[SoundStudies] Mon 16 Feb, 4:30 PM -- Pauline LeVen

Brian Kane brian.kane at yale.edu
Thu Feb 12 00:30:16 EST 2015

The Yale Sound Studies Working Group (SSWG) invites you to join us on Monday, February 16, at 4:30 PM in the Whitney Humanities Center, Room B04 for our first meeting for the Spring 2015 semester. Pauline LeVen (Classics) will be speaking about "Syrinx' voice: violence, vibrant materiality, and the musical object." Professor LeVen's paper is attached below. 

To facilitate our discussion, Prof. LeVen has included a synopsis of the book project from which this paper comes, along with "the following suggestions where feedback would be the most useful." As always, all questions and ideas are welcome. 
Are the passages contextualized enough (narratively and historico-culturally) for a non-classicist reader? What other information would be needed?
Does the third part (on vibrant materialism and the idea of the instrument as cyborg) need to be announced more carefully earlier in the chapter? 
Any ideas on what views (if any) the Achilles Tatius passage may contain on instrumental music?

Title: The Music of Nature and the Nature of Music: Seven Readings in Greek and Roman Myths 

Synopsis: The subject matter of this book is the music of nature: the vocalizations of birds, whispers of marsh-reeds, sounds of winds, croaking of frogs, rippling of echoes, and singing of cicadas. I examine a corpus that has surprisingly never received sustained critical attention, the Greek and Roman myths devoted to the music of animals and natural phenomena. Most of these stories share the same narrative structure: a human being, after encountering some great misfortune, gets turned into a musical animal, instrument, or natural sound. My main claim in the book is that these fantastic tales of animal evolution are important loci of reflection on aesthetic questions. My readings of seven representative ancient myths are windows onto a rich web of ideas about the beauty of music, appropriate responses to it, and the nature of the experience of sound and song, ideas that the Greeks and the Romans shared in elaborate mythical narratives representing animals.

The following table of contents provides an illustration of the themes examined. Each chapter can be read independently, but a thread leads from questions brought up by the simple cry of the ringdove to the complex issues addressed through myths about music and the emotions, mimesis, and death.

Chapter 1- Ringdove: on the uncanny power of performance (Longus, Daphnis and Chloe)
Chapter 2- Cicadas: on the voice (Plato, Phaedrus)
Chapter 3- Echo: on listening (Ovid, Metamorphoses)
Chapter 4- Reeds: on musical objects (Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon)
Chapter 5- Nightingale: on emotion, representation and expression (Hyginus, Fabulae)
Chapter 6- Beetle: on rhythm and life-value (Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses)
Chapter 7- Swan: on music and death (Philostratus, Imagines)  


Upcoming SSWG events:

March 30th: Carter Mathes (English, Rutgers), author of Imagine the Sound: Experimental African American Literature after Civil Rights

Brian Kane
Associate Professor on Term
Department of Music
Yale University
206 Stoeckel Hall
(203) 432-6730

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