Presentations

Sound Studies Graduate Forum

University of Minnesota
February 2013
Invited Guest Lecture

"Music and Torture at Auschwitz and Guantanamo"

jpg not found This project began as an attempt to think about music in space, in order to examine its totalitarian function. How does music work to control space, and how can it affect bodies inhabiting that space? What does an environment saturated with an enemy culture's music sound like, and is the music functioning as anything beyond cultural aggression? I explored this set of questions using two separate cases, Auschwitz concentration camp and Guantanamo Bay detention center. In the case of Auschwitz, I used survivor testimonies to place songs on a map of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, creating an interactive map that users can explore. Through mapping music demanded by captors in red and voluntary music created by prisoners in blue, I hoped to make a musical geography of controlled spaces in the camps.

Downoad paper

For more on this project, see Holocaust Geographies in the Digital Humanities section.

Art Center College of Design

Pasadena, CA
November 2012
Invited Guest Lecture

"Music and Torture at Auschwitz and Guantanamo"

jpg not found This project began as an attempt to think about music in space, in order to examine its totalitarian function. How does music work to control space, and how can it affect bodies inhabiting that space? What does an environment saturated with an enemy culture's music sound like, and is the music functioning as anything beyond cultural aggression? I explored this set of questions using two separate cases, Auschwitz concentration camp and Guantanamo Bay detention center. In the case of Auschwitz, I used survivor testimonies to place songs on a map of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, creating an interactive map that users can explore. Through mapping music demanded by captors in red and voluntary music created by prisoners in blue, I hoped to make a musical geography of controlled spaces in the camps.

Downoad paper

For more on this project, see Holocaust Geographies in the Digital Humanities section.

Modern Language Association

Austin, TX
January 2016
Conference Presentation

"The Path: Red Riding Hood and Wandering Video Games"

jpg not found In The Path, an indie video game released in 2009 by studio Tale of Tales, the player controls six avatars of Little Red Riding Hood and directs them on their eponymous path to grandmother's house. The girls are aged 9-19, each named some version of "red" (Ruby, Scarlet, Rose), given a distinct personality, and instructed not to leave the path. But when the player obeys this rule and walks the girl straight to grandmother's house, the game's final screen chides the player ("Failure!") for having neglected to collect any of the magical items available in the woods. The only way to win, in fact, is to guide each girl away from the path and find her wolf somewhere in the forest. Each girl's wolf manifests differently; the 9-year-old gets a growling storybook wolf, the 19-year-old a predatory piano instructor. The game's mechanic requires the player to lead the girl directly to the wolf who eventually kills her (with sexual violence often implied), thus forcing the player into a villainous role and challenging her to rethink the metaphors and tensions inherent in the original fairy tale. This paper read The Path as an argument for how wandering games apply fairy-tale logic to game landscapes and idioms, as well as offer a female space within a heavily male art form.

This project be presented at the MLA Convention in 2016 at a panel entitled ''Fairy-Tale Violence against Women: Contemporary Challenges of Representation and Adaptation.''

Modern Language Association

Vancouver, BC
January 2015
Conference Presentation

"Place and Placelessness in Arnold Schoenberg"

Arnold Schoenberg, the German-Jewish inventor of twelve-tone composition, thought of musical space as a multi-dimensional fabric created by the composer. The fundamental organizing concept of twelve-tone music is the relationship between the tones, rather than (as in tonal music), the tones' relationship to the tonic key. This means that the tones themselves are creating the musical space in which they operate. In 1933, Schoenberg re-converted to Judaism and fled Nazi Germany for America, where his musical ideology was transformed into a series of political fantasies, as he dealt with his exile from Germany by constructing elaborate plans for a Jewish State. The places in his political imaginary were hardly more grounded in reality than the places he invented through his musical symbology; there is thus a fascinating intersection between the places in Schoenberg's Zionist dreams and in his aesthetics. In this project, I analyze how the utopian spaces musically created in Schoenberg's Der Biblische Weg, Die Jakobsleiter, and Moses und Aron intersect with and contradict Schoenberg's dreams for an actual, geographically placeable Jewish State; I show how the places he imagined, in music and libretto, correspond to the actual state of Israel (to which he was steadfastly opposed); and finally, I examine an important filmed version of Moses und Aron made by radical filmmakers Straub/Huillet in 1974, which, I argue, was a critique of Israel and partly created in response to the Six- Day War of 1967. In this opera, and particularly the Straub/Huillet production of it, tensions between idea and representation, artist and politician, come together to present an aesthetic denouncement of the political reality of Israel.

Powerpoint presentation

Modern Language Association

Vancouver, BC
January 2015
Conference Presentation

"Wandering in Video Games"

Video Game characters spend a lot of time walking. In fact, walking in video games is nearly ubiquitous. Video game studies has picked up on this ubiquity of walking, specifically in Ian Bogost's Unit Operations, in which he discusses the concept of Flanerie with reference to video games. But beyond the desultory apathy of the aneur, there is a wider constellation of ideas surrounding walking and and wandering in video games. Taking as a reference recent discussions of wandering in literary studies, this paper apply these parallel discussions from alternate disciplines to video game studies, to shed light on the function of wandering in contemporary video games. In this presentation, I'll start with a brief summary of scholarship on digression in literature, explaining digression as a fundamental building block of narrative rather than a distraction from the text. This discussion leads directly into a definition of formally wandering texts, as distinguished from texts that are *about* wandering. If we can have a text that formally wanders, it follows that there can be a game that formally wanders. What would that game look like? I'll go through three components of what would need to go into a wandering game: historical context of the Wanderer, the "Walking Simulator" as a new indie game phenomenon, and the unscarequoted Walking Simulator as a deconstructive analysis of the wandering body. Using these components, I'll then compile a list of characteristics for the ultimate wandering game.

