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Paper Session
Nov 20, 2021 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211120T1500 20211120T1550 America/Chicago Music, Sound, and Race in Nineteenth-Century Scientific Discourse

This panel explores the uneasy relationship between discourses of music, sound, and race as they circulated in late nineteenth-century scientific and cultural milieux. Over and against simplistic separations between scientific discourse and musical or vocal culture, the papers in this panel show how the two were at all points mutually influential, especially when it came to the elaboration of racial knowledge. 

The first paper addresses the role of musical ability as an inheritable trait in the development of Francis Galton's eugenic thought in the late nineteenth century. By deploying both the romantic rhetoric of music genius and the nascent discourse of empirical psychology, Galton constructed musicianship as a reliable racial index in ways that current music scholarship has yet to fully unpack. Our second paper considers the anonymous Brazilian song "Mulata do caroço no pescoço" ("Mulata with the pit on her neck") that encodes the tension between fascination and disgust with the Afro-Brazilian female body in captivity. The paper shows that the widely disseminated song also made use of the discourses of biological racial science prevalent at the time, shedding stark new light on the Western trope of the "musical contagion." Shifting the historical context back to the Anglo-American sphere, our third paper examines the racial logic informing the work of William Dwight Whitney, a major figure in the history of linguistics who has been all but ignored in music and sound studies. The structuring role of racial science in Whitney's linguistics, it argues, will shed new light on the racial biopolitics of speech and voice in American cultural and legal discourse then and now.

Through a range of archival source ...

AMS 2021 ams@amsmusicology.org

This panel explores the uneasy relationship between discourses of music, sound, and race as they circulated in late nineteenth-century scientific and cultural milieux. Over and against simplistic separations between scientific discourse and musical or vocal culture, the papers in this panel show how the two were at all points mutually influential, especially when it came to the elaboration of racial knowledge. 


The first paper addresses the role of musical ability as an inheritable trait in the development of Francis Galton's eugenic thought in the late nineteenth century. By deploying both the romantic rhetoric of music genius and the nascent discourse of empirical psychology, Galton constructed musicianship as a reliable racial index in ways that current music scholarship has yet to fully unpack. Our second paper considers the anonymous Brazilian song "Mulata do caroço no pescoço" ("Mulata with the pit on her neck") that encodes the tension between fascination and disgust with the Afro-Brazilian female body in captivity. The paper shows that the widely disseminated song also made use of the discourses of biological racial science prevalent at the time, shedding stark new light on the Western trope of the "musical contagion." Shifting the historical context back to the Anglo-American sphere, our third paper examines the racial logic informing the work of William Dwight Whitney, a major figure in the history of linguistics who has been all but ignored in music and sound studies. The structuring role of racial science in Whitney's linguistics, it argues, will shed new light on the racial biopolitics of speech and voice in American cultural and legal discourse then and now.


Through a range of archival sources and methodologies, the papers in this panel all emphasize the importance of a historical epistemology of race and science for the historical understanding of musical cultures of the past. At the same time, however, these papers point towards the unacknowledged persistence of racialized tropes––ability, contagion, accent––that animate much music and sound scholarship today. In this way, the papers in this panel uncover forgotten themes in the historical record towards an ongoing critique of the present.

Hearing “Hereditary Genius”: Musicality and the Rhetorical Foundations of Eugenics
Session 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 21:50:00 UTC

Francis Galton (1822–1911), cousin to Charles Darwin and founder of the discipline of eugenics, does not feature prominently in the intellectual history of music studies. Music, however, did feature prominently in his work. From his first eugenic writings to his death, Galton made a remarkably consistent argument: that the existence of prominent musical families and child prodigies made the inheritance of musical ability obvious; and that, if musical talent could be inherited, so too could other, more essential, human traits.

This paper offers new readings of Galton's published work, in conjunction with archival documents and correspondence, to show music's privileged place as proof of hereditary superiority, and to suggest the influence of this argument on later thinkers in music studies and eugenics. I present three texts as exemplary of Galton's intellectual development: 1869's Hereditary Genius, his first book concerning inheritance; 1883's Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, which contains his coining of the word "eugenics," and 1910's The Eugenic College of Kantsaywhere, an unpublished novel in which he laid out his final vision for an ideal eugenic society. All three deploy the idea of hereditary musicianship as a form of proof for broader claims about race and heredity, though they do so in different ways: the first recapitulates romantic tropes of genius, asserting that inherited ability was audible in performance; while the latter texts, conversely, adopt the methods of empirical psychology, using tests of hearing to locate musical faculties within the body and mind. By Kantsaywhere, Galton had effectively synthesized these seemingly contradictory viewpoints into a rhetorical strategy that, I argue, had a profound influence on both the development of the psychology of music, and on the rhetoric of the cultural Right. 

