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Bufo Variations

Steven Feld’s paper, “Acoustemologies as Relational Ontologies,” placed at its center a musical collaboration Feld had done in 2006-08 with Ghanaian multi-instrumentalist Nii Otoo Annan, entitled Bufo Variations, a composition that brought dialogic ethnomusicology (in which the anthropologist collaborates musically or sonically with interlocutors) into juxtaposition with multispecies ethnography (Annan and Feld worked with sounds made by Bufo regularis toads in Accra):

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Wayne Marshall’s “Taximan” with sign language interpretation

Ethnomusicologist Wayne Marshall provided commentary at The Elusive session on October 22nd. As part of his presentation, he played one of his own musical compositions, entitled “Taximan.” The playback was interpreted through SEI sign language representing the beats, sounds, and evocations of Marshall’s music:

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Schwartz and Feld Q & A

Video clip of Q&A with Hillel Schwartz and Steven Feld at The Elusive session on October 22nd:

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Hillel Schwartz’s “Octahedral Audibles” chart

For anyone not present at Hillel Schwartz’s talk at The Elusive session on October 22nd, a PDF of his “Octahedral Audibles” chart — to which he invites us to add, subtract, multiply — can be found here.

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Sensing the Unheard

Hillel Schwartz, in his October 22 paper about sounds ineffable and inexpressible in the church of Atotinilco in Mexico, playfully asked us to imagine “a taxonomy of sounds all around but not quite there.”  He suggested that we think about listening “octophonically”  — to sounds elusive, elusory, obscure, esoteric, delusive, allusive, aporic, and fantastic — and, to help us with this task, offered a chart printed out on “a sheet meant to be folded into a 3-orthoplex cross polytope.”  Folding the sheet into an octahedron — as in fact one audience member did, gifting the result to Schwartz — would put these eight categories into tighter adjacency than the 2D chart. The baroque character of the representation called attention to the epistemological origami sometimes needed to render representable that which is considered as operating just beyond apprehension. Simultaneously a parody of the simple attempt to count senses (see post of September 17) as well as a serious demonstration of the power of words actually to reach the putatively inexpressible, the chart should make scholars in sound studies think newly about what they hear and do not hear.

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