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Journal of the
American Musical
Instrument Society
Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society XLIV 2018
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Organology and Other Organology: Seven Essays 5
Organology and the Others: A Political Perspective 7
Gabriele Rossi Rognoni
Organology and Material Culture 18
Flora Dennis
Museums as Theater: What about Musical
Instruments? 26
Eric De Visscher
Seeing Instruments 33
Emily I. Dolan
Actor-Network Theory and Organology 41
Eliot Bates
A View from the Trenches 52
John Koster
Organology and the Others: A Response 64
Laurence Libin
Organology and Other Organology: A Selective 76
“A Guittar to Be Played with a Bow, as Well as with 88
the Fingers”: Reconsidering a Puzzling Hybrid by
Frederick Hintz
Panagiotis Poulopoulos
The English Triple Flageolet 123
Douglas Macmillan
The Origins of the “Indian” Harmonium: Evidence 144
from the Colonial Press and London Patent Office
Cleveland Johnson
Charles Jean-Baptiste Soualle and the Saxophone 179
Stephen Cottrell
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The American Piano-Supply Industry in the 209
Nineteenth Century, with Particular Attention
to the Career and Manufacturing Methods of
Joseph P. Hale (Part 2)
William E. Hettrick
New England Digital Corporation 1976–1992: 309
Developing the Capabilities of Digital Sound
Robert E. Eliason
Michael Fleming and John Bryan, Early English Viols: 331
Instruments, Makers, and Music
Reviewed By Thomas Fitz-Hugh Mace
Christopher Page, The Guitar in Stuart England: A Social 334
and Musical History
Reviewed By Paul Sparks
Sabine Katharina Klaus, Trumpets and Other High Brass: 337
A History Inspired by the Joe R. and Joella E. Utley
Collection. Volume 3: Valves Evolve
Reviewed By Herbert Heyde
Douglas Koeppe, Woodwinds in Early America 339
Reviewed By Geoffrey Burgess
Recent Publications 343
A list compiled by Pamela R. Dennis
Contributors 350
Guidelines for Contributors: A Summary 355
The Curt Sachs Award 357
Organization and Membership 358
Friends of AMIS 360
2019 Meeting Announcement 361
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Actor-Network Theory and Organology
Eliot Bates
As an ethnomusicologist I’m interested in the process and practice of
ethnography, which can be described as the act of making notes
about culture.
I study musical systems since they can, in part, tell us the
story of society and culture, beyond their intrinsic interest. If we accept
that humanistic research involves story-telling, then we must ask: what
stories do we wish to tell? Then, what is the place of physical matter, and
especially of musical instruments, within the narratives? Is the instru-
ment simply one object of many, or rather can it at times be the subject
of research? How do the musical instrumental characters in our story re-
late to the other characters, both human and non-human? How are we,
as scholars, transformed and affected by instruments? Extending this,
what can instruments tell us about culture and society, how reliable are
they as story-tellers, and precisely how do they do this telling?
From 2004 to 2017 I was engaged with an extensive research project
focused on the recording studio cultures of Istanbul. One key topic
within that project concerned the role and performance of “traditional”
Anatolian folk instruments within “modern” recording studio contexts,
particularly changes in performance practice that happened due to the
reliance on analog or digital technologies.
Musical instruments figure
quite prominently in this project, as certain Anatolian instruments are
so powerful as to serve as national instruments, which by proxy suggests
79. It would require much space to attempt to encapsulate the considerable de-
bates concerning the definition and bounds of “culture” within a concept of ethnogra-
phy, but an excellent introduction to the topic within the context of American cultural
anthropology is: George E. Marcus and Michael M. J. Fischer, Anthropology as Cultural
Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1986). For the purpose of this essay, I keep the concept open-ended. Culture can
be conceived of as a quality that some group of people share in common. Alternatively,
from an American sociological perspective, Swidler defines culture as a “ “tool kit” of
symbols, stories, rituals, and world-views, which people may use in varying configura-
tions to solve different kinds of problems”: Ann Swidler, “Culture in Action: Symbols
and Strategies,” American Sociological Review 51, no. 2 (1986): 273.
