Brian Kane

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Assistant Professor, Yale University, Department of Music
Department of Music at Yale University, 134 Elm Street, New Haven CT 06520-8310

I am a composer/theorist and jazz guitarist, living in New Haven, Connecticut. (In fact, the above photograph was captured immediatley after patronizing one of Connecticut’s friendliest culinary destinations.) In June 2008, I joined the music theory faculty in the Department of Music at Yale University. My bio and academic specializations are listed below, but I highly recommend visiting my website for sound clips, program notes, articles and other items of interest.

Specializations: music theory; jazz; music and philosophy (with an emphasis on critical theory, phenomenology and Wittgenstein); aesthetic theory; avant-garde composition and electronic music since 1945; Pierre Schaeffer and acousmatic theory.

Bio: Brian Kane holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley (B.A. in Philosophy, 1996; Ph.D. in Music, 2006). Prior to joining the faculty at Yale, he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at Columbia University (2006-2008).

As a scholar, Kane has been pursuing interdisciplinary research, working in the margins between music theory, composition and philosophy. The music-theoretical work centers on questions of sound and signification, working primarily with 20th century repertoire. Some central research themes concern the relationship between music and skepticism; musical ontology; phenomenology; improvisation; subjectivity, in particular the persistence of the musical subject in recent critical theory and psychoanalytical approaches to the musical self.

Some of these themes are interwoven in Kane’s recent work on acousmatic sound. Acousmatic refers to the separation of audition from all other sensory modalities, and is often deployed in phenomenological contexts in order to disclose the “essence” of listening. In particular, Kane is currently involved in a large project that rethinks the question of acousmatic sound outside of its phenomenological context and demonstrates its centrality to current discourses on musical and cultural forms of listening. This also involves reconstructing the ideological and material history of acousmatic sound from its supposed origins in the Pythagorean school, through the rise of mechanically reproduced sound and electronic composition, to current discourses on the senses and contemporary compositional practices.

Parts of this project were published in Organised Sound (“L’objet sonore maintenant: Pierre Schaeffer, Sound Objects and the Phenomenological Reduction”), and presented in recent talks at the University of California, Berkeley (“The Logic of Listening”) and at the Sorbonne (“L’acousmatique mythique: Reconsidering the Pythagorean Veil”). Other articles and reviews have appeared in Qui Parle, Current Musicology and Contemporary Music Review.

Upcoming projects include: a paper on musique concrete and Jean-Luc Nancy (as part of a special panel on Nancy at the SMT 2008 conference); an article on rhythm and synaesthesia in 20th century aesthetic discourses; and a paper for the conference “Listening In/Feeding Back” (Feb. 2009, Columbia University).

Kane is also a composer with an oeuvre of works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, vocalists, solo instruments, electronic music, sound installations and more. He has received performances around the United States and in Europe. In addition, Kane is also a dedicated jazz guitarist with a decade and half of professional experience.

Selected Publications:
“Review Essay: Peter Szendy, Listen: a history of our ears,” Current Musicology 86 (2008): 145-155.
“Aspect and Ascription in the Music of Mathias Spahlinger,” Contemporary Music Review, 27.6 (2008): 595-610.
“Schaeffer: une pensée à l’état de vestiges.” In Pierre Schaeffer: Portraits Polychromes 13, ed. Evelyne Gayou. Paris: INA, 2008: 13-19.
“Review Essay: Andy Hamilton, Aesthetics and Music.” Current Musicology 85 (2008), 137-145.
“L’objet Sonore Maintenant: Pierre Schaeffer, Sound Objects and the Phenomenological Reduction,” Organised Sound 12.1 (2007): 15–24.
“The Cost of Affordance. On Tia DeNora’s After Adorno: Rethinking Music Sociology,” Qui Parle 15.1 (2004), 169-174.
“The Elusive ‘Elementary Atom of Music,’” Qui Parle 14.2 (2004), 117-143.