Attention to the development of the trope of hereditary musicality through Galton's writing suggests that in these formative decades, the science of music and the science of race were tightly interconnected. Untangling these connections, I suggest, offers a version of the history of music studies from which contemporary inheritors of Galton's eugenic project can be more effectively exposed.

Presenters
AC
Alexander Cowan
Harvard University
Contagious Musics: Racialized Bodies in Nineteenth-Century Brazilian Song
Session 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 21:50:00 UTC

My paper departs from the anonymous lundu song for solo voice and piano "Mulata do caroço no pescoço" ("Mulata with the pit on her neck"), a most peculiar of comic imperial songs: while it appeared to celebrate the mixed-race woman's vital beauty, the song called forensic attention to a supposedly impure body. The glandular swelling the "pit on the neck" suggests was a well-known symptom of syphilis, transmitted by Europeans in slave quarters, often through the sexual exploitation of Afro-Brazilian women. "Mulata" circulated widely in Brazilian cities around the period of the 1888 abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, disseminated via word of mouth and theatrical performance and inscribed in song collections and newspapers. The song offers one of many ways into the notion of a "contagious music with infectious rhythms," which Susan McClary, among others, once explicated as a centuries-old discourse marshalled by white elites to refer to African diasporic musics they adored and despised. These musics' heightened corporeality and the ease with which they circulated informed interpretations that upheld the life-and-death ambivalence the image of contagion suggests-life-giving and reproducible, but also indexing disease and destruction. I place the song within an archive of salon songs (so-called lundus), which imagined interracial relationships between white men and Black women. The lundu archive then emerges against biologically racist thought newly imported from the United States, the bourgeois medicalization and pornification of the female body, and burgeoning knowledges from bacteriology and microbiology. On one hand, these songs echoed popular arguments that portrayed sickness as punishment for sexual perversion. On the other, lundus present the Afro-Brazilian woman as responsible for the nurture of the nation, as a coterminous discourse on the hygiene of Black wet-nurses suggests. The contagious song takes illness beyond the space of metaphor, becoming a dramatic extension of practices targeting the Black female body. At last-in a reproductive economy that encompassed sexually transmitted disease and breast milk-these songs bear witness to ongoing efforts to racialize and regulate the Black female body at the dawn of abolition.

Presenters
KS
Kim Sauberlich
University Of California, Berkeley
Linguistics as a Racial Science: W.D. Whitney and the Historical Racialization of Voice
Session 03:00 PM - 03:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 21:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 21:50:00 UTC

Despite expanding interest in recent years, music and sound studies that investigate historical themes of "voice" have largely left aside the history of language and speech sciences, instead focusing on aesthetic and musical valences of so-called "vocal culture." This tendency has led to an aporia in voice studies around the co-implication of voice discourse and the rationalization of human difference in nineteenth-century racial science. In this paper, I address this aporia by reconsidering the thought and intellectual milieu of one of the central figures of American linguistics, William Dwight Whitney (1827–1894).

 

Venerated by linguistic historians as the consolidator of linguistics as an institutionalized science, Whitney's thought also intervened in nineteenth-century debates over the relationship between language and race. Overturning the pretensions of German Romantic philology, Whitney rejected the notion of an innate, indexical relationship between language, speech, and race. While this gesture has earned him a reputation as the first "common sense" historical linguist, my reading of Whitney's work in the context of nineteenth-century racial governmentality offers an alternative understanding of his legacy. In place of the metaphysical racialism of his predecessors, Whitney proposed an even more ineluctable historical racialism to describe the "life and growth of languages" in racial-evolutionary terms. In fact, Whitney argues that linguists, with their finely tuned ear for fine-grained accentual difference, are indispensable for the racial management of American society, thus staking a claim for professional linguistics in the service of racial science, alongside evolutionary and craniological thought. If there was a "common sense" to Whitney's thought, it was the common sense of a Redemption-era U.S. racial ideology that sought anxiously to rationalize the separability of the races and guarantee white (Indo-European) supremacy.

 

This "common sense" racialism finds its expression today in a wide range of racializing shibboleths that use various speech-analysis techniques to manage and surveil people. By revisiting a figure seemingly marginal to music and sound studies, I argue that, despite the ahistorical nature of some recent voice studies scholarship, the discourses of language, voice, and race, have indeed never been separate.

Presenters
DB
Derek Baron
NYU
Harvard University
University of California, Berkeley
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