“Epstein’s erudite book, written with panache, will provide intellectual joy to any reader interested in diffraction patterns between music and culture in the twentieth century. Its arresting thesis reverses Pater’s famous dictum: all art aspires to the condition of noise. But the signal-to-noise ratio of Epstein’s own writing is remarkably high.”

Daniel Albright

Sublime Noise: Musical Culture and the Modernist Writer (Johns Hopkins University Press). Here’s an Apple Music Playlist for your listening pleasure (?).

Reviewed in Times Literary Supplement, Modernist CulturesJames Joyce QuarterlyConfigurations, Review of English StudiesJournal of Modern LiteratureAmerican Literary Scholarship, and others!

Sublime Noise explores noise as a cultural, material, and conceptual fulcrum between modernist music and modernist writing. By exploring the noises of industry, warfare, and the city, and deploying the new possibilities of sound media, modernist composers give the lie to the idea that music is divorced from history or ideology. In turn, as writers co-opt modernist music’s aesthetic doctrines and experiments with rhythm and dissonance, they grapple with the material conditions of modernity. Taking its title from the description of Beethoven’s Fifth in E. M. Forster’s Howards End, Sublime Noise engages with a wide range of modernist music, literature, and critical theory.

Second Project:

I have begun work on a second project as well, on the Mass-Observationist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings. I consider Jennings’s works as precursors to contemporary debates over “surface reading” and “symptomatic reading,” engaging with the formal textures of films such as Listen to Britain and Family Portrait, the literary-critical anthology Pandaemonium, the M-O anthology May the Twelfth, and contemporary cultural movements including the Festival of Britain Pattern Group.

Articles, Etc.

(If you can’t get hold of any of these, drop me a line.)

“Music: Modernist Remediation and Technologies of Listening,” for The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism and Technology, ed. Alex Goody and Ian Whittington, Edinburgh UP (forthcoming, 2022).

‘Scoured and Cleansed’: Ezra Pound and Musical Composition,” chapter for The New Ezra Pound Studies, ed. Mark Byron, Cambridge UP, 2019.

‘We Are a Musical Nation’: Under Milk Wood and the BBC Third Programme,” Modern Drama 62.3.

Open City’s ‘Abschied’: Teju Cole, Gustav Mahler, and Elliptical Cosmopolitanism,” Studies in the Novel 51.3.

The Antheil Era: Pound, Noise, and Musical Sensation.” Textual Practice 28.6.

Joyce’s Phoneygraphs: Music, Mediation, and Noise Unleashed.” James Joyce Quarterly 48.2.

‘Neutral Physiognomy’: The Unreadable Faces of Middlemarch.” Victorian Literature and Culture 38.1.

Reviews and Blogs

Jinkies, It’s Coronavirus Capitalism!“, cowritten with the inimitable Nicole Seymour for In Media Res (a fun, despairing, maybe slightly hypervigilant blog about a Scooby Doo meme).

Review of Michelle Witen’s James Joyce and Absolute Music, for The Review of English Studies.

Review of David Deutsch’s British Literature and Classical Music: Cultural Contexts, 1870–1945, for Journal of British Studies.

Blog on Daniel Cavicchi’s Listening and Longing: Music Lovers in the Age of Barnum, for Modernism/Modernity‘s “Re/discoveries”

Selected Presentations and Seminars

“Music: Modernist Remediation and Technologies of Listening.” Conference paper, Modernist Studies Association: Between the Acts (virtual), March 2022.

Invited participant, “Techniques for Teaching Eliot in 2021,” roundtable for The International T. S. Eliot Society Annual Conference, September 2021.

“Nuclear Family Portrait: Humphrey Jennings, the Pattern Group, and the Festival of Britain.” Conference paper, Modernist Studies Association (Columbus, OH), October 2018.

“Cruel Modernisms.” Seminar led at the Modernist Studies Association (Pasadena, CA), November 2016.

“Listening Out to Britain: Civic Soundscape in Humphrey Jennings.” Invited Talk for the University of Oxford Research Colloquia, May 2016.

Samuel Beckett Summer School, Trinity College (Dublin), August 2015.

“Lend Me Your Ears: Civic Soundscape in Humphrey Jennings’s Listen to Britain.” Modernist Studies Association (Pittsburgh, PA), November 2014.

“New Adornos.” Seminar led at the Modernist Studies Association (Pittsburgh), November 2014.

“‘We are a musical nation’: Under Milk Wood and the BBC Third Programme.” Invited talk for the Department of English at the University of Nevada – Reno.

“‘He-haw-haw-haw-haw’: Music and the ‘Cat-calls’ of the Human in Olive Moore’s Spleen.” Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, February 2014.

Presenter and Panel Organizer: “Bearing Earwitness: Modernism and Sonic Spectacle,” with Scott Klein and Julia Obert, chaired by Michael Moses. Paper title: “Over the Rainbow Bridge: The Phantasmagoric Wizard of Oz.”

“The Public Façade: Sitwell, Cocteau, and the Musical Life.” New Directions in the Humanities Conference, Granada, Spain, 2011.

Chamber Music Matters: Joyce, Noise, and Siegfried’s Clanging Anvils.” Paper for the Southern California Irish Studies Colloquium, 2011.

“Consonance Kills: ‘Spellbinding Forms’ and the ‘Sublime Noise’ in Britten’s and Forster’s Billy Budd.” The Space Between Society (Notre Dame University), 2009.

The Wizard of Oz (L) and Das Rheingold (R)

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