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Panel 2 - Making Infrastructures Audible

1:30 PM, Friday 24 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   03:30 PM to 04:00 PM (30 minutes)

[ CHAIR & RESPONDENT: Will Straw, McGill University ]

Music is typically encountered as a cultural surface. Songs emanate instantaneously and almost magically from our computers and home stereos. Tools for playing and making music, such as recordings and guitars, wait for us in stores and online shops, ready for purchase with no assembly required. And when we’re done with these instruments, recordings, and playback devices, we can kick them to the curb, where they disappear effortlessly and without a trace. Day-to-day musical enjoyment seems so simple, so easy, so automatic. But it isn’t. This panel highlights the hidden but essential material infrastructures that facilitate music making and listening. We view these infrastructural phenomena in terms of the interrelated material, organizational, and ideological systems that facilitate three main phases in the social life and social death of music commodities: (1) resources and manufacturing, (2) shipping and circulation, (3) disposal and waste. We are interested in how these phases influence and respond to aesthetic conventions, environmental realities, and political-economic conditions in both rich and poor parts of the world.Our goal is to make infrastructures audible. For it is at this level—the level of supply chains, circulatory systems, and waste streams—where we confront some of the most pressing dilemmas regarding the conditions of music, and the human condition more generally.

McGill University

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