80. Kevin Dawe, “People, Objects, Meaning: Recent Work on the Study and Collec -
tion of Musical Instruments,” The Galpin Society Journal 54 (2001): 219–32.
81. Eliot Bates, Digital Tradition: Arrangement and Labor in Istanbul’s Recording Studio
Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
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that they have the power to unite a nation around them.
Other instru-
ments are constitutive of regional, ethnic, and local identities. My work
departs from much scholarship that would consider these effects as
merely symbolic, or as disengaged from social life or lives. I contend that
if we take seriously the ways people actually engage with instrument-
objects, we must grapple with the messiness of these encounters. In
countless experiences, people regard their instruments as instruments of
power, as influencing their owners for good and for evil, or as produc-
ing moral and ethical effects in both performers and listeners. Rather
than becoming disenchanted as we move in and beyond the postmod-
ern present, instruments are finding new ways of enchanting people.
This happens even in the digital recording studios I study, where
dozens of Anatolian folk instruments are routinely brought in to per-
form the repertoires that come to constitute multiple forms of ethnic
and national identity.
Actor-network theory (or ANT for short) is one approach that con-
tains significant potential for organology, although with caveats. At its
most basic, actor-network theory is a methodological standpoint that
assumes an analytical equivalence between humans and non-humans.
Anything can be an actor, anything can be acted upon, and networks are
structures (typically temporary) that hold together these actors and re-
cipients. Since anything can be an actor, ANT has been termed a “flat
ontology” or, in other words, a non-hierarchical ordering of things. ANT
has also been termed a material semiotics, and according to John Law
“takes the semiotic insight, that of the relationality of entities, the notion
that they are produced in relations, and applies this ruthlessly to all
materials—and not simply to those that are linguistic.”
Since organol-
ogy is at its core concerned about the interface between material objects
and people, whether those people are makers or collectors or rather
prominent end-users, it is an ideal candidate for actor-network-type
Networks, Translations, and Agencements
Bruno Latour, perhaps more than any individual associated with the
methodology, used ANT to study the practice and doing of science.
While conducting ethnographic research at the Salk Institute, a biologi-
82. Eliot Bates, “The Social Life of Musical Instruments,” Ethnomusicology 56, no. 3
(2012): 363–95.
83. John Law, “After ANT: Complexity, Naming and Topology,” The Sociological
Review 47, no. S1 (1999): 4.
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cal research lab in San Diego, California, Latour, along with his col-
league Steve Woolgar, was struck by the primary importance accorded to
reams of printed-out experimental data. They gave accounts of scientists
laboring away, wholly at the whim of their medical instruments and com-
puter printers—what they termed “inscription devices.”
For Latour,
while there still is a cognitive and theoretical aspect, the reality of science
is much more blatantly characterized by these mundane and repetitious
encounters between people and technologies. And when he analyzed
these encounters, the machines appeared to be in control and possessed
agency; people were subject to the whims and ways of the machines, en-
slaved to them even. The networks supporting science included not just
scientists, but all the support staff (from janitors to doormen to execu-
tives) and notably the machines as well, and all the reams of data and
conceptual apparatuses of science. Science happened as a network ef-
fect; Latour and Woolgar’s goal was to provide an account of science in
action. We must clarify here that an actor-network is a fairly open-ended
concept. Latour defines it as “a series of associations revealed thanks to
a trial—consisting in the surprises of the ethnographic investigation—
that makes it possible to understand through what series of small discon-
tinuities it is appropriate to pass in order to obtain a certain continuity
of action.”
