eucalyptus mallee trees (harvested for didjeridu manufacture in Western Australia). The local is inextricably linked to the global: evidence is mounting that shows eucalypts in a high-CO2 environment respond by growing thicker (i.e. lower-pitched) leaves, thus undergirding the hypothesis that altered sonic worlds will inevitably emerge from an altered climate. Based on this and other scientific findings, I conclude that global warming has consequences, not just for the future of Eucalyptus as a wellspring for musical production, but also for the general physical foundations of musical practice and instrument manufacture – and thus for human cultures.[/peekaboo_content]
Jeff Todd Titon
pages 69-79 [peekaboo name=”chapter5″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter5″]
Until now, ecocritics have focused on Thoreau as a natural historian, cultural critic, and proto-environmentalist. Drawing on Thoreau’s writings, particularly in his journals, I redirect this conversation towards ecomusicology by attending to Thoreau’s extensive and complex ideas concerning music and sound. Sound was the source of Thoreau’s deepest veneration of the natural world and a chief motivator in his desire to preserve and protect it. Thinking with Thoreau turns our attention to the relation between music and place; that is, to music as a sound-world integrated into a local ecosystem. Thinking with Thoreau helps us to understand relations between music, sound, presence, and co-presence, an interdependent a relational ontology and epistemology characteristic of living systems. Finally, thinking about music, sound, and the environment with Thoreau directs us toward a construction of nature worth wanting.[/peekaboo_content]
Aaron S. Allen and Kevin Dawe
Natural Species, Sounds, and Humans in Lowland South America: The Kĩsêdjê/Suyá, Their World, and the Nature of Their Musical Experience
pages 89-98 [peekaboo name=”chapter6″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter6″]
It is very important for ecomusicologists to be careful with the definitions of the central terms of the field because unreflective or ethnocentric definitions can create problems for our future work. The anthropologist Marshall Sahlins once argued that “much of anthropology can be considered a sustained effort at synthesizing an original segmentation of its object, an analytic distinction of cultural domains it had made without due reflection, if clearly [based] on the model presented by our own [Euro-American] society.” A bit like Humpty Dumpty after he fell from the wall, once broken up into parts it can be very difficult to repair the initial segmentation of a field. This paper illustrates the challenge to ecomusicology through a discussion of the ways the Kĩsêdjê/Suyá Indians of Brazil relate with animals and the central importance of those relationships to their music. Kĩsêdjê hunt and fish in their forest and rivers, but they also maintain that all animals and fish also live in large villages where they look like humans to one another, speak to each other, and sing their own songs during their ceremonies. Each species has its own distinct perspective on the world and on the other species, and communication between them often involves music. A brief comparative discussion suggests that the distinction between humans and animals is for many peoples more permeable and malleable than acknowledged in much Euro-American scientific research on humans and animals.[/peekaboo_content]
Of Human and Non-human Birds: Indigenous Music Making and Sentient Ecology in Northwestern Mexico
pages 99-108 [peekaboo name=”chapter7″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter7″]
This essay is based on ethnographic research on the ceremonial music and dance performed by the Yoreme (Mayo-Yoreme), an indigenous community dwelling in semiarid northwestern Mexico. In ritual performance, the deer singers, the musicians, and the pascola dancers merge with the world around them: they transform into the animals with whom they co-inhabit the enchanted world (juiya annia). Deer songs and birdcalls played on a simple cane flute emerge from a consensual view of what makes up Yoreme sacred reality. Music making and dancing is based on skills, sensitivities, and orientations that have developed through experiencing life with the movements, sounds, and gestures of animals. This sentient ecology brings humans into communicative relationships with the ecological world and extends the concept of personhood to animals, and ultimately to all ecological life.
