Melissa Van Drie: "Staging Sound: The Politics, Art and Science of Becoming Listeners (19th and 21st Centuries)"

  • Datum: –15.00
  • Plats: Engelska parken 6-3025 (Rausingrummet)
  • Arrangör: Avdelningen för vetenskapshistoria, Institutionen för idé- och lärdomshistoria
  • Kontaktperson: Otto Sibum
  • Seminarium

Vetenskapshistoriska seminariet

Forskningspresentation av Melissa Van Drie, Københavns Universitet.


During this seminar we will engage in different sonic encounters together in order to consider the importance of past sensory histories for changing ways of thinking today. Recently, listening has become a key concept across artistic, scientific, and political platforms in relation to the climate crisis. Taking multiple forms, this “call to listen” relates to the current paradigmatic shift in the ways humans understand and live planetary relations. On a ground level, this call to listen refers to humans sensing and acknowledging the real sounds of climate change and what they reveal about mutating living systems. On a methodological level, this call to listen engages with situated and bodily approaches for re-orientating vocabularies and modes of attention to support more-than-human ecologies. Yet, such a call to “cultivate” listening is neither a simple, nor an innocent task. Habitual listening orientations are invested with power relationships and epistemological projects, which have long histories of valuing certain lives, while erasing others. 

Our 21st century listening practices and media have deep roots in the 19th Century. In order to ‘re-learn’ listening today (and address the ethics of such a proposition), I believe we need a critical and multi-modal understanding of 19th century sonic practices and programs of sensory education. In the hands of Science and Spectacular Culture, sound and hearing (during the Belle Époque) were staged in completely new ways, ones that would greatly alter modes of perception, sensing and thinking. I’ll present some of my reconstructions of historical listening apparatuses, which use hands-on, sensorial, and somatic research methods to explore how sonic knowledge was shared and intuited across artistic, medical and experimental contexts. Through these examples I’ll address the importance of legacies of embodied and tacit knowledge in understanding this possible shift from an ear-centric, mechanistic listening approach to an interactive, inter-species one.