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Musical Affect and Posthumanist Literatures

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Organizer: Jason D'Aoust

Co-Organizer: Miriam Piilonen

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Music's intimate relation to affect is central to emerging materialist and formalist music theories, and an important contribution to posthumanism. Music’s emotionality has long been opposed to the rationality and precision of language; debated as pure abstraction or base sensuality; approached as a text to be read or exalted as the essence of pure feeling; asserted as something that connects or clarifies the distinctions between mind and body, self and other, or subject and object; and placed at the center of thought about what it means to be human. In recent years, new materialist turns in music and literature have clarified and complicated these questions, leading to richly interdisciplinary and intertextual considerations of music, affect, and bio-culture. 


At the same time, ongoing interests in science, technology, and new media in musical scholarship has led to a focus on the materiality of machines. This approach to our technological history and destiny often elides bioethical concerns and their centrality in posthumanist thought. Gary Tomlinson's work on evolutionary musicology, however, has posited the embodiment of tasks and tool making in early hominids as having implications for a philosophy of music technology, or more precisely, musical technics in the broadest sense. This panel will explore how affect in music and literature, both old and new, can help test the conceptual borders between the technological and the biological.


Together, our contributions will explore and cross-pollinate the interdisciplinary approaches of posthumanism, affect theory, of evolutionary musicology, and ecomusicology. We welcome proposal papers from comparativists interested in music and musicologists interested in critical theory. We also seek contributions from scholars from various other disciplines, such as voice studies, performance studies, and artistic performance research.


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