Keeping it open-ended is essential to the actor-network
ANT, in its most basic form, doesn’t have any particular explanatory
or predictive power (the “theory” part of the term is a misnomer), but
the methodology was developed alongside a number of interrelated
concepts, some of which need to be included for an analysis to be truly
exemplary of ANT. The ANT universe is quite extensive, so I will only
cover a few interrelated concepts within the broader methodology. One
central concept is that of translation, later partly replaced with the
term mediation. One of the more streamlined definitions, put forward
by John Law, was “the process or the work of making two things that are
not the same, equivalent.”
For Latour and for other science studies
scholars, it’s not just the practice of science which is in question, but
what happens between discovery and real-world application. Science has
to be communicated with the world, and to other scientists, too; even the
84. Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific
Facts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986).
85. Bruno Latour, An Inquiry into Modes of Existence: An Anthropology of the Moderns,
trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013), 33.
86. Law, “After ANT: Complexity, Naming and Topology,” 8.
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most significant scientific study is meaningless if it fails to circulate and
produce change, whether in the domain of science or in the outside
world. In the language of Latour, a translation happens between the
world of science and the world of policy, and key stakeholders enact or
perform this translation.
In the translation process, certain actors en-
roll other actors (human and nonhuman) in their cause. So again, a lin-
guistic metaphor (translation) is applied to people, material objects, and
concepts alike.
The translation concept is particularly useful when considering the in-
vention and marketing of new kinds of musical instruments. For exam-
ple, Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco wrote an excellent book on the mak-
ing of the Moog synthesizer, asking the primary question: what factors
are necessary for a whole new category of instrument to be invented and
As they note, most earlier experiments with synthesis did not
result in stable instruments that became widely adopted; most resided at
the experimental stage. Certain factors were essential for the synthesizer
to become an instrument rather than just another experimental object.
Here we need to understand the roles of many kinds of actors, including
marketers, distributors, and expert users, in translating between the
worlds of electronics and lab equipment, and the worlds of musicians
in the genres of psychedelic rock, sound design, and underground/
mainstream dance music.
Asserting that material objects can serve as actors and possess power
implies that non-humans can thereby have agency. The other principal
founder of ANT, Michel Callon, a sociologist of science and later of
global economic systems, introduced to ANT the concept of agence-
I keep the term in the French since no single English-language
87. Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through
Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), 108.
88. Pinch and Trocco are not ANT scholars per se, but pursue similar questions
through related theoretical frameworks, notably the Social Construction of Techno -
logy (SCOT). However, the ANT concept of translation is similar to the idea Pinch and
Trocco employ of the boundary object, albeit restricted to people and technological
objects: Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the
Moog Synthesizer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).
89. Michael Callon, “Economic Markets and the Rise of Interactive Agencements:
From Prosthetic Agencies to Habilitated Agencies,” in Living in a Material World: Eco -
nomic Sociology Meets Science and Technology Studies, ed. Trevor Pinch and Richard Swed -
berg (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2008), 29–56; Alexander Styhre, Knowledge Sharing
in Professions: Roles and Identity in Expert Communities (Farnham (UK): Gower, 2011), 40.
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equivalent captures its entirety. It’s in one sense a play on words, drawing
on the meaning of agencement as an assemblage of heterogeneous ob-
jects or a layout of concepts (originating in Deleuze and Guattari, and
brilliantly expanded by Manuel DeLanda), but also creating a verbal
noun out of the concept of agency and/or the act of assembling.
second meaning could be given the neologism “agencing,” or the
process of having or enacting agency, but we don’t want to lose the con-
cept of assemblage, since Callon specifically wanted to draw attention to
how agency works among heterogeneous collections of human and
nonhuman objects. This dual meaning led to other agency-focused con-
cepts. Notably, for our purposes, Andrew Pickering wrote in a com-
pelling manner about the “dance of agency” that happens in science
and sociotechnical systems.
