Sublime Noise: Musical Culture and the Modernist Writer (Johns Hopkins University Press; Fall 2014)
Spotify Playlist for your listening pleasure (?).
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 the formal and aesthetic doctrines of music—particularly, the radical modernist experiments with rhythm and dissonance—they grapple with the material conditions of modernity. Taking its title from E.M. Forster’s Howards End, which describes Beethoven’s Fifth as a “sublime noise…broadcast over a field of battle,” Sublime Noise engages with a wide range of modernist music, literature, and critical theory.
I have begun work on a second project as well, provisionally entitled Nuclear Family Portrait: Humphrey Jennings and the Structure of Reading in Post-War Britain. This project examines the Mass-Observationist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings—in particular, the films Listen to Britain (a wartime sound-film) and Family Portrait (a rendering of the 1951 Festival of Britain), and the literary-critical anthology Pandaemonium—as precursors to contemporary debates over “surface reading” and “symptomatic reading.” I engage, for example, with the Festival of Britain’s Pattern Group, in relation to the formal surface textures of films such as Family Portrait and the M-O anthology May the Twelfth.
“Music: Modernist Remediation and Technologies of Listening,” chapter for The Edinburgh Companion to Modernism and Technology, ed. Alex Goody and Ian Whittington, Edinburgh UP (forthcoming, 2021).
“‘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, BLOGS, AND OTHER SUCH BEHAVIORS
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.
SELECTED PRESENTATIONS, SEMINARS, ETC.
“Nuclear Family Portrait: Humphrey Jennings, the Pattern Group, and the Festival of Britain.” Conference paper at the Modernist Studies Association (Columbus, OH), for a panel entitled “Infrastructure on Exhibition: Modernism and Visual Culture.”
“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.