Listening for Affect: Musical Ethnography and the Challenge of/to Affect
Culture, Theory and Critique
Listening to music might make one tremble, cry or get up and dance in response. Musical feelings might spread from listener to listener in a hard to pin down but nevertheless palpable ‘emotional contagion’. While theorising emotion, feeling or sentiment in relation to the social life of music and sound is not new, for the most part, scholars in music and sound studies have been relative late comers to the contemporary conversation on affect theory. In this essay, I place two academic turns in productive alignment, an ‘affective turn’ and a turn in ethnomusicology, the anthropology of music and sound and the interdisciplinary field of critical sound studies to the study of listening and aurality. What might methodological approaches gleaned from the anthropology of music and sound lend to theorizations of method for the anthropology of emotion and affect? In what ways is affect rendered audible as an object of analysis in the process of doing ethnography? Focusing on analyses of select audio-visual field recordings, I ask, how can we listen for affect? And what theoretical and methodological considerations might emerge when we do?
Gray, Lila Ellen. "Listening for Affect: Musical Ethnography and the Challenge of/to Affect." Culture, Theory and Critique (Article published online January 17, 2021), 19 pp. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14735784.2020.1857287