Translating this to the world of organol-
ogy, it’s not sufficient (nor particularly helpful) just to say that instru-
ments have agency; we have to understand how people, interacting with
instruments (and perhaps at the same time with other objects) within
particular spaces and places, are in a continuous and ever-shifting
process of give-and-take, ceding control to the instruments, seizing con-
trol from them. Agency, in this conceptualization, is not to be confused
with intentionality: agency is simply a property of things that make
a difference/change in a particular situation, rather than a result of
conscious thought or intention.
The “Instrument Multiple” and Opening the Black Box
Actor-network theory’s supporting concepts also call into question the
ontology of objects in a number of ways. Two of particular interest are
the concept of the body multiple, and the concept of black boxes and
the processes of punctualization/depunctualization. In Annemarie
Mol’s study of hospitals and medical practice, she discovered through
ethnography that patients, surgeons, family members, anesthesiologists,
and other actors all had differing conceptualizations of and relations to
the “sick” patient’s body, which led her to think of bodies as multiples
90. Manuel DeLanda, Assemblage Theory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press,
91. Andrew Pickering, The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency and Science (Chicago: Uni -
versity of Chicago Press, 1995), 21–22.
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rather than as singular, intact entities.
John Law was especially inter-
ested in the processes whereby complex things are punctualized, or
treated as intact entities that function as black boxes.
Depunctuali za -
tion is the process of blowing open the black box to reveal a complex
actor network contained within.
These related concepts could be of particular interest to organolo-
gists, especially when considering the repair of instruments. Makers and
instrument repair specialists have a different conceptualization of a
working instrument than instrumentalists or listeners or other actors: in
effect, there is always an instrument multiple. Moreover, there is a tendency
to regard instruments as intact entities, when in reality they are often
constructed of numerous parts; only the maker is normally aware of
how these parts cohere into an illusory whole. But in deciding how and
why to repair an instrument, a process of depunctualization happens.
Choices are made, materials are leveraged, and out of the process a
new instrument emerges that somehow shares an identity with the pre-
repaired instrument even as it now contains new matter that wasn’t there
From normative accounts of technological invention or development,
one gets the false sense that technology begins with a clearly formed
idea, progresses into a working prototype, and is quickly and smoothly
adopted in the world. But as organologists, we know that the invention
and adoption of instruments is far from a neat or smooth operation. By
far most instruments fail, and some that succeed take many years to do
92. Annemarie Mol, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice (Durham: Duke
Uni versity Press, 2002). This book, specifically, was the inspiration for a misunderstood
sentence that I wrote in an earlier essay where I compared certain organological labor
to the work of morticians. This sentence originally was accompanied by a lengthy foot-
note that provided context, but this got removed during the editing stage due to space
constraints. In the early 1990s I performed in a Persian classical music ensemble with a
musician whose day job was a mortician and forensic toxicologist. Often after re-
hearsals we’d socialize about topics related to our respective work, and I was fascinated
with his discussion of bodies, which, informed by the practice of being a mortician and
forensic toxicologist, was qualitatively different than my experience of human bodies,
or of the experience that might be had by a dancer, a portrait painter, or any of the
medical practitioners discussed by Mol. That disposition affords particular insights into
bodies, but is contingent upon them being “dead.” Conservatorship, too, usually deals
with dead bodies (instruments no longer being actively performed), and (in my mind)
like the work of morticians, provides unique insights into them not typically available
to musicians, audiences, or ethno/musicologists.
93. John Law, “Notes on the Theory of the Actor-Network: Ordering, Strategy and
Heterogeneity,” Systems Practice 5, no. 4 (1992): 384–86.
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so. Take for example the piano, which took over 100 years to develop
into a stable form, in a process dependent upon the industrialization
of piano manufacturing, the global distribution of raw materials, parts
outsourcing, patent law, the expansion of the sheet music market, and
the cultivation of a middle-class demand for high art.
