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Earth Ear: Ethnomusicology, Soundscapes, and the Native American Music Archive
AMST 324
Fall 2015
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: MUSC 289

Leonard Crow Dog (Lakota), wrote in his autobiography, Crow Dog: Four Generations of Sioux Medicine Men, "We Crow Dogs had always had the 'earth ear,' maka nongeya, having the whole earth for an ear. It means you know what's going to happen before it happens. And you can also listen backward, way back, know the generations gone by." Relating the "earth ear" to contemporary technology, he says that it is made up of Inyan Tunka, an "ancient rock computer;" wakiksuyapi, a "hot line to the spirits" through the interpretation of signs; as well as the history sedimented in the Lakota language: a wonderful cyborgian concept that mixes memory, prediction, and the deep ancestral time of the oldest beings, rocks. This is a powerful manifestation of what ethnomusicologist Roshanak Kheshti has called aural positionality, "an ethnographic production practice that works through and with the formal capacities of sound so as to make use of the medium's potential in constructing representations of culture." GPS for the ear? In Crow Dog's account, a medicine man is describing a spiritual practice in relation to the earth; in Kheshti's, an ethnomusicologist is accounting for an ethics of representation through her listening and production practices in the context of World Music; but in both, it is a matter of attuning oneself through the ear.

In this course, we will attune our ears to archives of Native American music by paying close attention to the practice of ethnomusicology, theories of the archive and auditory cultures, issues of intellectual property (including the digitization and publication of archival materials), practices and values of production, and the repatriation of songs and revitalization of Native American ways of life. We will also explore Native American epistemologies and spiritual practices, as well as the sensory and affective aspects of sound. By focusing on the 'earth ear' as a site of interaction, listening becomes an activity by which recorded sound's social, ethical, and aesthetic positioning is conveyed to the listener. Through differential positioning, then, we will explore the intervals between sound and sight, singing and hearing, and music, sound, and language. With this in mind, we will conduct research in Wesleyan's World Music Archive, while comparing it to alternative archives (such as the Women's Audio Archive and various acoustic and sensory ecology archives) that question the archival conventions by which sound, music, and culture are constituted as a homogeneous whole and challenge the perpetration of relations of subordination between sound, sense, and identity.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA AMST
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (AMST)(MUSC)
Past Enrollment Probability: 75% - 89%

Last Updated on JUN-19-2024
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