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Ubiquitous Listening

Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Distributed Subjectivity

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 182
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  • Book Info
    Ubiquitous Listening
    Book Description:

    How does the constant presence of music in modern life-on iPods, in shops and elevators, on television-affect the way we listen? With so much of this sound, whether imposed or chosen, only partially present to us, is the act of listening degraded by such passive listening? InUbiquitous Listening,Anahid Kassabian investigates the many sounds that surround us and argues that this ubiquity has led to different kinds of listening. Kassabian argues for a new examination of the music we do not normally hear (and by implication, that we do), one that examines the way it is used as a marketing tool and a mood modulator, and exploring the ways we engage with this music.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95486-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxx)

    Whether we notice or not, our days are filled with listening. Of course, you will object: some people more than others, some countries more than others, some economies more than others, and this is true. But a colleague told me he heard music in a supermarket on a dirt road in South Africa, so let us not leap to conclusions about the lives of others.¹ Nonetheless, I will be happy here to think about England and the United States, the two countries where I’ve lived, and to a lesser extent, Canada and western Europe, where I have frequently traveled and...

  5. 1 Ubiquitous Listening
    (pp. 1-19)

    There are many kinds of music that belong in this book, given that its topic is all those musics that we listen to as secondary or simultaneous activities, often without choice. These include, of course, film and television music (as discussed in chapters 2 through 4), but also music on phones, music in stores (see chapter 6), music in video games, music for audiobooks, music in parking garages, and so on. Jonathan Sterne’s “Sounds Like the Mall of America” (1997) long ago confirmed my suspicion about that music: we hear more of it per capita than any other music.


  6. 2 Listening to Video Art and the Problem of Too Many Homelands
    (pp. 20-32)

    If ubiquitous listening is the condition of possibility of distributed subjectivities, as I have been arguing, then one of the important places to try to engage it and understand its operations must be the sounds of ethnic and national identities. Not only are these among a handful of very powerfully expressed identities—along with, for example, gender, sexuality, class, dis/ability—but they are very commonly expressed musically and aurally. The feelings that well up for many at the playing of the national anthem, or a genre typical of one’s region or nation, or even the sounds of particular machines or...

  7. 3 “BOOM!” Is the Next Big Thing
    (pp. 33-50)

    The boundaries between and among the termsnoise, sound,andmusichave been receiving some scholarly attention lately, and from interesting directions. In “Visitors, or The Political Ontology of Noise,” Ian Biddle argues that noise is fundamental to sociality, in much the same way as this book argues for sound and distributed subjectivity. There is scholarship on noise music (Hegarty 2007; Demers 2010), and there is the growing field of sound studies. Significantly, the examination of these boundaries comes at a time when the divisions are less and less clear in the experiential sound world.

    In his essay “Music” in...

  8. 4 Musicals Hit the Small Screen Attention, Listening, and TV Musical Episodes
    (pp. 51-72)

    On the terrain of the terms with which this project is concerned, there was a brief outpouring of events beginning in the mid-1990s that deserves consideration. As I have already suggested, listening has, through its ubiquity, become a frequently less-than-fully-attentive activity. The practices of some potential readers of this book notwithstanding, most people rarely allocate time to listening as a primary focus, and much, if not most, listening takes place somewhere in an attentional field that includes other simultaneous activities. Arguably, we often use music as a parallel to climate control, as Joseph Lanza inElevator Music(1995), Philip K....

  9. 5 Improvising Diasporan Identities: Armenian Jazz
    (pp. 73-83)

    In the early 1980s, when I went back to university for the fourth time to finish my undergrad degree, I was a journalism student, looking to concentrate on music journalism. I proposed a story toDownBeat,probably the preeminent U.S. magazine about jazz and its musical extensions, on fusions of jazz and Middle Eastern music, which they summarily turned down, despite the fact that I placed the piece in the context of works by Ornette Coleman and other serious jazz icons. I assumed at the time that it was because I wanted primarily to write about people they’d never heard...

  10. 6 Would You Like Some World Music with Your Latte? Starbucks, Putumayo, and Distributed Tourism
    (pp. 84-108)

    In this last chapter, I want to turn to the most obvious form of ubiquitous music—music in stores. One of the ways we referred to ubiquitous musics in general for decades was by the termMuzak,the name of the corporation that arguably developed many of the practices this book is about. (For a history of Muzak, see Lanza 2004.) Several features of that music have undergone radical changes in the past twenty-five years. First of all, it now mainly—although not exclusively—consists of songs by original artists, whereas it once was almost all popular songs and classics...

  11. Conclusion Ubiquitous Listening: Some Conclusions and Beginnings
    (pp. 109-118)

    This book may have seemed an idiosyncratic journey. From music at home to experimental video art to sensory films to TV musical episodes to Armenian jazz to Putumayo albums, what holds these items together is far from obvious, when inventoried by object. But that is, as I hope has become clear along the way, my point. There are very few kinds of music that are not listened to as ubiquitous music, and in fact listened to frequently in that way. From classical music in restaurants and cars to techno in clubs and on condo websites, very little music escapes this...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 119-134)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 135-148)
  14. Index
    (pp. 149-151)