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The Craft of an Affective Space

March 19, 2019

As part of the course in Anthropology of Music, Giulia Accornero (Harvard University) will hold a lecture on the effects of certain audio-visual stimuli as perceived and shaped both by the web community and by the academic discourse. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K32), at 16:30.

Abstract

Search for “ASMR” on Google Videos right now and you will get an astonishing forty million results; check again a minute from now, and you may get even more. ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, labels the effect that a certain category of audio-visual stimuli produces on their listeners: a “pleasurable, tingly sensation that begins in the head and scalp and moves throughout the limbs of the body, causing them to relax” (Young, 2015.)
An international, internet-based community meets and grows mainly around You Tube videos whose audio-visual content is designed to trigger the ASMR. But Wikipedia pages, websites, blogs, Facebook groups, podcasts, and iPhone applications also proliferate, sustaining a community that is not only ‘consuming’ but also inquiring, giving feedback, learning, and promoting. They provide us with what I would call a ‘vernacular theory’ of its peculiar sounds.
At the same time, the ASMR community has triggered an academic response, particularly in neuropsychology. The focus of this field on the mind-body effects that audio-visual stimuli can elicit ultimately narrows down a complex phenomenon to an automatic bodily response.
In this paper I focus primarily on the community and the academic response, concentrating on their agency in shaping this phenomenon. I ask: is ASMR a truly new feeling? How can the discourse and vocabulary around a certain sensation determines it? How has the online content given rise to a particular ASMR aesthetic that is now characteristic of a certain sonic quality? How do the visual and auditory components work together to determine how we hear?
I argue that we cannot fully account for the affective space crafted around the ASMR, as both a bodily sensation and sonic quality—and how the two might interact, unless we reconsider how the community “vernacular theories” work with academic discourse to inform the ways in which we hear and feel sound.

 

Born in 1987, Giulia Accornero graduated in Economics (BA, Università “L. Bocconi”, Milano, 2010),  Musicology (BA, Conservatorio “G. Verdi”, Milano, 2013), and Discipline Storiche Critiche e Analitiche della Musica (MA, Conservatorio “G. Verdi”, Milano 2016). She is a doctoral candidate in Music Theory at Harvard University. Her dissertation situates the developments in measured music witnessed in Italy and France in the late Middle Ages within the broader history of mathematics. Her secondary research area focuses on the technology and aesthetics of sound amplification in ASMR and Contemporary Music. Her articles are published by Pisa University Press (forthcoming), Edizioni ETS and Edizioni del Teatro alla Scala. In 2014 she founded Sound of Wander, a contemporary music season in Milan. In 2018 she founded the GEM Lab, a workshop in which Harvard GSAS students meet regularly to sing and study early musical notations.

Gestualità, sapori, suoni e sentimenti

May 3, 2018

As part of the course in Anthropology of Music, prof. Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University) will hold a lecture with screening of some excerpts of his film Roman Restaurant Rhythms. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K32), at 16:30.

Poster

 

Michael Herzfeld is Ernest E. Monrad Professor of the Social Sciences in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, where has taught since 1991, and is Director of the Asia Center’s Thai Studies Program at Harvard.  He is also Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne; IIAS Visiting Professor of Critical Heritage Studies, Leiden University; Senior Advisor, Critical Heritage Studies Initiative, International Institute of Asian Studies, Leiden; and Chang Jiang Scholar, Shanghai International Studies University.  He is the author of eleven books (most recently Siege of the Spirits: Community and Polity in Bangkok, 2016), two films (Monti Moments, 2007, and Roman Restaurant Rhythms, 2011), and numerous articles and reviews, and his honors include the J.I. Staley Prize and the Rivers Memorial Medal (both in 1994).  In addition to a D.Phil. from Oxford University (1976) and a D.Litt. from the University of Birmingham (1989), he holds honorary doctorates from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (2005), the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki (2011), and the University of Crete (2013), and has been named an Honorary Professor of Shandong University (P.R.C.) for 2013-2018 and of the Southwestern University of Nationalities (Chengdu, P.R. China) for 2014-17.  In the autumn of 2013 held a Visiting Fellowship at King’s College, Cambridge, and served as Visiting William Wyse Professor at Cambridge University. A former president of the Modern Greek Studies Association and of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, he is affiliated with the anthropology programs at Thammasat University, Bangkok and Università “La Sapienza,” Rome, and has held various visiting appointments at the universities of Manchester, Paris-X (Nanterre), Ecole des Hautes Etudes (Paris), Melbourne, Padova, Cagliari, Messina, and Malta.  A member of the editorial boards of American Ethnologist,Ethnologie Française, and International Journal of Heritage Studies and several other journals, he has served as editor of American Ethnologist(1995-98) and is currently editor-at-large (responsible for “Polyglot Perspectives”) at Anthropological Quarterly.  His research in Greece, Italy, and Thailand has most recently addressed the social and political impact of historic conservation and gentrification, the dynamics of nationalism and bureaucracy, and the ethnography of knowledge among artisans and intellectuals. 

