Sonic beings? The ontologies of musical agency 
Victor A. Stoichita (CNRS (LESC/CREM))
Bernd Brabec de Mori (University of Graz)
Send message to Convenors
Wednesday 11 July, 11:30-13:15, 14:30-16:15, Thursday 12 July, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This panel brings together ethnographic accounts of "human" and "nonhuman" interactions in sonic constructions such as music. The aim is to compare different ontologies of the sound realm, and see whether it can host particular forms of agency, which are not encountered otherwise.

Long Abstract

Anthropologists know well that music is an efficient ingredient in various kinds of interactions. It has been described as an enhancer of emotions, of specific forms of consciousness, of social and personal identities. Its presence is also mandatory in many rituals around the world. Social sciences usually assume that this efficiency is merely a transformation of human agencies. In this view, music is just another way for humans to relate, ultimately, to each other. However, practitioners and audiences often have different accounts.

Their musical experiences seem populated by "human" but also "nonhuman" entities: gods, spirits, animals, and a range of other sonic characters whose ontological status is uncertain, but which seem, at times, to have an agency of their own. In this view, music is not just a human business but an environment which allows interactions between different layers of reality and different kinds of beings.

What are the ontologies of sound underlying these interactions? Are there, for example, social agents which can only be encountered in sound? Can music host relations which would be impossible otherwise? General frameworks have been proposed to rethink agency beyond divides such as "nature-culture" or "human-nonhuman" (Gell, Latour, Descola, Viveiros de Castro). Can these paradigms account for musical interactions?

Accepted papers: