In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

THREE Collecting Songs Avian and African The date is February 28, 1931. Somewhere in the heart of Angola, the search for biological identity is on a collision course with personal identity. Yesterday, a young woman discovered a new species of bird while out hunting specimens for the Carnegie Museum of Natural History with her husband. Together they shot two little warblers, a male and a female, who had been flitting four hundred feet apart on the slopes of Mount Moco. Today, as the woman packs away the birds’ preserved skins, she is preoccupied with another collection, her growing pile of recordings of African tribal songs. As the woman travels south that day and for the rest of the trip, her songs will occupy more and more of her time. As her dual collections of animal specimens and songs grow, so does the need for a decision about which of her own identities will come into focus: woman, wife, scientist, explorer, musician, or scholar. Who is she? Who will she become? Who can she become? — Seven thousand miles away, on the eastern coast of the United States, another collision between personal identity and institutional identification is brewing. There, in a medical laboratory at Harvard University, a middle-aged man in shabby clothes catalogues library books. Ten years ago, he was a brilliant young zoology professor with high hopes and aspirations. He authored the first and only study of passenger pigeon calls, wrote groundbreaking articles about avian vocal behavior, and corresponded with Europe’s leading animal behaviorists. Now, he is almost completely deaf, and his fortunes have shifted. With a string Collecting Songs 61 of part-time teaching jobs behind him, he does menial filing at Harvard with no clear plan for the future. Every day, he sees young Harvard students who will apply for the jobs he once hoped for, secure in their health, wealth, and friends. And who is he? Who will he become? Who can he become? — By the early twentieth century, the debates about musical identity that originated with Darwin and Spencer had become closely tied to notions of bodily difference rooted in biological specimens. But difference was just as present in the lives of those who collected and organized bodies and artifacts for the science of identity. For song collectors like the woman in Angola and the man at Harvard, difference was not a concept but a condition of life, the condition in which institutional science occurred. In that version of difference, animality was connected to lived experiences of gender, class, race, nationality, and other categories by material and discursive conditions. Entangled in those conditions, the work of biological and cultural identification was inseparable from the personal experiences of difference that determined who created musical knowledge, and how they did it. In this chapter, I turn from institutions to individuals, and to the ways their experiences became a mechanism of music’s taxonomies. This chapter focuses on the careers of two of America’s first professional song collectors: music ethnographer Laura Craytor Boulton, and psychologist and zoologist Wallace Craig. My chosen protagonists are intellectual descendants of the zoology program at Harvard that produced Fewkes and the song collection at the Bureau of American Ethnology. Although other collectors such as Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, Olive Dame Campbell, and Fewkes himself are better known, the careers of Wallace Craig and Laura Boulton bring together the conditions that connected human social politics, the status of animals, and the construction of musical identity. Although they did not know one another, these two individuals shared ties to important movements in zoology and eugenics that had far-reaching effects not only on their work, but on sonic taxonomies more broadly. They occupied a middle ground in science’s hierarchies, navigating flows of power that make their stories unique examples of scientific labor’s reliance on the measures of difference it purported to discern. Music scholar Suzanne Cusick once wrote that there is no place for “persons” within a historiography of large-scale musical epochs, styles, and epic changes, no room for individuals whose stories are rooted in historically and culturally 62 Animal Musicalities specific, gendered, classed experiences.1 This chapter is about specific persons and their experiences, about a kind of identity that is very different from biological or musical identity, and at the same time very closely related to its making. In this chapter I use names and stories to make space for the individual experiences that are unaccounted for by...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.