Position title: Senior Fellow (2013-2017)
African Languages and Literature and Music, UW-Madison
The Secret Animation of Black Music
My project explores the quality of aliveness (“animation”) that listeners world-wide commonly experience in US black music. Whereas animation is typically theorized as an inversion of the economic processes of reification (an alienated, reified person/laborer gives way to an animated, sentient thing), I argue that black music’s origin as a product of slave labor introduced a unique set of animated properties that underlies its immense cultural value. Originating as an audible extension of an ambiguous, living property-form under the regime of US slavery, black music—a veritable property of a property—became imbued with fleshly presence, carrying forward into the global modern a racially anachronistic sense of livingness-in-sound.
Ronald Radano is a Professor of African Languages and Literature and Music at UW-Madison. He is the author of two award-winning books, New Musical Figurations: Anthony Braxton’s Cultural Critique (Chicago, 1993; Italian translation, forthcoming) and Lying up a Nation: Race and Black Music (Chicago, 2003), and coeditor of Music and the Racial Imagination (Chicago 2000) and Audible Empire: Music, Global Politics, Critique (Duke, forthcoming). His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Musical Quarterly, Daedalus, Critical Inquiry, Modernism/Modernity, and Radical History Review. He is coeditor of two book series, Refiguring American Music (Duke) and Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology (Chicago). Radano has held research residencies and fellowships at numerous institutions, including the Du Bois Institute (Harvard), the Smithsonian Institution, and the University of Pennsylvania (as a Rockefeller Fellow). He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1997-1998. He is at work on a project entitled “The Secret Animation of Black Music.”