Keynote: Steven Feld, “Metalogue: What is a Bell?”

Resonance & Remembrance: An Interdisciplinary Campanology Symposium
University of Michigan, March 31 – April 2, 2017

Keynote speaker:
Steven Feld, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico
“Metalogue: What is a Bell?”
Saturday, April 1 at 4:00 pm
Erlicher Room (3100 North Quad)

Gregory Bateson’s 1972 essay collection Steps to an Ecology of Mind begins with a series of “metalogues,” thought experiments mapping unruly subjects in science and epistemology in the form of conversations with his daughter, Mary Catherine Bateson. These father-daughter metalogues are exercises in how subjects and objects fuse through the dialectical play of conversational structure. At their best, they exemplify how evolutionary complexities are no less emergent processes than the dialogical attempts to reveal them. Inspired by Bateson’s playful excursions into knowledge production, my foray into the material and affective “what-ness” of bells–their relational ontologies– starts with a series of listening conversations with my daughter, Clochanda, and two of her good friends, Mikhail Bakhtin and Michel Foucault. Together we visit with goats and shepherds, sheep and carnivals, campanile and churches, blacksmiths and carillonneurs, and conclude with a live performance encounter featuring oud virtuoso Rahim AlHaj of Baghdad, Iraq, and the World Peace Bell of Newport, Kentucky.

Steven Feld is an anthropologist, filmmaker, sound artist/performer, and Distinguished Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at the University of New Mexico. After studies in music, film, and photography, he received the Ph.D in Anthropological Linguistics at Indiana University in 1979. From 1976 he began a research project in the Bosavi rainforest of Papua New Guinea. Results include the monograph Sound and Sentiment (republished 2012 in a 3rd and 30th anniversary edition), a Bosavi-English-Tok Pisin Dicitionary, and essays, some published in his co-edited books Music Grooves and Senses of Place. From this work he also produced audio projects including Voices of the Rainforest. Key theoretical themes developed in this work are the anthropology of sound and voice; acoustemology, particularly regarding eco-cosmology as relational ontology; emotive sensuality; and experimental, dialogic writing, recording, and filmmaking. Work after 2000 has concentrated on related themes in the study of bells in Europe, Japan, Ghana, and Togo, published in CDs, DVDs, and books like The Time of Bells, Skyros Carnival, and Santi, Animali, e Suoni. His most recent project concerns jazz in West Africa, published in the twelve CD, five DVD, and book set Jazz Cosmopolitanism in Accra. Feld’s work has been supported and honored by MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships as well as book and film prizes.

Rahim AlHaj, virtuoso oud musician and composer, was born in Baghdad, Iraq and began playing the oud (the grandfather of all stringed instruments) at age nine. Early on, it was evident that he had a remarkable talent for playing the oud. Mr. Alhaj studied under the renowned Munir Bashir, considered by many to be the greatest oud player ever, and Salim Abdul Kareem, at the Institute of Music in Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. AlHaj won various awards at the Conservatory and graduated in 1990 with a diploma in composition. He holds a degree in Arabic Literature from Mustunsariya University in Baghdad. In 1991, after the first Gulf War, Mr. AlHaj was forced to leave Iraq due to his activism against the Saddam Hussein regime and began his life in Jordan and Syria. He moved to the US in 2000 as a political refugee and has resided in Albuquerque, NM ever since. In 2015 Rahim was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor for traditional arts in the USA. Rahim has performed around the globe (including Europe, China, India, and Russia) and is considered one of the finest oud players in the world. He has won many accolades and awards including two Grammy nominations.


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