SAM Seminar: Rainforest Birds as Pastoral Bells: Cross-Listening from Papua New Guinea to Europe

When:12 May 2015, 5pm - 6:30pm
Venue:Robert Webster Building, Room 327
Who:Steven Feld, University of New Mexico
Steven Feld - SAMevent - 01

This lecture concerns acoustemology, acoustic epistemology, sound as a way of knowing the world. I propose a kind of research that crosses species and technologies to more seriously locate the role of birds and bells in human histories of listening, soundmaking, and musicking.

The empirical materials are drawn from two bodies of field research and recording. The first is twenty-five years of listening to birds in rainforest Papua New Guinea, and learning how they are heard by Bosavi forest dwellers as both natural historical clocks and cosmological signs of ancestral presences. The second is fifteen years of listening to animal, village, town, church, and carnival bells in Italy, Greece, France, and Finland, and learning how they are heard as distinct markers of agricultural, religious, and secular time.

I draw on these materials to theorize how rainforest and European pastoral histories link ecology with cosmology through sound.


Steven Feld is an anthropologist, filmmaker, sound artist/performer, and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at the University of New Mexico. His research principally concerns the anthropology of sound, voice, senses, and media, incorporating linguistics and poetics, music and aesthetics, acoustics and ecology, film and photography.

His publications include Sound and Sentiment, which received the 1991 J.I. Staley Prize from the School of American Research. He has also produced audio projects, including Voices of the Rainforest. Currently, Steven is writing a book, Acoustemology: Sound as a Way of Knowing; filming a feature length documentary co-produced with the Anyaa Arts Kollektif and titled J.C. Abbey: Ghana’s Puppeteer; and editing an improvised performance CD, Afrifonica, recorded in Ghana in 2014 with longtime musical colleagues Nii Noi Nortey, Nii Otoo Annan, and Alex Coke.


SAM Seminar Series 2015
Convenor, Collin Chua – c.chua@unsw.edu.au

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