The Yoreme, like indigenous populations elsewhere in the world, feel the cultural impact of globalization, which not only has transformed their living space but has also affected the spiritual life that constitutes their communal identity. Yet in spite of the intensification of global interconnectedness, the links between cultural experience and local surroundings are still strong. Yoreme continue to self-consciously defend their traditional beliefs, values, and cultural practices, which contribute to our understanding of musical and sonic issues related to ecology and the natural environment from a non-Western perspective. [/peekaboo_content]
Materials Matter: Towards a Political Ecology of Musical Instrument Making
pages 109-121 [peekaboo name=”chapter8″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter8″]
This essay explores how musical instrument makers relate to their primary materials and, in turn, how musical instruments connect music, nature, and society in particular cultural contexts. I emphasize the physical impact and symbolic significance of musical instruments in relation to more recent issues of their cultural and environmental sustainability. Musical instrument makers are literally “in touch” with the material world. Craftsmen attune to a particular set of natural resources, and they work with both resistant and malleable materials. Through the acquisition of a certain skill set, proprioception provides feedback whilst movements are entrained: knowledge of materials is not only memorized and cognitively processed, it is embodied and has tactile and olfactory dimensions. Within the workshop, knowledge of how to exploit the acoustic and aesthetic properties of materials is developed as part of a sensual culture. I advocate, following Jane Bennett, forms of culture that are more attentive encounters between the materialities that are people things. This ecological vital materialism brings out connections between different types of organic material in order to induce a greater ecological sensibility. I detect recognition and representation of this vital materialism among the discourses around musical instruments and in the workshops of particular instrument makers, whether the new breed of guitar maker in Scotland and Uganda or the older traditions of Spain (guitars) and Crete (lyra, bowed lute).[/peekaboo_content]
“Keepin’ It Real”: Musicking and Solidarity, the Hornby Island Vibe
pages 122-134 [peekaboo name=”chapter9″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter9″]
What about playing music, as an activity, might contribute to the environmental movement? Might it do anything at all, or, is asking such a question to fiddle while Rome burns? This essay discusses how I developed a critical environmental ethnographic research methodology to promote justice for a community that is struggling to replicate its radical ecologies of self-governance and of identity as a place for counter culture experimentation. On Hornby Island in British Columbia, Canada, playing music contributes in important and significant ways to the solidarity of this small rural community that is facing a difficult future. On Hornby, musicians intervene into the island’s “vibe” to create a feeling of togetherness, even while young people struggle to find ways to make a home and a living in the community. Even with rising ferry fees, land taxes, and property prices, which are compounded by housing inequality, gentrification, poverty, water needs, an average age of 66, and a struggling tourist economy, islanders have remarkable systems of self governance to manage their annual population that moves quickly from 800 to 5,000 for only two summer months of the year. In my description of the band-as-community on Hornby, I tease out how the soft skills developed in dialogue with others in rehearsal are essential to creating and promoting the Island’s capacity to continue to (or at least aspire to) subvert mainland norms of life in pursuit of wealth and consumption. [/peekaboo_content]
Late Soviet Discourses of Nature and the Natural: Musical Avtentyka, Native Faith, and “Cultural Ecology” after Chornobyl
Maria Sonevytsky and Adrian Ivakhiv
pages 135-146 [peekaboo name=”chapter10″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter10″]
The 1986 nuclear accident at reactor number 4 of Ukraine’s Chornobyl (Chernobyl) Nuclear Power Plant prompted the rise of an “eco-nationalism” that contributed significantly to the Ukrainian national independence movement of the late 1980s. It also resulted in the resettlement of over 200,000 Ukrainians from a zone known by ethnographers to have preserved a rich village culture of traditional folksong and ritual. This article examines the rise of the avtentyka
musical movement, which paid close attention to regional and local village styles of musical performance, in relation to the growth of movements of national identity, political sovereignty, environmental awareness, and the neo-traditionalist “Native Faith” religious movement in late Soviet and post-Soviet Ukraine. Taking cues from Russian historian Dmitry Likhachev’s notion of an “ecology of culture”—influential among practitioners of avtentyka themselves—and from American ethnomusicologist Jeff Todd Titon’s (2009) proposal for an “ecology of music,” we look at how variable notions of culture and nature played into the dynamic relations among music, identity, politics, and ecology in a context of rapid cultural and environmental change. [/peekaboo_content]
Aaron S. Allen and Kevin Dawe
Critical Theory in Ecomusicology
James Rhys Edwards
pages 153-164 [peekaboo name=”chapter11″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter11″]
