Alexandra Hui

CISM in the Archive: Functional Music, Material Music: The Edison-Carnegie Mood Music Studies

Wed, 03/31/2021 - 3:30pm

Event video linked here.

UCSB Library and the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music present a talk by Alexandra Hui, part of the annual CISM in the Archive series featuring presentations by scholars highlighting sound recording materials in the Library’s Special Research Collections.

Hui will discuss the internal studies and large public survey performed by the Edison-Carnegie Music Research Program towards the development of the Mood Music pamphlet. She will show how both the experiments and Mood Music marketing campaign contributed to the creation of a consumer base that understood music to be functional, capable of altering one’s body and mind. The application of this functional understanding of music is evident in the music organizational strategies of the Edison Company and beyond. Hui encourages us to reflect on how the material nature of recorded music combines with faith in its functional features to inform contemporary musical categories, from Spotify playlists to organizational strategies in the archive.
Alexandra Hui is a historian of science who works at the intersection of sound studies, the history of science, and environmental history, and co-editor of the journal Isis. In addition to several scholarly articles and book chapters, she is the author of The Psychophysical Ear: Musical Experiments, Experimental Sounds, 1840-1910 (MIT Press, 2012), and co-editor of both the 2013 volume of Osiris: Music, Sound, and the Laboratory from 1750-1980 and Testing Hearing: the Making of Modern Aurality (Oxford University Press, 2020). She has received awards and fellowships from the European Society for the History of the Human Sciences, the Smithsonian Institute, the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. 
Hui is currently preparing two monographs. The first, Sonifying Space: A History of the Science of Background Music, 1910-2010, examines the co-development of new listening forms and background music technology. The second research project, Listening to Nature: Standardized Soundscapes and Imagined Ecologies, 1900-2000 is a comparative study of how field scientists listen to the environment. Which means Hui currently listens to a lot of Muzak and talks to a lot of duck hunters.