on anthropology of sound ~ Steven Feld

Q: What is the “Anthropology of Sound”?

A: I coined the “anthropology of sound” phrase in some of my publications in the 1970s. Originally it was just my response to what I saw as limiting in the phrase “anthropology of music”, which was the title of a 1964 book by my professor, Alan P. Merriam. My original concern was that ethnomusicologists were artificially separating the patterning of sound called “music” in the West, from the full human and environmental world in sound. I called my work anthropology of sound because I wanted to connect acoustic form to social meaning. Everything I’ve done follows that approach; it is as much concerned with the production of sound (the sources and agents) as the reception of sound (who hears, how it is heard). I simply want the acoustic materiality of sound and its social life to have equal billing, and that’s what you get in the phrase “anthropology of sound”.

~Steven Feld, Thoughts on Recording Soundscapes: Interview with Carlos Palombini


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