Critical theory is an endeavor born of crisis. In the historical materialist tradition, which emerged in response to nineteenth century social problems, the critical theorist begins by taking account of the material conditions and mode of production that enable society to reproduce itself. She then painstakingly moves outward to interrogate the institutions that preserve this mode of production, and the cultural practices that dissemble its inequities. The ecocritical theorist faces an even more monumental undertaking. Whereas historical materialism has long recognized social and ecological problems as intertwined effects of the human metabolism with nature, we have only recently come to realize the complexity and enormity of the epochal environmental crisis that we have set in motion. In this essay, I approach ecomusicology as critical reflection upon music and sound, set against the backdrop of this crisis. My aim is to situate ecomusicology within the broader critical theory tradition, which I trace from the Frankfurt School to posthumanist and new materialist social theory. After exploring intersections between these fields and recent work in ecomusicology, I propose a hybrid mode of critical hearing informed by “materialisms” both new and old and by my own work on listening practices in Japan. [/peekaboo_content]
Nature and Culture, Noise and Music: Perception and Action
W. Luke Windsor
pages 165-175 [peekaboo name=”chapter12″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter12″]
In this essay three issues are addressed: the prospect for applying concepts from ecological psychology within ecomusicology; the way in which ecological psychology refreshes our understanding of the relationship between music and noise, and the way in which free improvisation might play a role in helping students in higher education understand the boundaries between culture and nature. Ecological psychology (the work of Roger Barker and James Gibson) has recently been applied to music perception by a number of scholars, notably Eric Clarke. However, it is the potential to reconnect action with perception that I explore most directly by applying the work of Harry Heft and Edward Reed to music-making. Applying these insights to the ecomusicological project (here personified in the work of Malcolm Troup) helps provide a critique of the implied opposition of music and noise, and hence culture and nature. In conclusion, I argue that addressing the direct perception of instruments and their affordances through free improvisation is an essential component in musical education to be revisited at all levels – most importantly in higher education – as a corrective to our inevitable enculturation and exposure to increasingly mediated experience that creates a dichotomy between nature and culture, noise and music.[/peekaboo_content]
Aural Rights and Early Environmental Ethics: Negotiating the Post-War Soundscape
pages 176-187 [peekaboo name=”chapter13″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter13″]
This essay examines the 1948 public hearings and eventual 1952 United States Supreme Court case surrounding the use of background music on public buses in Washington, D.C. Framed in terms of rights to aural privacy in public spaces, the complainants invoked constitutional rights of freedom of listening, freedom from listening, and freedom of attention. The captive listeners demanded aural autonomy. In contrast to noise abatement efforts that highlighted the dangerous health effects of noise, this case demonstrates that background music was understood to be distinct from noise culturally, psychologically, and legally. This case illustrates how sound can be central to the development of new ideas about humans’ relationship to the environment. Inasmuch as ideas about background music and sound were intertwined with ideas about space, they were part and parcel of much of twentieth-century American social and cultural tensions, most especially reconciling the (aural) rights of the individual with the perceived needs of the masses. The transitcasting episode is used to tease out ideas of a sound commons and explore how an awareness of such a commons, and associated ethics of maintaining a sound commons, might arise, thus anticipating the ideas of environmental ethics. In light of this examination of historical efforts to establish a sound commons, this essay concludes with a discussion of the activist features of environmental history and sound studies, and how these might dovetail in ecomusicology. [/peekaboo_content]
Music, Television Advertising, and the Green Positioning of the Global Energy Industry
Travis D. Stimeling
pages 188-199 [peekaboo name=”chapter14″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter14″]
The past decade has witnessed an explosion of green marketing efforts by companies offering products and services ranging from household cleaners to shipping services. Targeting consumers in developed countries who increasingly demand corporate responses to mounting ecological crises, several global energy companies with problematic environmental records have developed television advertising campaigns attempting to reposition themselves as environmental stewards. These advertisements are particularly rich sites for ecomusicological inquiry into the ways that music has been used to construct pro-environmental rhetoric and narratives. Drawing upon recent marketing research into the demographic profile and attitudes of the typical “green consumer,” this paper explores the ways in which these advertising campaigns deploy music to appeal to the “green to be seen” attitudes, identified by marketing scholars as a key motivating factor in the purchasing decisions of many green consumers. Particularly, this essay builds on recent work on television advertising and news broadcasts to explore how pro-fossil fuel campaigns musicalize notions of “progress” and “modernization” in order to reposition these known polluters as green corporations. Finally, I consider how such musical rhetoric and narratives might raise valuable questions about the ethical considerations implicit in the use of music in green advertising. [/peekaboo_content]
