The Politics of The Musical Situation: A Response to Marina Rosenfeld

The Politics of the Musical Situation: A Response to Marina Rosenfeld

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Julie Beth Napolin, Marina Rosenfeld

Author and researcher Julie Beth Napolin presents here responses to sound artist Marina Rosenfeld from a discussion at The New School in New York City. Including material from a Bomb magazine interview with Rosenfeld, the political terrains of listening and power intersect acoustic art making.

continent Issue 5.3 / 2016 “Acoustic Infrastructures

April 8-9: Techniques of the Listener

I’m pleased to participate in “Techniques of the Listener,” convened by the Yale Sound Studies Working Group. We hope to write a collective essay on the proceedings.

About Techniques of the Listener

Techniques of the Listener” is a two day working group on audile techniques, supported by a Humanity/Humanities grant from Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center.

Our goal is to collectively examine, develop, and refine the notion of “audile techniques” from both practical and theoretical angles. The sessions are not public; rather they are designed to maximize conversation, exchange, and collective thinking.

We hope to approach the idea of audile technique both intensively and extensively. Intensively, we want to look at particular instances. By ranging across the disciplines, we hope to see how different cultural-historical situations are articulated and altered through the application of audile techniques. Each participant will present a short narrative of an audile technique, contemporary or historical, in hopes of building a small “sample set” of cases. By considering these cases we aim to study audile techniques both individually and comparatively. We hope to broaden and refine our understanding of what kinds of practices should be included under the heading of an audile technique.

Extensively, we seek to better understand the nature of audile techniques generally. Can we make inroads on developing a theory of audile techniques? Are current theories of audile techniques sufficient for illuminating and generalizing over individual cases? How do techniques, at once, organize and respond to the relays, successions, and recursive loops of auditory aspects of human experience?  Bringing the two approaches together, we seek to clarify the structure and nature of technique, while also remaining sensitive to the specific ways audile techniques are integrated with audio technologies and other sensory techniques.

After our two day meeting, we will make public the outcome and implications of the conversations.


J.D. Connor (Yale, Art History and Film Studies)
Ben Glaser (Yale, English)
Brian Kane (Yale, Music)

March 4: Dialogue with Marina Rosenfeld

Graduate Institute of Design, Ethnography, and Social Thought: Seminar with Marina Rosenfeld

Respondent, Julie Beth Napolin

Marina Rosenfeld presents “Surface Species – Playback and the Object.”

Friday, March 4, 2016 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

University Center, 411 63 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY

This seminar is a discussion of a pre-circulated paper. It can be found on the GIDEST site for attendees to read in advance.

Marina Rosenfeld is an artist and composer who lives and works in New York. Her works include compositions for choir, orchestra and complexes of loudspeakers; a series of conceptual electric-guitar orchestras (Sheer Frost Orchestra); and since 2008, a custom sound-system (P.A.) that she has composed for and deployed in monumental sites including New York’s Park Avenue Armory and Western Australia’s Midland Railway Workshops. Rosenfeld has also performed as an experimental turntablist since the late ’90s, working with an ever-expanding palette of hand-crafted dub plates, alongside collaborators from Christian Marclay to Warrior Queen to Ralph Lemon, to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.


Rountable : Talking Listening Seriously : James Baldwin and Sound

In this roundtable, we took up Keith + Mendi Obadike’s sound installation, “Blues Speaker [for James Baldwin]” (2015). The 12-hour work archives the sounds of “Sonny’s Blues,” also activating relations between sound, literary voice, and city space. We discussed Baldwin and the politics of listening, past, present, and future. With Mendi Obadike and Rich Blint.

“A Sinister Resonance”: Joseph Conrad’s Malay Ear and Auditory Cultural Studies

Sounding Out!

Weird Tales CoverWelcome to the first part of Sonic Shadows, a new SO! series featuring essays drawn from a recent symposium on the question “what does it mean to have a voice” held last April at The New School, and featuring organizers Dominic Pettman, Pooja Rangan and Julie Beth Napolin, as well as invitees Mara Mills (NYU), Gustavus Stadler (Haverford), Rey Chow (Duke), and James Steintrager (UC Irvine). I am happy to serve as Guest Editor, bringing some work developed for, during and after that event, beginning with my own article below.

Participants in “Sonic Shadows” focused on the voice’s shadowy or coded qualities as it stands on the border of the animal, human, and machine. Our motivating question was one shared by literary studies (authorship, the voice of writing, narration), technology studies (recording, storing, and transmitting voices), and media studies, particularly documentary studies (giving voice and objectivity). This…

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April 24/25 : Sonic Shadows : Voice, Technics, and the Human at the New School

Sonic Shadows Version 1

Sonic Shadows is a two-day symposium designed to foster interdisciplinary dialogue among scholars working on the topic of the voice across the fields of literature, film, theory, music, and technology. Our title, “Sonic Shadows,” is designed as a capacious point of entry that accommodates very different objects, approaches, and questions across media and literary studies, whether theoretical, philosophical, or historical. This concept urges us to consider the voice against its grain, as a form of intelligibility subtended by certain sonic frames. We also share a concern for the technologies that shape our conception of the voice and the human, as well as “other” voices that remain in the shadows of such conceptions. As such, we hope to find illuminating and unexpected polyvocal approaches to the voice’s shadowy, layered, coded quality, especially in relation to its habit of confounding our seemingly comfortable notions about race, humanness, gender, the body, the organic, presence, interiority, and mediality.


The symposium will feature 7 speakers across two days. On both days, our conversation will follow a round-table discussion format. Each speaker will be allotted 90 minutes in which they will present a brief talk or work-in-progress, possibly accompanied by contextualizing reading. The remaining time will be reserved for in-depth discussion.


Sonic Shadows is open to a limited number of auditors who RSVP in advance. To register as an auditor, please send an email to before April 21. By RSVP-ing, auditors agree to read the pre-circulated papers attached in the descriptions of the presentations below, and to attend both days of the symposium, to the best of their ability. Our hope is to have a sustained, immersive conversation over two days. Click on the names of the participants below to view descriptions and download readings.


DAY 1: FRIDAY APRIL 24, 2015 

Location: The Orozco Room (66 West 12th Street, Room 712, New York, NY 10011)

9:30AM Julie Beth Napolin, The New School: “‘A Sinister Resonance’: Vibration, Sound, and the Birth of Conrad’s Marlow”

11:00AM Rey Chow, Duke University: “After the Passage of the Beast: ‘False Documentary’ Aspirations, Acousmatic Complications”

2:30PM Dominic Pettman, The New School: “Vox Mundi: The Aural Punctum as Worlding Refrain”


Location: The Orozco Room (66 West 12th Street, Room 712, New York, NY 10011)

9:30AM Mara Mills, NYU: “Diagrams of Speech Systems: From Process to Processing”

11:00AM Pooja Rangan, The New School: “Sonic Relations: Deligny and the Autistic Object of Sound”

2:30PM James Steintrager, UC Irvine: “The Eldritch Phonograph: Weird Reading, Acousmatic Fantasy, and the Old New Media”

4:00PM Gustavus Stadler, Haverford College: “Sound, Recording, and Racial Violence”

Sponsored by the Departments of Culture and Media & Literary Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School