writing

Forthcoming
McMurray, Peter. Forthcoming. “On Serendipity; or, Sonic Pleasures and Fleshy Archives of Sensual Ethnography.” Queering the Field: Sounding Out Ethnomusicology, edited by Gregory Barz and William Cheng. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McMurray, Peter. Forthcoming. “There Are No Oral Media?: Multisensory Perceptions of South Slavic Oral Poetry.” Singers and Tales in the 21st Century: The Legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, edited by David Elmer and Peter McMurray. Cambridge: Harvard University Center for Hellenic Studies.
McMurray, Peter, and David Elmer, ed. Forthcoming. Singers and Tales in the 21st Century: The Legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord. Cambridge: Harvard University Center for Hellenic Studies.
2019
McMurray, Peter. 2019. “Witnessing Race in the New Digital Cinema.” The Cambridge Companion to Music and Digital Culture, edited by Nicholas Cook, Monique M. Ingalls, and David Trippett, 124-146. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract
One of the most important recent developments in practices of recording and listening to digital audio has been the documentation of police violence against marginalised communities, especially African Americans. Prior to the digital, audio-visual technologies served to document similar forms of racist violence as in the killing of Emmett Till (photography) or the beating of Rodney King (home video). But the increasing ubiquity of handheld recording devices has intensified and expanded those dynamics of documentary, creating new modes of witnessing race, bodies and power. In turn, these new forms of witnessing, which have played a central role in the Black Lives Matter movement, call for equally new forms of reception – ways of listening, viewing, sharing, and, in turn, recording, that amplify and disseminate that multimedia witnessing. Key examples of such witnessing, including Beyoncé’s Lemonade and recordings of police killing Philando Castile, offer sober reminders of the stakes of digital cinema.
Witnessing Race - sample
McMurray, Peter. 2019. “Qur'an Alphabetics and the Timbre of Recitation [published online].” The Oxford Handbook of Timbre, edited by Emily Dolan and Alexander Rehding. Oxford University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract
This article examines the history of timbre in Qur’anic recitation, focusing on the intersection of the interior, conceptual, rule-based space of the mouth and the exterior, physical, highly variable architecture of mosques. In both cases, timbre plays a critical role in making Qur’anic recitation recognizable, even to untrained ears, and even if—especially in the case of mosques—that predominant, stereotyped setting is not necessarily representative of the tradition more broadly. The article examines the tension between Qur’an as fixed text and as recitation (qur’ān) and the challenges of reconciling these two notions of Qur’an into a definitive, unitary whole, that proved elusive in the early centuries of Islam, precisely on grounds of timbral, phonetic, and dialectal questions. At the same time, the elaborate design of rules for proper recitation has been so fully developed over the last millennium that it has become a kind of cultural technique, a rule-based algorithm that imposes on human performers a set of media-like operations. Indeed, recent computer science and engineering have fully embraced the algorithmicizing of vocality and timbre in recitation to the point of creating a number of software platforms designed to reproduce or assess the proper application of these rules. In all these different trajectories—mouth, mosque, and media—the alphabetics of the Qur’an play a central role in transducing a sacred text into the contingencies of the material world.
Qur'an Alphabetics - sample
McMurray, Peter. 2019. “The Revolution Will Not Be Telegraphed: Shari'a Law as Mediascape.” Hearing the Crimean War: Wartime Sound and the Unmaking of Sense, edited by Gavin Williams, 24-58. New York: Oxford University Press.
2018
McMurray, Peter. 2018. “After the Archive: An Archaeology of Bosnian Voices [online version].” The Oxford Handbook of Musical Repatriation, edited by Frank Gunderson, Robert C. Lancefield, and Bret Woods. Publisher's Version Abstract
The afterlife of an archive determines what that archive was in the first place. In other words, the way an archive preserves, processes, analyzes, and circulates its holdings—or fails to do so—plays a central role in constituting not just the what of the archive (its ontology) but also its when (the temporalities it contains and allows). In the 1930s, Milman Parry, a scholar of Homeric epic, traveled to the former Yugoslavia to collect oral poetry from the area, hoping to use this contemporary tradition to think about the feasibility of epic song—and specifically the Iliad and Odyssey—as an oral tradition more broadly. Parry’s student, Albert Lord, published their findings on the topic, creating a massive rethinking of poetry and literature more generally. But the archive they created through their audio recordings in Yugoslavia, recorded on aluminum discs, wire spools, and reel-to-reel tape, served for decades as a kind of necessary proof of their findings, but not an archive that allowed for significant new research. In the past decade, however, a number of family members of the singers who had recorded for Parry have begun to contact the archive seeking information about recordings in the archive. This contact has led not only to meaningful encounters between these families and the archive but also to small but significant expansions in the archive’s holdings through a kind of genealogical ethnography of the archive itself and its multiple, simultaneous (and often divergent) histories.
After the Archive - sample
McMurray, Peter. 2018. “Ephemeral cartography: on mapping sound.” Sound Studies 4 (2): 110-142. Publisher's Version Abstract

