March 30, 2017

Screening and discussion of militarized use of sound media and acoustical weaponry and Harun Farocki’s video installation Serious Games

Sonic Cinema: Sounding Resistance series highlights sound in film

Audiences are invited to join Princeton University students to screen recent independent films and videos and meet filmmakers, musicians and scholars as part of a semester-long series focusing on sound in film, Sonic Cinema: Sounding Resistance. The series is presented by the Visual Arts Program of the Lewis Center for the Arts and is in conjunction with the spring course “Sonic Cinema: Music, Noise, and the Moving Image” taught by Visiting Associate Professor Amy Herzog, who curated the series. Films and videos will be screened on select Tuesdays through the end of April. Filmmakers, musicians and scholars associated with the work will be on hand to discuss the work and answer questions from the audience.

On April 4 at 7:30 p.m. “Serious Games: Sound, Torture, and Acoustemologies of Violence” will feature presentation of works by Harun Farocki and discussion with musicologists Suzanne G. Cusick and William Cheng at the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. Cusick and Cheng have been at the forefront of research on the role of acoustical weaponry and sound-based torture by law enforcement and military organizations. The relationship between music and violence is further examined in Harun Farocki’s installation project Serious Games, which explores the origins and architectures of video game technologies as they are deployed by the military. The conversation will be moderated by María Edurne Zuazu, a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the CUNY Graduate Center and whose current research includes work on musical reenactment, violence, and the development of sonic weaponry such as Long Range Acoustic Devices.

"Serious Games"

Images from Harun Farocki’s video installation “Serious Games”

Serious Games I–IV (2009–10) is comprised of four distinct video installations — I: Watson is Down (2010), II: Three Dead (2010), III: Immersion (2009), and IV: A Sun with No Shadow (2010). Each installation positions video game technology within the context of the military, where this technology originated and is deployed both within the theater of war and in the treatment of personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders. The work juxtaposes real-life wartime exercises with virtual reenactments in order to examine the fundamental links between technology, politics, and violence.

Suzanne G. Cusick is an influential figure in contemporary musicology. Her early work proved foundational to the fields of feminist and queer musicology, and her full body of scholarship remains among the most highly regarded in music studies. Her recent writings on the use of music in the so-called “War on Terror” have helped to launch a new generation of scholarship on music and violence and have re-configured the ways in which politics and music are understood as mutually constitutive. Whether focused on new styles of music making in early modern Italian courts, or on the soundscape of CIA blacksites, Cusick’s work is concerned with questions of how music functions as a material practice, with palpable consequences for both listeners and performers. Her work pushes beyond the resting places of traditional scholarship, redefining the ways in which we can think about music, about gender, and about music scholarship. In 2007, Cusick’s research on the use of noise, music, and “gender coercion” in the detention and interrogation of prisoners held during the 21st-century’s “war on terror” was awarded the Philip Brett Award given by the LGBTQ Study Group of the American Musicological Society (AMS).

William Cheng is Assistant Professor of Music at Dartmouth College. He earned his B.A. in Music and English from Stanford University, and his A.M. and Ph.D. in Music from Harvard University, where he was a Junior Fellow at the Society of Fellows. He is the author of Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2014) and Just Vibrations: The Purpose of Sounding Good (University of Michigan Press, 2016), which received the 2016 AMS Philip Brett Award and was named a 2016 Book of the Year by Times Higher Education. His current book projects include All the Beautiful Musicians (Oxford), Touching Pitch: Dirt, Debt, Color (Michigan), and the edited volume Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology (Oxford, with co-editor Gregory Barz). His publications have appeared in academic venues such as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Journal of the Society for American Music, Ethnomusicology, Ethnomusicology Review, Cambridge Opera Journal, 19th-Century Music, and Critical Inquiry, and in newspapers and blogs such as Slate, Washington Post, Huffington Post, TIME, Pacific Standard, and Musicology Now.

The artists, scholars, and films in the series were selected by Herzog, a media historian whose research spans a broad range of interdisciplinary subjects, including film, philosophy, popular music, urban history, pornography, gentrification, parasites, amusement parks, and dioramas. She is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Queens College and Coordinator of the Film Studies Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Herzog is the author of Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and co-editor, with Carol Vernallis and John Richardson, of The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media (Oxford, 2013). Her writing has appeared in several collections and journals, and she has presented her work at numerous venues including the Guggenheim Museum of New York, the New Museum, Dixon Place, New York Academy of Medicine, and the Coney Island Museum. She is currently serving as Programmer-in-Residence at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn. Her most recent research project explores the history of peep show arcades in New York City’s Times Square.

The course explores the use of sound in relation to moving images, including film scoring, musicals, soundtracks, music videos, and experimental sound and video art. Class discussions focus on digital technology and media soundscapes, and screenings include Hollywood blockbusters and immersive media to fine art, video games, and independent cinema.

The series continues with hip hop pioneer Darryl “DMC” McDaniels on April 11, filmmaker Lizzie Borden on April 18, and artists Valerie Tevere and Angel Nevarez on April 25, all at the Princeton Garden Theatre.

This series is supported through the John Sacret Young ’69 Lecture Series fund. Sacret Young is a 1969 graduate of Princeton and an author, producer, director, and screenwriter. He has been nominated for seven Emmy Awards and seven Writers Guild of America (WGA) Awards, winning two WGA Awards. He is perhaps best known for co-creating, along with William F. Broyles Jr., China Beach, the critically acclaimed ABC-TV drama series about medics and nurses during the Vietnam War, and for his work on the television drama The West Wing. Young has also received a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award, and his original mini-series about the Gulf War, Thanks of a Grateful Nation, was honored with his fifth Humanitas Prize nomination.

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