Pop Ecology: Lessons from Mexico
pages 200-211 [peekaboo name=”chapter15″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter15″] This essay examines two songs with environmental themes: Maná’s “Cuando los ángeles lloran” (1995) and Belinda’s “Gaia” (2010). It is a study in contrasts. Maná’s song, concerts, and activism rouse audiences to political action while Belinda makes a more generic environmental appeal. Maná have successfully linked art to activism, making Belinda’s paean to the planet seems somewhat superficial in comparison. However, Belinda’s “Gaia” represents an act of considerable musical courage given global pop’s musical conventions, one that could open space for lesser-known artists to evoke themes of sustainability, biodiversity, and environmental justice. Maná and Belinda perform very different ecopolitics, but both examples provide useful lessons regarding the power of music as environmental communication. [/peekaboo_content]
Aaron S. Allen and Kevin Dawe
Ecocriticism and Traditional English Folk Music
pages 221-232 [peekaboo name=”chapter16″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter16″]
This essay takes an interdisciplinary approach to traditional English folk music that combines literary ecocriticism and cultural geography in order to focus on the ecocritical implications of the use of the pastoral mode in the traditional folk repertoire. The three main aspects discussed are: what using the pastoral mode meant to the song collectors, particularly Cecil Sharp, the most influential collector behind the Edwardian folk revival; what the pastoral may have meant to singers and audiences in the past; and what it means in the contemporary English folk music scene. Marxist writers, such as A.L. Lloyd, Dave Harker, and Raymond Williams, tended to view the pastoral dimension in folk music as an escape from the contemporary realities of an urbanizing, industrial society. For ecocritics such as Leo Marx, Laurence Buell, and Patrick Curry, in contrast, the pastoral can embody both a critique of the present and an orientation towards a more sustainable future. In this interpretative context, the traditional song “When Spring Comes In” becomes a celebration of the topophilia and biophilia that many ecocritics view as a necessary element in environmental awareness. In this essay, folk music in general emerges both as part of a complex politics of nostalgia in English culture and as a potential exemplar of local, sustainable cultural production.[/peekaboo_content]
The Peasant’s Voice and the Tourist’s Gaze: Listening to Landscape in Luc Ferrari’s Petite symphonie intuitive pour un paysage de printemps
pages 233-244 [peekaboo name=”chapter17″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter17″]
This essay considers Luc Ferrari’s 1974 tape piece Petite symphonie intuitive pour un paysage de printemps in light of the emerging subdiscipline of postcolonial ecocriticism. Work in this area has highlighted the ideological premises of Western constructions of nature and the environment, disclosing the power relations, structural inequalities, and material conditions inscribed in hegemonic representations of nature. At the same time, postcolonial ecocritics have revealed the degree to which much ecocritical scholarship continues to subscribe to these same hegemonic representations.
In extending these insights to Ferrari’s Petite symphonie, I argue that differences in subject-position translate into discrepant understandings of the pastoral landscape the work evokes. Inspired by a visit to the Causse Méjan, a plateau in France’s Massif Central, Ferrari sonically conjures its desolate landscape via a quasi-minimalist musical setting, across which are interspersed fragments of recorded interviews with local residents. Crucially, the work’s incorporation of the speech of the Causse’s inhabitants opens up a space for dissensus in the Petite Symphonie. Their remarks produce a fissure between an aestheticized vision of the plateau, a function of the metropolitan subject’s “tourist gaze,” and the very different understanding of the landscape given voice by the subaltern rural other: an understanding characterized not by disinterested aesthetic appreciation, but by interested practical action. The self-critique enacted by the Petite symphonie emphasizes how differences in social position underwrite different constructions of landscape. It also indicates how the interaction and mutual interference of these constructions may generate new, reflexive perspectives on the environment. [/peekaboo_content]
Negotiating Nature and Music through Technology: Ecological Reflections in the Works of Maggi Payne and Laurie Spiegel
pages 245-257 [peekaboo name=”chapter18″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter18″]
Conventional wisdom has long viewed women as physiologically and psychologically closer to nature than men, and men as more strongly connected with culture and technology than women. Since the 1960s, ecofeminism has underscored this perspective and encouraged women to embrace female difference and female forms of environmental activism. However, these years also saw the emergence of such emancipated women artists as Annea Lockwood, Pauline Oliveros, Maggi Payne, and Laurie Spiegel, all of whom have shown great ecological awareness, successfully established themselves in the male-oriented cultural domain of composition, and pioneered new music technologies.
