“Always Already Technological”: New Views of Music and the Human in Musicology and the Cognitive Sciences
Abstract. The relationship between nature and culture has been a traditional battleground for the humanities and the sciences. Now, however, new compatibilities and tensions are emerging between the fields of musicology and music psychology, neuroscience, and cognition, spurred by the incorporation of “technology” into conceptions of “the human.” This essay aims to surface and compare changing assumptions about technology in relation to music and the human across these fields. It surveys musicological attention to technology and how this attention has segued into posthumanist paradigms, and it charts the rise of biotechnological conceptions of human nature in music cognition and neuroscience. It finds that while posthumanist and biotechnological frameworks share the premise of an “always already technological” human, and with that an interest in how biology and culture work together, the fields have drawn different implications from this new vision. Musicology and music sciences may both benefit by taking stock of the shifts in conceptualizing the human in each discipline, reflecting on what discrepancies between them reveal about the benefits and limitations of each perspective, and considering anew the possibilities for dialogue and collaboration.
How to cite this article: Loughridge, Deirdre. 2021. “‘Always Already Technological’: New Views of Music and the Human in Musicology and the Cognitive Sciences.” Music Research Annual 2: 1–22. https://doi.org/10.48336/6qen-2859
About the author: Deirdre Loughridge is an Associate Professor in the Department of Music at Northeastern University. Her research centers on the history of music, science, and technology, and currently revolves around questions of music’s roles in conceptions of “human” and “machine.” Her first book, Haydn’s Sunrise, Beethoven’s Shadow: Audiovisual Culture and the Emergence of Musical Romanticism, deals with the rise of optical technologies in scientific and popular culture and their impact on musical discourses and practices; it won the Kenshur Prize for outstanding monograph in eighteenth-century studies. In 2019, Loughridge was awarded a membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, to work on her new book about music in understandings of human-machine relations in the eighteenth century as well as more recently. Her research has been published in journals such as the Journal of Musicology, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, and Keyboard Perspectives, and in the edited volumes Sound Knowledge: Music and Science in London, 1789–1851 (2017), The Oxford Handbook of Timbre (2018), and Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination (2019). She is co-curator, with Thomas Patteson, of the online Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments. With Elizabeth Margulis and Psyche Loui, she is currently co-editing a volume titled The Science-Music Borderlands: Reckoning with the Past and Imagining the Future.