FSEM 101 - Sing the Body Electric: Making and Consuming Music in the Digital Age
Are turntables an instrument? What does authorship entail in an age where sampled audio is ubiquitous? Whither the human when machine-learning algorithms can write songs? Are our utopian dreams and dystopian anxieties about new technologies unique to our era, or might they simply be variations on an older tune? This course examines how music is made and consumed across the globe in the age of the computer, spanning from the so-called “Third Industrial Revolution” in the 1950s into the present day. Our guiding thesis is that musical activity presents an exceptionally fertile ground for exploring broad questions about human thought, behavior, creativity, and expression in the face of technological advances. Although our evidentiary focus is music, our aims will be interdisciplinary and expansive, with intellectual sources drawn from anthropology, philosophy, science and technology studies, media theory, and psychology.
No musical background is required, though there is a substantial listening component to the course and students are required to engage seriously and at length with a wide range of musical examples. This is not a course about making music, although we will get hands-on with technologies when appropriate.