Musicking Eco-logically Towards an Environmentally Inclusive Practice

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Suzanne Thorpe


The effect of the human species on earth has carried such a heavy impact in the past century and a half that a growing number of scientists have correlated this time period to a geological age called the Anthropocene. As a result of this revelation of human impact, many of us have created new methods with which to examine our behaviors, and inventory the effects of humankind on the natural world. Ecomusicology is one such method that offers a variety of critical inquiries into relationships between music, musicians, sound, culture, politics and the environment. For example, ecomusicologists Mark Pedelty and Sabine Feist offer their examinations of eco-friendly approaches to touring, and critiques of ecofeminism. Applying an ecocritical lens to the practice of site-situated sound art is particularly illuminating, as it reveals an emerging handful of artists whose practices engender relationships between music and the environment, and effectively decentralize the human. Going forward I will analyze site-specific compositions by sound artists Scott Smallwood and Walter Branchi to illustrate what I call an eco-logical form of musicking, a mode of musicking that is environmentally inclusive, and emphasizes material interconnectedness. I will discuss how eco-logical musicking is informed by principles of emergence and complexity as read through environmental philosophy and ecological cognition and outline my mode of analysis. Through this mode, I will demonstrate that this approach to musicking fundamentally reorganizes the roles of composer and listener to deemphasize the human as singular and central. Eco-logical musicking expands concepts of a musicking system to be environmentally inclusive, and illuminates material interdependencies.

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