Department of Anthropology

Seminar Series: David Samuels - Early Folk World: The Search for Musical Humanity in the 20th Century

Mon, February 27, 2017 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

The twentieth century was witness to an ethical discourse about the scope of the human. Shaken by two world wars, a great depression, and a global expansion of industrial power, people in the United States searched for ways to maintain their intergrity as human beings in the face of these upheavals. An important part of this search took its cues from a discussion of how people should sound. Specifically, the tones and timbres of vocal and instrumental music became key reference points in a dialogue about how to maintain one’s humanity under the conditions of modern urban industrial capital. This presentation will explore the ethics of three musical revival movements: historical performance, folk revivalism, and the emergence of ethnomusicology. The three represent overlapping attempts to reclaim an ethical human existence within the contexts of the perceived dehumanizing processes of modernity.



David Samuels has worked broadly on issues of music, language, and expressive culture. His research includes topics in poetics and semiotics, history and memory, technology, and Native American and popular culture. He is the author of Putting a Song On Top of It: Expression & Identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation (University of Arizona Press 2004), and his articles on music, language, and sound have appeared in such journals as American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, Journal of American Folklore, Semiotica, and Language & Society. More recently, his research interests have turned to issues of cultural and linguistic revitalization, the multiple legacies of missionary activity among Native American communities, and the intertwined histories of musical and linguistic philosophies.  He is an Associate Professor of Music at NYU.

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