Humanities Society - Toward a Black Ecomusicology, 1853? Listening to Enslavement with Solomon Northup

detail of a string instrument
Dr Peter McMurray University of Cambridge & Queens' College
Date 02/02/2021 at 18.00 - 02/02/2021 at 19.00 Where Zoom webinar

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detail of a string instrument

In his 1853 autobiographical narrative, Twelve Years A Slave, violinist Solomon Northup recounts his own experience being abducted and sold into slavery. Northup offers considerable detail about his sonic (and musical) experiences, frequently situating them in a broader environmental context of slave plantations, land- and riverscapes of the American South, and their remediations in print/musical notation. In asserting a salient connection between environment, race, and sound, Northup's memoir points to possible limitations in conceptualizations of the environment that have predominated in recent ecocritical musicology, and especially the tendency of ecomusicology to efface the centrality of race in conceptualizing notions of the environment and its histories. It also offers an alternate genealogy for a long history of thinking about sound, ecology, and power. Bio: Peter McMurray is a lecturer at the Faculty of Music with interests in the critical and cultural study of sound. He is completing a book and media project on sound and Islam among migrant communities in Berlin and editing a volume on histories of sound, media and empire in the long nineteenth century. 

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