What makes ANT
compelling is the mandate to preserve what is termed the messiness of
technology. Rather than distilling things down into a sanitized account,
the mess is front and center. The sociologist John Law, perhaps best
known for arguing this principle, developed a whole research methodol-
ogy around mess.
Therefore, the actor network is the conceptual oppo-
site of sociology’s social-network diagram, which attempts to account for
the entire structure of a social network and treats it as a fixed, unchang-
ing, static and, above all, simple entity. To reiterate a common actor-
network dictum, “it could have been otherwise.”
Actor-network theory has taken hold and transformed many fields of
study as diverse as global informatics, technological innovation, manage-
ment and organization science, and art history. It led to the emergence
of a whole new branch of philosophy known as speculative realism.
has been slower to be adopted in the study of music, although I will dis-
cuss a few notable exceptions. Nick Prior found that theorizing cultural
production in contemporary music solely through a Bourdieuian read-
ing was unable to account for the significant role of technology, and sug-
gested the application of ANT to show “how the technical and the social
are inextricably linked.”
For Prior, it was notably musical instruments
(e.g. drum machines, samplers, and keyboards) that posed the challenge
to Bourdieu and demanded a suitable alternative methodology and
theory. Contemporaneously, in my dissertation I drew on actor-network
theory to understand the relation between the human-social networks
of Istanbul’s recorded music industry and the acoustic instruments,
94. Edwin Good, Cynthia Adams Hoover, and Michael Chanan, “Designing,
Making, and Selling Pianos,” in Piano Roles: A New History of the Piano, ed. James Para -
kilas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).
95. John Law, After Method: Mess in Social Science Research (London: Routledge, 2004).
96. This quote has often been attributed to Latour, but originates in a much earlier
essay: Everett C. Hughes, “ ‘The Academic Mind’: Two Views,” American Sociological
Review 24, no. 4 (1959): 570–73.
97. Graham Harman, Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political (London: Pluto Press,
98. Nick Prior, “Putting a Glitch in the Field: Bourdieu, Actor-Network Theory and
Contemporary Music,” Cultural Sociology 2, no. 3 (2008): 315.
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electrical and digital technologies, and architectures that were essential
for record production.
One scholar who has become especially associated with actor-network
approaches is Benjamin Piekut, a historian of experimental music in the
United States and United Kingdom. In the spirit of Latour, who has been
especially attracted to the key debates in the history of science and tech-
nology, Piekut examines key debates/crises within the 1960s history of
experimental music in New York City.
The materials of his actor net-
works include scores, electronic and acoustic musical instruments,
“music,” magazines and criticism, and a host of different human actors
that came to ascribe meaning to the outer reaches of downtown experi-
mental music practice. Following up on this book, Piekut wrote the only
dedicated article that specifically suggests how music studies could be
improved through the application of ANT, although its ambitus is mainly
restricted to historical musicology rather than other music studies
In particular, he takes four useful concepts out of ANT: agency,
action, ontology, and performance. He then applies these selectively to
three areas he believes are of central importance to music historians:
influence, genre, and context.
Going Beyond Actor-Network Theory
In my article on the social life of musical instruments, I follow numer-
ous narratives and stories about the saz, an instrument performed widely
within Turkish and Kurdish communities.
While my work begins with
an actor-network methodology, I found the “flat ontology” of ANT to be
problematic. In particular, I was puzzled by the blatantly asymmetrical
representation and position of different instruments within Turkey. The
saz has long been viewed as possessing a considerable degree of agency,
and we can see this in the lyrics to many old and new folksongs within
the national canon. But other folk instruments do not appear to have as
much agency, or have agency of a different kind and quality, perhaps.
99. Eliot Bates, “Social Interactions, Musical Arrangement, and the Production of
Digital Audio in Istanbul Recording Studios” (University of California, Berkeley, 2008).
100. Benjamin Piekut, Experimentalism Otherwise: The New York Avant-Garde and Its
Limits (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).
