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Roundtable
Nov 21, 2021 01:00 PM - 01:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211121T1300 20211121T1350 America/Chicago Music and Cybernetics

This panel stems from the forthcoming collection Music and Cybernetics in Historical Perspective edited by Eric Drott and Christopher Haworth. Cybernetics has exerted significant influence on music, especially during its heyday during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Ideas about music ethnography, theory, pedagogy, and psychology have all been routed through the 'cybernetic matrix' (LaFontaine 2007), which is not to mention the indirect impacts of cybernetic theory through (for instance) DeleuzoGuattarian music studies, actor-network theory, or German media theory. Yet music-historical accounts that have considered how cybernetic concepts like feedback controls and autopoietic systems found their way into musical practice have tended to train their attention on a fairly narrow slice of history (the decades after World War II), a fairly narrow selection of musicians and repertoires (mainly composers working within the experimental tradition), and a fairly narrow set of pieces that wear the cybernetic influence on their sleeve (e.g., the biofeedback works of Alvin Lucier and David Rosenboom). Overlooked as a result are more mundane ways that cybernetic thought has informed various practices of musicking, or the degree to which it filtered into discourse about music, or the frequency with which the spectre of cybernetics re-emerges across recent music history, from its inception up to and including the present day.

Each of the authors will give a 10-minute presentation on their contribution to this collection, and George Lewis will give a summary response. Taken as a whole, these contributions consider the recursive and nonlinear impacts of cybernetics and information theory as they infiltrate musical composition (Loughridge and Barrett), music theor ...

AMS 2021 ams@amsmusicology.org

This panel stems from the forthcoming collection Music and Cybernetics in Historical Perspective edited by Eric Drott and Christopher Haworth. Cybernetics has exerted significant influence on music, especially during its heyday during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Ideas about music ethnography, theory, pedagogy, and psychology have all been routed through the 'cybernetic matrix' (LaFontaine 2007), which is not to mention the indirect impacts of cybernetic theory through (for instance) DeleuzoGuattarian music studies, actor-network theory, or German media theory. Yet music-historical accounts that have considered how cybernetic concepts like feedback controls and autopoietic systems found their way into musical practice have tended to train their attention on a fairly narrow slice of history (the decades after World War II), a fairly narrow selection of musicians and repertoires (mainly composers working within the experimental tradition), and a fairly narrow set of pieces that wear the cybernetic influence on their sleeve (e.g., the biofeedback works of Alvin Lucier and David Rosenboom). Overlooked as a result are more mundane ways that cybernetic thought has informed various practices of musicking, or the degree to which it filtered into discourse about music, or the frequency with which the spectre of cybernetics re-emerges across recent music history, from its inception up to and including the present day.

Each of the authors will give a 10-minute presentation on their contribution to this collection, and George Lewis will give a summary response. Taken as a whole, these contributions consider the recursive and nonlinear impacts of cybernetics and information theory as they infiltrate musical composition (Loughridge and Barrett), music theory (Miller, Bell, and Haworth), instrument design (Latham), and voice engineering (Mendez). Issues of representation are to the fore in the contributions, with three of the articles considering cybernetics's role in constructions of gender (Loughridge, Barrett, Latham), and one (Mendez) exploring the relation of information naturalisation and universalism to whiteness. Through these new contributions, the panel seeks to expand the framework inside which cybernetics and information theory have typically been considered in music studies, as well as sketching possible ways music studies might inform future histories of cybernetics.

The New School
University of Birmingham
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