Publication Date

April 2019


Robyn Autry, Paula Matthusen


Music, Sociology


English (United States)


The soundsystem in electronic music is an assemblage of deeply emotional and often overlooked collaboration between humans and machines. I believe that tracing the developmental histories of the performers in a soundsystem, both human and nonhuman, allows one to better understand the plurality of intersecting agencies present at these meeting places. Drawing from science and technology studies, I describe the histories of early American experimentalism and electronics, especially focusing on the U.S. State and military-industrial complex’s key role in research and development since World War II. This context leads us to see how technologies are social participants, which reflect, recreate, and reshape the society in which they are produced. Actor-network analysis reveals the agencies of nonhuman actors, and the dynamics of energy and control moving through human-technological circuits. Finally, I attempt to apply actor-network theory, along with other sociological and musicological tools, to study compositions by Alvin Lucier and Pamela Z.



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