Sound Knowledge

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Since spring 2020, Prof. Dr. Birgit Abels explores, together with her team, the sound knowledge of music in the Western Pacific Island World. Funded with a 5-year Consolidator Grant awarded by the European Research Council (ERC), Sound Knowledge: Alternative Epistemologies of Music in the Western Pacific Island World (SoundKnowledge), aims to rethink music in terms of the procedural knowledge inherent in and specific to music-making by exploring the latter as knowledge practices in Micronesia. This knowledge, formed in the performance of musical practice, may prove to be key to survival in the complex postcolonial predicament of Micronesia. The project will address the issues of climate change, social alienation and postcolonial trauma in specific parts of Micronesia by fleshing out the nature and dynamics of that knowledge both conceptually and ethnographically. The systematic analysis of music as knowledge will identify strategies to foster resilience in the face of these urgent crises. At the same time, it will offer a first-of-its-kind theorization of the procedural knowledge inherent in and specific to music-making. The underlying hypothesis is that knowledge of music is self-referential and forms multilayered connections and ruptures with pasts, presents and futures, surrounding orders of knowledge and other sensory registers in addition to the auditory. SoundKnowledge asks what Western Pacific musical practices know and how they know it, how music-making makes this knowledge operable and how humans mobilize upon this knowledge in coping with their life-world through music. The project, therefore, explores how music functions as an epistemic form that is distinct yet imbricated within its environment, often referred to as the proverbial power of music.