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Listening In, Feeding Back
An Interdisciplinary Conference on Sound
with special concert performance
Columbia University, New York
February 13-14, 2009
Click Here for Schedule, Abstracts, and Bios

Click here for the New York Times review of the concert

Talks to take place in 301 Philosophy Hall.
Click Here for a map that indicates the location of Philosophy Hall

Concert to take place in Miller Theater, Friday, February 13, 8pm.
Click Here for a map that indicates the location of Miller Theater (entrance at the southwest corner of Dodge Hall)

Conference and concert are free and open to the public. No registration or tickets necessary. Seating is on a first come, first served basis.

Click here to view the conference poster (pdf 3.6MB)


David Novak, Columbia University, Society of Fellows
Ana Maria Ochoa, Columbia University, Department of Music

Karin Bijsterveld, Maastricht University
Steven Connor, Birkbeck College
James Fei, Mills College
Steven Feld, University of New Mexico/University of Oslo
Charles Hirschkind, University of California, Berkeley
Brian Kane, Yale University
Louise Meintjes, Duke University
David Novak, Columbia University
Otomo Yoshihide, Independent Composer/Performer, Tokyo
Mark Smith, University of South Carolina
Jonathan Sterne, McGill University
Elizabeth Travassos, University of Rio de Janeiro
Amanda Weidman, Bryn Mawr College

Alvin Lucier
Otomo Yoshihide
James Fei, Kato Hideki, and Toshimaru Nakamura Trio


In recent years, several North American academic disciplines, including history, anthropology, ethnomusicology, and media studies, have devoted significant attention towards practices of listening. The act of listening is undoubtedly an underexplored dimension of modern sensory experience -- and of modernity itself, which is too often characterized by an overdetermined regime of visuality. What can listening offer to emerging interdisciplinary work on perception, performance, aesthetics, social life, and the circulation of sound media? Listening is more than a given function of musical interpretation, which might attend to sound only in its deliberately aesthetic or openly communicative forms. Rather, it is a culturally-situated practice that shapes the particular spatial and material conditions of our perception. Listening influences the social distinctions of daily life, and is inextricably bound to aesthetic and bodily experiences with music and noise. And increasingly, characterizations of listening recognize its diverse practices as productive transcultural relationships, which in themselves constitute the globalization of media. Our experiences with sound are key to broad projects of self-making that rewrite logics of authorship and cultural origin through circulation and new modes of appropriation.

Adding the metaphor of feedback to contemporary inquires into listening encourages us to reconsider the creative social relations that develop within the distinct spaces and circulations of sound media. Feedback touches on the cyclical nature of people’s experiences with recordings, the recurrent relationships between different sites of listenership, the connections between production and consumption, and the many circuits of authenticity and transformation through which sound travels. Re-situating feedback from cybernetics and network theory into mediated social practices of listening helps to reveal logics of interconnection, emplacement, attention and subjectivity that have become crucial to cultural politics. Feedback loops challenge linear histories of music; the isolation of hearing as a sense (and of listening publics from each other); and the maintenance of distinctions between genres and categories of musical style and experience. Feedback instead offers links, circulations, and connections: not as closed tautological arguments, but cross-wired circuitries that recognize constant change, and also stress their own coincidental and unpredictable infrastructure.

Themes to be addressed:
1. The role of listening and feedback in the experience of media circulation
2. Listening as a conscious re-orientation of ongoing productions of knowledge (both in everyday social practice and in terms of received disciplinary problems)
3. Listening in the context of electronic media and technology, and the changing environments of musical production and reproduction
4. Feedback and listening as creative practices in popular music genres
5. Feedback as a revision of linear narratives of historical invention in terms of coincidence and simultaneity
6. Feedback in the transactions of new media networks, which challenge existing terms of communication, democratic exchange, and political control of sound
7. Listening in alternative modernities: aesthetics conceived through relationships of transcultural difference, colonialities, and histories of mimesis, imitation and influence

Click here for a copy of the program, which includes a conference schedule, talk abstracts, and speaker bios.

Funding generously provided by the Society of Fellows, the Center for Ethnomusicology, the Department of Music, the Department of Anthropology, and the Donald Keene Center.

Society of Fellows, Columbia University
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