101. Benjamin Piekut, “Actor-Networks in Music History: Clarifications and
Critiques,” Twentieth-Century Music 11, no. 2 (2014): 191–215.
102. Bates, “The Social Life of Musical Instruments.”
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The saz, therefore, is in an especially charged position within networks,
not surprising, considering that it is the de facto national instrument of
Turkey. I therefore chose to supplement an actor-network approach with
a vital materialist approach, specifically Jane Bennett’s concept of vibrant
matter, to understand why and how saz instruments continue to enchant
makers, musicians and audiences—even, or perhaps especially, in the
age of digitalization and social media.
I have treated ANT as a singular entity until now, but as the methodol-
ogy spreads it has spawned numerous derivative frameworks, especially
in the domain of speculative realist philosophy. Allen Roda goes beyond
Latour and the science studies camp of ANT to draw upon Graham
Harman’s concept of an object-oriented ontology and Levi Bryant’s con-
cept of a democracy of objects, applying these to rethink what Indian
tabla drums are and how they are made.
Richly ethnographic, Roda
privileges the visceral and material detail of the tabla-making experi-
ence. As he argues, the tabla drum makers of India need to be consid-
ered in relation to weather and climate change, to shipping regulations
and nation-specific customs procedures, and in relation to changing
economic models that support the instrument industry.
The concept
of juga
¯, or “making do,” illustrates the ways instrument makers
respond to variations in the materials that make up drums, and impro-
vise solutions when problematic materials arise. Therefore, tabla-making
emerges as a complex network effect, one with many actors and many
Another ANT-inspired approach concerning instruments is Andrew
McGraw’s study of gamelan as a “commingling of things-sounds-bodies,”
a property shared both in traditional Balinese gamelan and in robotic
gamelatron performances.
Strikingly, he found that for non-specialist
audiences, robotic and human-played gamelans were both capable of
103. Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Durham and London:
Duke University Press, 2010).
104. P. Allen Roda, “Tabla Tuning on the Workshop Stage: Toward a Materialist
Musical Ethnography,” Ethnomusicology Forum 23, no. 3 (2014): 360–82; Graham
Harman, Tool-Being Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects (Chicago, Illinois: Open
Court, 2002); Levi R. Bryant, The Democracy of Objects (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities
Press, 2011).
105. P. Allen Roda, “Ecology of the Global Tabla Industry,” Ethnomusicology 59, no. 2
(2015): 315–36.
106. Andrew McGraw, “Atmosphere as a Concept for Ethnomusicology,” Ethno -
musicology 60, no. 1 (2016): 135.
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producing “atmospheres of intensely felt relation, albeit in divergent and
unique modes.”
McGraw goes beyond ANT to incorporate process
philosophy to understand the concept and experience of atmosphere,
bringing a “deeply ecological” perspective to bear.
Insofar as he
adopts a “radical empiricism” perspective on analyzing instrumental per-
for-mance, his work is compatible with ANT approaches. But his phe-
nomenological attention on the human experience—not just the experi-
ence of the audience but the experience of gamelan makers, too—lies
outside a normal ANT analysis.
These last three articles suggest some of the limits of ANT, and how it
can productively be leveraged in tandem with other methods and ex-
tended through other theories. In addition to the problems that ANT
has when accounting for ecological and affective dimensions (ANT is
not especially attuned to phenomenological questions and to the nu-
ances of human feeling, such as characterize Kevin Dawe’s work on
Cretan lyres), and the difficulty ANT has in accounting for the ways in
which objects articulate social identities such as race or class or gender,
ANT also suffers from an inability to address temporality.
networks tend to be conceptualized as static snapshots rather than as
object-relations in motion. For example, when I attempted to theorize
the experience of studio work in Turkey, and in particular the complex
role of acoustic, folk instruments within studio assemblages, ANT was
useful for framing certain continuous or static aspects, such as the effects
of studio architecture on studio inhabitants. But ANT wasn’t useful for
documenting the temporal unfolding of instrumental performance or
audio engineering labor.
