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Sounding Human

Music and Machines, 1740/2020

An expansive analysis of the relationship between human and machine in music.
From the mid-eighteenth century on, there was a logic at work in musical discourse and practice: human or machine. That discourse defined a boundary of absolute difference between human and machine, with a recurrent practice of parsing “human” musicality from its “merely mechanical” simulations. In Sounding Human, Deirdre Loughridge tests and traverses these boundaries, unmaking the “human or machine” logic and seeking out others, better characterized by conjunctions such as and or with.

Sounding Human enters the debate on posthumanism and human-machine relationships in music, exploring how categories of human and machine have been continually renegotiated over the centuries. Loughridge expertly traces this debate from the 1737 invention of what became the first musical android to the creation of “sound wave instruments” by a British electronic music composer in the 1960s, and the chopped and pitched vocals produced by sampling singers’ voices in modern pop music. From music-generating computer programs to older musical instruments and music notation, Sounding Human shows how machines have always actively shaped the act of music composition. In doing so, Loughridge reveals how musical artifacts have been—or can be—used to help explain and contest what it is to be human.

256 pages | 42 halftones | 6 x 9

New Material Histories of Music

History: History of Technology

Media Studies

Music: General Music

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