Focusing on Payne and Spiegel – highly respected artists who were both born in 1945, but are still lesser known than their colleagues of the same age – this essay shows how these composers express ecological concerns and probes how they display and challenge ideas of ecofeminism in their technology-based ecologically conscious music. I examine two works: Payne’s Apparent Horizon (1996), an audio-visual piece inspired by desert landscapes; and Spiegel’s Anon a Mouse (2003), a musique concrète mini opera about mice and a dog, drawing on processed animal sounds. The study is based on published and unpublished materials including interviews I conducted with both composers and on environmental and ecofeminist studies by such writers as Irene Diamond, Greta Gaard, Donna Haraway, Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Gloria Orenstein, Sherry Ortner, and Tara Rodgers. [/peekaboo_content]
Musical Actions, Political Sounds: Libby Larsen and Composerly Consciousness
Denise Von Glahn
pages 258-272 [peekaboo name=”chapter19″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter19″]
Libby Larsen has written nature-related pieces in every decade of her composing career. Water in every form, whiteness, cold temperatures, and the stillness of frozen landscapes have all inspired musical responses. Collectively they reveal a thorough, wide-ranging, and deeply personal attachment to the natural world and especially to the Upper Midwest, where she has lived the past 60 years. But they also reflect Larsen’s belief in the interrelatedness of humanity, non-human others, and the environment. She is committed to a non-hierarchical relationship with the natural world. Her democratic, egalitarian, and collaborative approach to composition is a manifestation of that commitment. Although Larsen does not set out to preach with her music, and although she resists the idea that her pieces make anything but a musical statement, Larsen’s often lengthy composer’s notes and personal remarks disclose the experiences and extra-musical thinking that inform the composition and are embedded in its sounds. This essay situates Larsen’s 1982 orchestral piece Deep Summer Music within the context of her developing environmental consciousness and considers the impact of ecofeminist and bioregionalist thought on the increasingly politicized composer. [/peekaboo_content]
New Directions: Ecological Imaginations, Soundscapes, and Italian Opera
Aaron S. Allen
pages 273-285 [peekaboo name=”chapter20″] [peekaboo_content name=”chapter20″]
Nineteenth-century Italian music periodicals focused obsessively on opera, which is not surprising given its cultural preeminence at that time. But during the 1880s in La scena illustrata, there was an unusual flourishing of writings on connections between music, culture, and nature.
I argue that these authors were an early ecomusicological community, a point substantiated with a discussion of a selection of the writers involved, the themes they discussed, and their relationships. While some also wrote general musical contributions, others were established naturalists (such as Michele Lessona, who translated Charles Darwin). Their writings included the themes of non-musical stories, opera, and animals, among others, and they exhibit mutual readings and influences. Because of opera’s dominance and a simultaneous perception of stagnation, Italians regularly debated its form, function, and future throughout the nineteenth century. These writings in La scena illustrata seem to be part of a quasi-patriotic rethinking of the popular genre: exercises in operatic and ecological imaginations intended to push opera in new directions.
Historiographically, these writings provide a corrective to assumptions that it was only after the twentieth-century environmental movement when soundscape studies, acoustic ecology, and ecomusicology flourished. The authors in La scena illustrata are part of a longer intellectual history of engagements between music, culture, and nature. Rather than frivolous entertainments, their ecomusicological concerns reflect the political, cultural, and aesthetic contexts in which they were written. We may consider our own contemporary ecomusicological communities in similar ways. [/peekaboo_content]
Glossary of Keywords