The Aesthetic of the Unexpected and the Politics of Recognition in Jazz History

March 20, 2018

As part of the course in Anthropology of Music, prof. Alessandro Duranti (UCLA, Los Angeles) will hold a lecture on jazz history and aesthetics. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K32), at 16:30.

Poster

 

Alessandro Duranti is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and former Dean of Social Sciences at UCLA (2009-2016). His research projects have focused on the distinctive role of verbal, visual, and aural communication in political arenas, everyday life, and jazz performance. Theoretically, he has been interested in agency, intentionality, and intersubjectivity, with a special attention given to the tension between plans and improvisation. Methodologically, he has favored participant-observation and audio-visual recordings of spontaneous interaction in Samoa, the US, France, and Italy. His books include The Samoan Fono: A Sociolinguistic Study (Pacific Linguistics Monographs, 1981), Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon (co-edited with C. Goodwin, Cambridge 1992), From Grammar to Politics: Linguistic Anthropology in a Western Samoan Village (University of California Press, 1994), Linguistic Anthropology (Cambridge University Press, 1997), A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology (Blackwell, 2004), Handbook of Language Socialization (co-edited with E. Ochs and B.B. Schieffelin, Wiley-Blackwell 2012), and The Anthropology of Intentions: Language in a World of Others (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Duranti is co-founder (with Bambi B. Schieffelin) of the journal Pragmatics (formerly IPrA Papers in Pragmatics), former editor of the Journal of Linguistic Anthropology (1999-2001), and past President of the Society of Linguistic Anthropology (1997-1999). In 1999, he received the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, the UCLA Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award, and the American Anthropological Association/Mayfield Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. In 2008 he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Female Voices in Indian Music Culture and Literature

March 8, 2018

As part of the course in Ethnomusicology, Prof. Francesca Cassio (Hofstra University, NY) will hold a lecture on the female presence in Indian musical culture and literature. The lecture will take place at the Department of Cultural Heritage and Environment, University of Milan (via Noto 8, aula K02), at 12:30.

Abstract

Based on iconographic, literary and oral sources, this lecture discusses the repertoires performed by women in private and public settings, from the temple to the court. In particular, the presenter debates the ambiguity of the musical texts, swinging between the categories of sacred and secular music in relation to the context of the performance. The lecture offers a reflection on the impact of gender ideologies on female music makers in North India, ranging from early music to pre-Partition era, with focus on the case study of the medieval poetess Mirabai and the 18th-19th century courtesans’ tradition. The event showcases original audio-visual materials from Prof. Cassio’s archive, and it is enriched with live examples of traditional compositions sung by the presenter.

Poster

Francesca Cassio on Academia.edu

 

Francesca Cassio is Full Professor of Music at Hofstra University (NY), and since 2011 holds the first endowed chair in Sikh Musicology established in the United States.

Since 1994, Dr. Cassio has conducted extensive research in India, where she lived and has been professionally trained in classical vocal music and in the Sikh kirtan repertoire, according to the Guru-Shishya Parampara (“teacher-student”) tradition.

She is disciple of legendary masters of the 20th century: the dhrupad singer Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Khan Dagar, the thumri singer Vidushi Girija Devi, the temple musician Hazoori Ragi Bhai Gurcharan Singh. Dr. Cassio also received extensive vocal training in vocal by Bhai Baldeep Singh, the 13th generation exponent of Gurbānī kirtan maryada, and by Professor Ritwik Sanyal (Benares Hindu University).

Prior to joining the Hofstra faculty, she served as a visiting professor in musicology at Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan, India; lecturer of ethnomusicology at the University of Trento, Italy; lecturer of anthropology of music at the Conservatory of Adria, Italy; and lecturer of ethnomusicology and Indian music at the Conservatory of Vicenza, Italy.

Accomplished performer and scholar, Dr. Cassio is the author of several publications, including a monograph on dhrupad (Percorsi della voce. Ut Orpheus: Bologna, 2000). In 2015 she was awarded the Stessin Prize for outstanding scholarly publication, with the article “Female Voices in Gurbānī Sangīand the Role of the Media in Promoting Female Kīrtanīe.