Text of the talk Powerpoint presentation

For more on this project, see Wandering in Video Games in the Research section.

German Studies Association

Denver, CO
November 2013
Conference Presentation

"Words, Music, and Politics in Der Jasager"

jpg not found In the operatic version of Der Jasager, a short piece created in 1930 by librettist Bertolt Brecht and composer Kurt Weill, the importance of Einverständnis is the central theme and oft repeated moral: "wichtig zu lernen vor allem ist Einverständnis." In English translation, Einverständnis is often rendered "consensus," "agreement," or "unity," but rarely literally, as "one understanding." As the piece develops and the ramifications of Einverständnis grow more pronounced, culminating in the death of a child, the concept is fractured by the lack of formal consensus within the opera itself. Like a metatextual joke, the libretto and the score conflict on almost everything except the importance of unity; the thematic insistence on the priority of unanimity stands in a puzzling tension with the disunity that pervades the formal structure of the work. Through a close reading, I argue that text and music support alternate aesthetic-political ideologies, a bifurcation which heightens the tension of the complete piece and enhances its dramatic effect. I then demonstrate how the conflict between libretto and score ultimately amounts to an intentional provocation, the very goal of the work, rather than an aesthetic flaw. The work's didactic value as a Lehrst├╝ck depends significantly on this foundational paradox in Der Jasager.

Powerpoint presentation

Music in Detention

Göttingen University, Germany
March 2013
Conference Presentation

"Musical Shadows: Mapping Music as Torture at Auschwitz and Guantanamo"

jpg not found This project began as an attempt to think about music in space, in order to examine its totalitarian function. How does music work to control space, and how can it affect bodies inhabiting that space? What does an environment saturated with an enemy culture's music sound like, and is the music functioning as anything beyond cultural aggression? I explored this set of questions using two separate cases, Auschwitz concentration camp and Guantanamo Bay detention center. In the case of Auschwitz, I used survivor testimonies to place songs on a map of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, creating an interactive map that users can explore. Through mapping music demanded by captors in red and voluntary music created by prisoners in blue, I hoped to make a musical geography of controlled spaces in the camps.

Downoad paper

For more on this project, see Holocaust Geographies in the Digital Humanities section.

Hauntings

University of Michigan
October 2012
Graduate Conference Presentation

"Musical Memory in Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannstahl's Elektra"

In Elektra, an Expressionist opera based on a classic piece of theater by Sophocles, the ancient and the newborn clash productively; musically and thematically, the opera positions itself as the somewhat violent convergence of an old tradition and a new one. Despite that, it is a surprisingly conservative text which uses musical methods to invoke a sense of loss, nostalgia, and memory rather than to imagine or invent wildly new material. This invocation of the past functions on multiple levels, as several factual and fictional pasts intersect: The opera presupposes the mythical story line and dynastic progression which includes Elektra and Orest; previous adaptations of the story are also heavily referenced and draw a stark contrast between the literary style of classical Greek playwrights and that of Hofmannsthal; the music fits into an historical narrative of western tonal composition and in that vein refers back to crucial musical innovators, in a manner made poignant by Elektra's position near the end of the tonal system. And crucially, the intimately personal past of Elektra herself is uncomfortably exposed through her psychologically charged acts of memory and expressed through an intricate musical language. These pasts, I argue, are often conveyed through musical transformations that have as much to do with where the piece is situated in musical history as it does with Strauss' compositional genius. And the work of this musical memory is depicted especially well in the 1982 film directed by Götz Friedrich and conducted by Karl Böhm. In this production, the grotesque imagery latent in the musical text is brought to life in vicious color, and filmic techniques are able to capture the characters' battles with memory.

Music on the Edge

University of California S.B.
May 2012
Graduate Conference Presentation

"Music and Torture: A Spatial History"

jpg not found This project began as an attempt to think about music in space, in order to examine its totalitarian function. How does music work to control space, and how can it affect bodies inhabiting that space? What does an environment saturated with an enemy culture's music sound like, and is the music functioning as anything beyond cultural aggression? I explored this set of questions using two separate cases, Auschwitz concentration camp and Guantanamo Bay detention center. In the case of Auschwitz, I used survivor testimonies to place songs on a map of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau, creating an interactive map that users can explore. Through mapping music demanded by captors in red and voluntary music created by prisoners in blue, I hoped to make a musical geography of controlled spaces in the camps.

Downoad paper

For more on this project, see Holocaust Geographies in the Digital Humanities section.

Presentations at Stanford University

Stanford, CA
2012-2015
  • "The Musical Geography of Torture in Auschwitz and Guantanamo," German Studies Forum, April 2012
  • "Woman as Animal in Berg's Lulu," Urban Jungles Conference, October 2012
  • "Words, Music, and Politics in Der Jasager," German Studies Colloquium, October 2013
  • Dissertation Prospectus (draft), German Studies Colloquium, February 2014
  • "Grete as Hero in Franz Schreker's Der Ferne Klang," German Studies Colloquium, May 2015
  • "The Path: Red Riding Hood and Wandering Video Games," German Studies Colloquium, December 2015