Wolf Listening: Acoustemological Politics and Poetics of Isle Royale National Park

Deluca, Erik, Music - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Burtner, Matthew, Music, University of Virginia
Kisliuk, Michelle, Music, University of Virginia
Coffey, Ted, Music, University of Virginia
Igoe, James, Anthropology, University of Virginia

Listening to wolf howls as both material object and socially constructed metaphor—infinitely interpretable, ideologically malleable, and ultimately based on particular values, biases, and cultural ideas—highlights the contested relationship between nature and culture. The author conducted field research on Isle Royale National Park from 2011-15, from which he offers a narrative wherein citizen-scientists listening for the howl literally “lend their ears” to a wolf biologist who has led the longest continuous wildlife study in the world. This listening community and its web of meaning—an interwoven tangle of national park politics and policies, wilderness ideology, environmental ethics, and global climate change—will be introduced in this dissertation as a rethinking of environmental aesthetics, as art in the anthropocene. This dissertation discusses acoustic epistemologies (acoustemologies) and sonic environments in the political world of Isle Royale National Park as a form of music in everyday life. The theoretical framework of this dissertation, therefore, extends acoustic ecology—which is often intended to provide the scientific justification behind the preservation of nature—to include environmental history, and cultural theory—which problematizes definitions of ‘nature’ and ‘natural’—to ultimately describe a nuanced form of participatory, situational environmental music that plays out in the everyday lives of those listening on this remote, roadless island in Lake Superior—a location where the nature/culture dialectic (as opposed to a dualism) is critically engaged.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Listening, wolf howls, nature, culture, music, sound, National Parks, politics, poetics, wilderness, envirnmental ethics, anthropocene, acoustemologies, acoustic ecology, soundscape
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