Sustainable Music


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Music, Sound, and the Environment: A Symposium

    Here's a heads-up to anyone who's within traveling distance of Johnson City, Tennessee. On Monday, April 4, East Tennessee State University will sponsor a symposium on music, sound, and environment, at the Reece Museum, 363 Stout Drive, on the ETSU campus. Besides myself, ecomusicologists Denise Von Glahn, Mark Pedelty, and Aaron Allen will take part--the same "gang of four" who were responsible for the "Music of Climate Change" events last April, at the University of Minnesota. In addition, I've invited Chad Hamill, an ethnomusicologist who is the head of the Applied Indigenous Studies Program at Northern Arizona University, and Scott McFarland, the biologist who is in charge of the Natural Sounds and Night Skies program at the Great Smoky National Park.
   My intention is to have a six-way conversation, not a series of presentations, on the place of music and sound in the current environmental crisis. The audience will also participate. At a minimum, of course, sound is essential in the environment because it enables communication among human and nonhuman animals (and plants as well, for that matter). Climate change, species migration and extinction, the human and nonhuman adaptations that will be required in the face of environmental change--all these have implications for sound communication, musical communities, aesthetics and sustainability of life on our planet.
   Among the topics we will discuss are the following: ecomusicology and the changing definitions and understandings of music with respect to sound and the environment; the post-humanist decentering of humans in the environment and the implications of the Anthropocene; ecofeminist, deep ecology, traditional ecological knowledge, land ethic perspectives and how these are related to music, sound and the environment. In addition, community, networks, and social structure among human and nonhuman beings; place, space, and gender; environmental philosophy; culture and sustainability; health, balance, and well-being; and sound communities and economies; the politics of noise; listening, hearing, and the body; acoustic ecology and public policy; and sustainable materials in the construction and circulation of musical instruments. This is only a partial list.
  The event is free and open to the public. It will take place between 3 and 5 pm, there will be a break for supper, and then it will conclude from 7-9 pm. Without presentations, and relying on conversation instead, both among the guests and also with the audience, we are taking something of a risk; but we hope that the resulting synergy will make for a more engaged and longer-lasting interchange of information and opinions, as well as action.