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Sounds in Wax: Musicology, Linguistics, and the World as a Resource

Viktoria Tkaczyk, Whitney J. Oates Visiting Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Department of German; Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

September 18, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 205 East Pyne

German Department

This lecture focuses on the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv, founded in 1900, and its subsequent strategy of collecting languages and music from a potentially wide range of world regions. But at the time, members of the archive managed to embrace the world as a resource in yet another respect: the daily production of cylinder records required large quantities of wax and various other materials that depended on a global system of material supply—including Brazilian carnauba wax and montan wax from German lignite mines, the extraction of which caused environmental damage and deprived local populations of their livelihoods. As I show, this use of material resources resonated in many ways with the agenda for the study of cultural resources developed at the Phonogramm-Archiv during the eras of the German Empire, World War I, German colonialism, and the Weimar Republic. In addition, the production of the wax cylinders provided members of the archive with extensive knowledge of materials science and chemistry, which in turn influenced their methods of analyzing and understanding language and music.

For more information and primary reading material, visit the Department of German website.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Music.

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