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Attuning to Materials

Thursday 5 May 2022, 18:00-20:00
HYBRID: Projects Space and online (LINK TBC)

Dr Scott McLaughlin focuses on  sounds that things ‘want’ to make, resonances allowing us to listen in a traditional musical sense. Extending our Sadler Seminar Series ‘Tunings of the World’.

We move everyday through worlds of fleeting pitches in the resonance of the ‘thingly’ materials around us that we interact with. We are continuously touching, moving, knocking, brushing, clanging, and pinging our way along, gifting things with momentary excitation that they return to us as pitches, which are mostly lost to noise or otherwise outside our attention in the moment.

Attuning to materials is about the focussing in on the sounds that things ‘want’ to make, specifically in my case this is about pitchiness, the resonance that allows us to listen in a traditionally musical sense but without the Heideggerian ‘enframing’ imposed by standardised tuning systems and deliberate construction of melodic patterning.

The focus here is on Andrew Pickering’s version of cybernetics; "not a dream of perfect control, but a performative experimental openness to what the world holds". Attuning is an active listening that encompasses both the ‘prick […] or pointing of the ears’ (Mowitt 2015) that tunes our attention, but also a continuous ‘becoming-with’ (Haraway 2016) where we can hear the sonic manifestation of material agencies, preferences, and behaviours.

Dr Scott McLaughlin is Lecturer in Composition and Music Technology, University of Leeds

The project this seminar contributes to and develops is one whose constitutive inter-disciplinarity is designed to open this conversation to many. At the same time, it reminds us all that attuning to a discipline often involves listening to what it only struggles to give voice to.

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