From the standpoint of music studies, the relationship between the singing voice and the atmosphere is one of figure to ground or event to medium. When compared to the riveting performance that is voice, in other words, the air around us appears transparent, uniform, and theoretically inert: air is voice’s enabling condition, nothing more. However, outside of music studies, as humans and other creatures struggle with global warming, smog crises, and rising CO2 emissions, air is front-page news. What might music scholars learn if we turned the tables on voice and began taking air seriously? Drawing upon recent writing on the Anthropocene and the “nonhuman turn” in the humanities, this talk will attend closely to the Earth’s atmosphere, and chart its ever-changing, paradoxical relationship with the fragile interspecies chorus that takes place at its murkiest depths.
J. Martin Daughtry is an Associate Professor of Music at New York University. He teaches and writes on acoustic violence; human and nonhuman vocality; listening; jazz; Russian-language sung poetry; sound studies; and the auditory imagination. His monograph, Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma, and Survival in Wartime Iraq (Oxford University Press, 2015) received a PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers, and the Alan Merriam Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. He is currently writing a book on voice and atmosphere in the Anthropocene.