Colloquia 1 at the Humanities Institute
Noise After the Apocalypse
The term “post-apocalyptic” has become a commonplace in the English language. Post-apocalypse should be an oxymoron, a condition it is impossible for us to know. Yet pop culture abounds with post-apocalyptic scenarios. My talk treats this fascination as manifested in noise-saturated musical works. Noise is particularly well-suited for depictions of apocalypse as a cessation of progress, of technology, and civilization. But what music can exist after humans have disappeared? Recordings by William Basinski, Tim Hecker, and Les Rallizes Dénudés pose questions about the limits of our knowledge of a world we will no longer inhabit.
Joanna Demers is associate professor and chair of musicology at USC’s Thornton School of Music. She has published books on electronic music aesthetics (Listening Through the Noise) as well as the effects of intellectual property law on musical creativity (Steal This Music). She co-edits Evental Aesthetics, a journal devoted to philosophical approaches to the arts. Her next book, Drone and Apocalypse, curates a future exhibit of apocalyptic drone music, philosophy, and art.
McGurk and Other Disturbances
The brain is a pattern seeking machine that has undergone hundreds of millions of years of evolutionary tuning to try and create accurate maps of reality. The underlying principle of this mapping, psychophysics, uses the specific energies of the senses to gather information across space, time and intensity to try and create a coherent perceptual space that we think of as the world. But the map is not the territory. In the last decade, the term “multisensory integration” has popped up more and more frequently in the scientific literature, and the more we learn about putting the pieces together, the more we realize that the world we perceive is an epiphenomenon, something that is more than the individual pieces added together. Illusions, and “glitches,” violations of the complex interactions between perception, attention and intention slip naturally into the in-between spaces of the world we make in our heads. The human brain with its vastly expanded resources compared to those of other living things, becomes fascinated in illusory and glitchy details that evolution has tried to overcome. By examining the neurobiological bases of sensory and perceptual errors ranging from simple visual illusions to complex multisensory interactions such as the McGurk effect, we can come to a greater understanding of how we evolved from reactive sensory organisms to beings with consciousness and minds.
Seth S. Horowitz, Ph.D. is a neuroscientist whose work in comparative and human hearing, balance and sleep research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and NASA. He has taught classes in animal behavior, neuroethology, brain development, the biology of hearing, and the musical mind. As chief neuroscientist at NeuroPop, Inc., he applies basic research to real world auditory applications and works extensively on educational outreach with The Engine Institute, a non-profit devoted to exploring the intersection between science and the arts. His book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind” was released by Bloomsbury in September 2012.
Antonio Roberts is a new-media artist and curator based in Birmingham, UK. whose work focuses on the errors and glitches generated by digital technology. Since 2007 he has curated a number of exhibitions and projects including fizzPOP (2009 – 2010), GLI.TC/H Birmingham (2011), the Birmingham edition of Bring Your Own Beamer (2012) and Dirty New Media (2013).
As a performer and visual artist his work has been featured at galleries and festivals around the world including Databit.me in Arles, France, Laptops Meet Musicians Festival in Venice, Italy, Notacon in Cleavland, Ohio, US, Leeds International Film Festival in the UK, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, UK.
In 2013 he contributed the foreword to AlphabeNt: Experiments from A–Z, which is an exploration of glitch art and typography by Australian authors Daniel Purvis and Drew Taylor (ISBN 978-0-9874007-0-3).
Software Takes Command
What motivated developers in the 1960s and ‘70s to create the concepts and techniques that now underlie contemporary applications like Photoshop, Illustrator, and Final Cut?
How do these tools shape the visual aesthetics of contemporary media and design? What happens to the idea of a “medium” after previously media-specific tools have been simulated and extended into software?
Lev Manovich answers these questions through detailed analysis of key media applications such as Photoshop and After Effects, popular web services such as Google Earth, and milestone projects in design, motion graphics, and interactive environments.
Lev Manovich is the author of Software Takes Command (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (The MIT Press, 2005), and The Language of New Media (The MIT Press, 2001) which was described as “the most suggestive and broad ranging media history since Marshall McLuhan.” Manovich is a Professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and a Director of the Software Studies Initiative which works on the analysis and visualization of big cultural data. In 2013 he appeared on the List of 25 People Shaping the Future of Design (between Casey Reas at no. 1 and Jonathan Ive at no. 3).