For that, approaches from cognitive psychol-
ogy were better suited.
ANT has been continuously critiqued by its
107. McGraw, 126.
108. McGraw, 130.
109. Kevin Dawe, “Lyres and the Body Politic: Studying Musical Instruments in the
Cretan Musical Landscape,” Popular Music and Society 26, no. 3 (2003): 263–83; Maria
Sonevytsky, “The Accordion and Ethnic Whiteness: Toward a New Critical Organo -
logy,” The World of Music 50, no. 3 (2008): 101–18; Veronica Doubleday, “Sounds of
Power: An Overview of Musical Instruments and Gender,” Ethnomusicology Forum 17,
no. 1 (2008): 3–39; Piekut, “Actor-Networks in Music History: Clarifications and
Critiques,” 206.
110. Eliot Bates, “What Studios Do,” Journal on the Art of Record Production 7 (2012),
111. Bates, Digital Tradition: Arrangement and Labor in Istanbul’s Recording Studio
440-86_02_Organology_pp5-87 2/14/19 10:25 AM Page 50
founders over the years. Law noted in 1999 that “we have lost the capac-
ity to apprehend complexity,” a striking admission, considering that
ANT was designed in part to provide analyses of complex, heteroge-
neous networks.
But ANT continues to be most valuable in opening up new lines of
inquiry, and in serving as a mandate for a better empirical research
design—one that takes account of translation, agency, mess, and onto-
logical multiples, and that productively approaches depunctualization.
Used effectively, ANT could help us tell more varied and nuanced stories
about the relations between musical instruments and society.
112. Law, “After ANT: Complexity, Naming and Topology,” 8.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
This article offers clarifications and critiques of actor-network theory and its usefulness for music historiography. Reviewing the work of ANT theorists Bruno Latour, Annemarie Mol, and other social theorists (such as Georgina Born and Anna Tsing), the author explains that ANT is a methodology, not a theory. As a general introduction, the author outlines ANT's methodological presuppositions about human and non-human agency, action, ontology, and performance. He then examines how these methodological principles affect three concerns of music-historical interest: influence, genre, and context. In conclusion, he addresses problems related to temporality, critique, and reflexivity. He draws on music-historical examples after 1960: John Cage, the Jazz Composer's Guild, Henry Cow, Iggy Pop, and the Velvet Underground.
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This essay is focused around a seemingly simple question – what do recording studios do? First, a clarification. I am not primarily asking “what are studios” or “what do people do in studios,” two comparatively straightforward questions that are tangentially addressed in academic and trade writing. Rather, I wish to consider some of the ways in which the studio itself shapes the kinds of social and musical performances and interactions that transpire within. I contend that studios must be understood simultaneously as acoustic environments, as meeting places, as container technologies, as a system of constraints on vision, sound and mobility, and as typologies that facilitate particular interactions between humans and nonhuman objects while structuring and maintaining power relations.
Istanbul is home to a multimillion dollar transnational music industry, which every year produces thousands of digital music recordings, including widely distributed film and television show soundtracks. Today, this centralized industry is responding to a growing global demand for Turkish, Kurdish, and other Anatolian ethnic language productions, and every year, many of its top-selling records incorporate elaborately orchestrated arrangements of rural folksongs. What accounts for the continuing demand for traditional music in local and diasporic markets? How is tradition produced in twenty-first century digital recording studios, and is there a "digital aesthetics" to contemporary recordings of traditional music? In Digital Traditions: Arrangement and Labor in Istanbul's Recording Studio Culture, author Eliot Bates answers these questions and more with a case study into the contemporary practices of recording traditional music in Istanbul. Bates provides an ethnography of Turkish recording studios, of arrangers and engineers, studio musicianship and digital audio workstation kinesthetics. Digital Traditions investigates the moments when tradition is arranged, and how arrangement is simultaneously a set of technological capabilities, limitations and choices: a form of musical practice that desocializes the ensemble and generates an extended network of social relations, resulting in aesthetic art objects that come to be associated with a range of affective and symbolic meanings. Rich with visual analysis and drawing on Science & Technology Studies theories and methods, Digital Traditions sets a new standard for the study of recorded music. Scholars and general readers of ethnomusicology, Middle Eastern studies, folklore and science and technology studies are sure to find Digital Traditions an essential addition to their library.
