Thinking Through Sazes & Modular Synthesizers: Explorations in Instrumental Agency
This talk builds upon a long-term research project into acoustic instruments in present-day Turkey, and an ongoing project exploring the emergence and development of the Eurorack format for modular synthesizers. In both cases the research is ethnographic, although each case study requires considerably different research methods. While the Anatolian saz and a Eurorack synthesizer might initially appear to be very different instruments (especially around questions of interface and audible aesthetics), they share in common some surprising features concerning normative modes of human-object interaction and conceptualizations of agency. I use these case studies to explore two questions that have broader implications for music studies. First, musical instruments are instrumental towards what ends, and how are these ends instrumentalized? Second, how can a careful attention to instruments and instrumentality tell us something more general about the relations of people and technical/technological objects? As I will argue, ethnomusicological inquiry has considerable potential to make a fruitful intervention into science and technology studies, especially with regards to the study of technological use.
Eliot Bates is an ethnomusicologist specializing in digital audio recording cultures and the production of contemporary music in Istanbul, Turkey. A graduate of UC Berkeley (2008), he is currently an Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, and prior to this taught at the University of Birmingham (UK), Cornell University, and the University of Maryland, College Park. He has authored two books: Digital Tradition: Arrangement and Labor in Istanbul's Recording Studio Culture (Oxford University Press, 2016), and Music in Turkey: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture (Oxford University Press, 2011), and with Samantha Bennett coedited the volume Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). He is also a performer and recording artist of the 11-stringed-oud.
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