With the concurrent rise of internet cartography (e.g. Google Maps) and low-cost digital audio recording devices, soundmapping has become a widespread phenomenon. But soundmapping has a much longer history, reaching back centuries and arguably millennia. Taking a kind of media archaeological approach to such cartographic practices, I consider a number of approaches that have been used historically in systematically combining sound and mapping and offer a rough media taxonomy to elucidate the particular relationships between them (e.g. mappings in sound, of sound, etc.). I begin with Homeric epic and then move through medieval mappae mundi, Ottoman nautical charts, linguistic atlases and sonar. My historical endpoint is a cluster of practices that (usually implicitly) constitute the beginning of contemporary analysis of soundmapping: the soundscape, both in its well-known form, as articulated by Murray Schafer, but also in the work of Michael Southworth, whose ground-breaking mapping practices influenced Schafer’s own ideas about sonic cartography. Beyond this archaeological rethinking of origins, I also seek to rethink mapping generally from the perspective of soundmapping: not only do soundmaps remind us of the audiovisual mediations of mapping more generally, they specifically assert the temporality of experiencing all maps, whether explicitly sonic or not.

KEYWORDS: Mapping, audio, cartography, media archaeology, mappa mundi, sonar, soundscape

Ephemeral cartography - sample
2017
McMurray, Peter. 2017. “Review of Ana María Ochoa Gautier, Aurality: Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 70 (1): 262-266.
pdf copy

Music history is full of examples of composers and others who commented explicitly on the state of their abilities to hear and listen, including Beethoven, Schumann, Smetana, and Cage. What might it mean to listen to listening? What is the history of such a practice? How might it be done and what would it reveal? These questions point to a long span of ideas about tinnitus and other ways of listening to listening, as well as an attempt to conceive a sound-native form of media archaeology--what I call "sonic archaeology." In particular, the human listening apparatus offers a key site for thinking about the possiblities and limitations of archaeology through and by sound and sound media. I consider such an archaeology here, focusing on two kinds of sounds produced and/or perceived by that apparatus: tinnitus and otoacoustic emissions.

pdf copy
Bohlman, Andrea F., and Peter McMurray. 2017. “Tape: Or, Rewinding the Phonographic Regime. (Introduction to special issue on tape).” Twentieth-Century Music 14 (1): 3-24. Publisher's Version Abstract

Magnetic tape follows the contours of the twentieth century in striking ways, from the overtly sonic and musical to less obvious political and social transformations. This introductory article sets the tone for this special issue, an effort to connect discrete histories of tape through a focus on its materialities. We posit the existence of a phonographic regime that coheres around a loose set of assumptions that often appear in tandem with broad claims about what "sound recording" or even "analog media" are. This regime dates back to the invention of phonography but persists through many contemporary histories of sound recording. We challenge the regime by thinking with and through tape recording. One of tape's critical media operations, "rewind," serves as a central focus for our push-back against the regime. As a button interface, it highlights the physical engagement of humans with materialities, including the corporal labors of using technology, with iconography that digital technologies still employ. As a mechanism of respooling, it points to the industrial histories of various spooling forerunners from textiles to film reels. As we explore its cultural techniques in musical practices, we consider rewind, above all, as a temporal gesture that offers new paths backward into history.

McMurray, Peter. 2017. “Once Upon Time: A Superficial History of Early Tape.” Twentieth-Century Music 14 (1): 25-48. Publisher's Version Abstract

The early history of tape can be and has been told in a number of ways: as a byproduct of fascism; as a serendipitous outcome of signals intelligence and the spoils of the Second World War; or as a synergistic result of American capitalism at the hands of Bing Crosby and engineer John Mullin. Instead, I consider how Fritz Pfleumer's "sounding paper," inspired by his work in cigarette manufacturing, led to a medium that brings together elements of magnetic technologies (i.e., non-inscriptive data storage) with the plastic operations of film (e.g., cutting, splicing, looping), augmented by a variety of new temporal possibilities (e.g., pause, rewind). To that end, I analyse the production and subsequent circulation of tape, tape recorders, and tape recordings built in Germany during the Second World War, including many orchestral recordings by Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan. After the war, these technologies and tapes were looted from Germany, leading to the subsequent emergence of tape recording in the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union. The post-war dissemination of tape illustrates not only the geopolitics of technology, but also the ways in which the peculiar characteristics of tape fostered certain cultural and technological practices.

pdf copy
2016
McMurray, Peter. 2016. “Listening to Arab modernity? Sonic traces from the Arab world, by Norient (Sound Review).” Sound Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 2 (2): 199-204. Publisher's Version
pdf copy
2015
McMurray, Peter. 2015. “Archival Excess: Sensational Histories Beyond the Audiovisual.” Fontes Artis Musicae 62 (3): 262-275.
pdf copy
pdf copy
McMurray, Peter. 2015. “A Voice Crying from the Dust: The Book of Mormon as Sound.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 48 (4): 3-44.
pdf copy
2014
McMurray, Peter. 2014. “YouTube Music--Haptic or Optic?” Repercussions. Edited by guest editor Jonathan Sterne 11: 1-47.
pdf copy
2012
McMurray, Peter. 2012. “Urban Heterophony and the Mediation of Place.” Urban People 14 (2): 227-254.
pdf copy