The questions that I tend to ask are how does culture work? and what work does culture do? I often ask these questions about media and technologies, especially in relation to music and sound reproduction since 1900.
I wrote a book called Decomposed: The Political Ecology of Music (2019). It's about the history of what recordings are made of, and what happens to those recordings when they are disposed of. I focus on three materialities—shellac, plastic, data—which correspond to the main commercial recording formats since 1900: 78s, LPs, 45s, cassettes, CDs, audio files. Common sense suggests that the history of recorded music has been a progress of dematerialization—an evolution from physical discs to invisible digits. Decomposed shows that recorded music has always been a significant exploiter of both natural and human resources, and that its reliance on these resources is more problematic today than ever before. The book received an IASPM International Book Prize, an IASPM-Canada Book Prize, and a PROSE Award from the Association of American Publishers. It was an Honorable Mention for the IASPM-US Woody Guthrie Award.
I coedited a related book called Audible Infrastructures: Music, Sound, Media (2021). It looks at the social life and social death of various musical commodities in terms of three phases: resources and production, circulation and transmission, failure and waste. We ask how these phases influence and respond to musical conventions, environmental realities, and political-economic conditions in industrializing and industrialized parts of the world.
Most of my other publications are about histories, cultures, and theories of sound reproduction. I coedited Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound (2015) and I coauthored work on gender and social inequalities in music technology for Twentieth-Century Music (2015) and the Contemporary Music Review (2016).
Music sociology is my other main interest—especially the field's pasts and prospects—and here I coedited The Routledge Reader on the Sociology of Music (2015).
Teaching and Supervision
I’m always happy to hear from prospective students working in my main fields of interest: music studies, sound studies, media studies, infrastructure studies, sociology of music, cultural sociology, material culture, science and technology studies. I encourage projects that are conceptually adventurous, politically engaged, and empirically grounded. Some of my teaching contributions include:
- The Political Ecology of Music
- Music, Technology, and Society
- Musikkvitenskapens forskningsfelt
- Music and Cultural Studies
- Research Seminar in Popular Music
- Metodologisk emne: Musikk, kultur, samfunn
- Popular Music and Dust: Archives, Memory, Heritage, Historiography
- Thesis Seminar in Musicology
- Film Music
Before joining the University of Oslo in 2015, I taught at City University of London and Worcester College, University of Oxford. At Oxford, I also worked with the Music and Digitization Research Group.