In this article I compare a robotic gamelan sound installation (the gamelatron) and traditional gamelan, as performed in the American gamelan subculture, in order to specify the concept of atmosphere for use within ethnomusicology. I argue that at the level of affect the gamelatron and gamelan afford similar experiences that I call "atmospheres of felt-relation." At the level of comprehension they are registered as divergent because of their differential alignment to several discursive binaries: live/recorded, human/machine, individual/group, subject/object and body/prosthesis.
Building on colloquial understandings of improvisation, jugāḍ karnā, which roughly translates "to make do," and Sunil and Chitra Sahasrabudhey's concept of lokavidya, or "people's knowledge," this article introduces readers to the rich life-world of musical artisans in India, the challenges they face, and the creativity with which they meet those challenges. Growing global demand for sets of drums, called tabla, has transformed business practices among instrument makers in Banaras, also known as Varanasi, India. It has inspired innovation, increased competition, and opened new opportunities for makers on the global marketplace. Changes in instrument manufacture ultimately impact the sound musicians can create from them. By thinking about the tabla industry as an ecosystem in which artisans, instruments, musicians, workshops, and retailers all interact and contribute, this article uses actor-network theory to demonstrate the contributions of a wide variety of actors to musical production.
In Vibrant Matter the political theorist Jane Bennett, renowned for her work on nature, ethics, and affect, shifts her focus from the human experience of things to things themselves. Bennett argues that political theory needs to do a better job of recognizing the active participation of nonhuman forces in events. Toward that end, she theorizes a “vital materiality” that runs through and across bodies, both human and nonhuman. Bennett explores how political analyses of public events might change were we to acknowledge that agency always emerges as theeffect of ad hoc configurations of human and nonhuman forces. She suggests that recognizing that agency is distributed this way, and is not solely the province of humans, might spur the cultivation of a more responsible, ecologically sound politics: a politics less devoted to blaming and condemning individuals than to discerning the web of forces affecting situations and events. Bennett examines the political and theoretical implications of vital materialism through extended discussions of commonplace things and physical phenomena including stem cells, fish oils, electricity, metal, and trash. She reflects on the vital power of material formations such as landfills, which generate lively streams of chemicals, and omega-3 fatty acids, which can transform brain chemistry and mood. Along the way, she engages with the concepts and claims of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Thoreau, Darwin, Adorno, and Deleuze, disclosing a long history of thinking about vibrant matter in Western philosophy, including attempts by Kant, Bergson, and the embryologist Hans Driesch to name the “vital force” inherent in material forms. Bennett concludes by sketching the contours of a “green materialist” ecophilosophy.
Musical instruments, the musicians extra-corporeal "voice" that produces sound in time, mediate the act of sound-making between the musician and the music and therefore constitute a unique category of "things" to subject to the question: how does an inanimate object express its "social life"? Through their morphological, metaphorical, and historical contexts, musical instruments index a variety of socially prescribed attributes. This paper tells the story of the accordion's entanglement with "ethnic whiteness," a stereotype closely aligned with the well-publicized biography of Lawrence Welk. The paper advocates for a new critical organological approach that seriously considers the musical instrument as an actor in the making of musical meaning. This approach is applied to two contemporary New York City-based accordionists who respond to the stereotype of "ethnic whiteness" through their musical performances and compositions, Guy Klucevsek and Rachelle Garniez.