Joseph Pfender

PhD Candidate, Department of Music, GSAS

Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (September 7 - December 18):

Pfender’s dissertation uses archival materials, theory from the history of science and technology studies, and uncirculated avant-garde films and music, to describe the place of corporate patronage and the intellectual history of cybernetics in the history of electronics and recording technology in the mid-20th century American musical avant-garde. Pfender’s specific research subjects include obscure tape-music pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron, whose working methods (building, overloading, and recording circuits) and creative philosophy were informed by early cybernetics work at the Macy conferences, specifically work by Norbert Wiener, Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, and Heinz von Foerster, among others. Pfender seeks to work with NYU Professor Anna Greenspan, providing historical perspectives on the work done by the research hub Hacked Matter, which deals with contemporary maker culture in Shanghai, a creative culture which has many points of contact with the Barrons' work. A further possible point of exchange is the cybernetics-inspired philosophy of Gilbert Simondon, specifically his theory of the transindividuation of technical objects. Bernard Stiegler's notion of an "anthropological technics" may also bear significant relation to the relatively loose intentionality inherent in the Barrons' work, and hence also to the circuit-bending hacker culture in contemporary Shanghai.

Last Name
PhD Candidate, Department of Music, GSAS
Fellows Type
GRI Fellowship
GRI Fellows semester
Fall 2015