Loving Music Till It Hurts

LOVING MUSIC TILL IT HURTS

Oxford University Press

AVAILABLE OCTOBER 2019

Can music feel pain? Do songs possess dignity? Do symphonies have rights? Of course not, you might say. Yet think of how we anthropomorphize music, not least when we believe it has been somehow mistreated. A singer butchered or mangled the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl. An underrehearsed cover band made a mockery of Led Zeppelin's classics. An orchestra didn't quite do justice to Mozart's Requiem. Such lively language upholds music as a sentient companion susceptible to injury and in need of fierce protection.

And there isn’t anything wrong with the human instinct to safeguard beloved music . . . except, perhaps, when this instinct leads us to hurt or neglect fellow human beings in turn: say, by heaping outsized shame upon those who seem to do music wrong; or by rushing to defend a conductor's beautiful recordings while failing to defend the multiple victims who have accused this maestro of sexual assault. Loving Music Till It Hurts is a capacious exploration of how people's head-over-heels attachments to music can variously align or conflict with agendas of social justice. How do we respond when loving music and loving people appear to clash?

FROM THE BACK COVER

This subtle yet powerful book on the complex dynamics of love of music and persons is a crucial part of larger forces in our historical moment: the moral and artistic voices that examine and enact A Love Supreme. And Eva Cassidy smiles!

CORNEL WEST

Harvard University

Witty, passionate, provocative, and humane, Cheng’s fascinating book—with its soaring, singing voice—digs deep to the roots of what love, music, and the chords they strike together can mean in an ethically alert life.

STEPHEN HOUGH

concert pianist

With rare honesty and unconditional compassion, Will Cheng confronts our deeply held commitment to music as a humanizing force. A bravely vulnerable exploration of both the joys and the dangers of loving music.

SCOTT BURNHAM

author of Mozart’s Grace

Cheng’s book made me take stock of my own love for music and for people. And it isn’t all pretty! By the end, I was reading and crying with pen in hand, drawing up resolutions for new modes of loving, living, and listening.

SHERRIE TUCKER

Author of Dance Floor Democracy

Equally relevant to musicians, scholars, and fans, Loving Music Till It Hurts is a consciousness-raising book with razor-sharp analyses of how people justify and defend their musical opinions. A must-read.

DANA GOOLEY

brown university


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SOUND PLAY: VIDEO GAMES AND THE MUSICAL IMAGINATION

Oxford University Press

2014

Video games open portals to fantastic worlds where imaginative play and enchantment prevail. These virtual settings afford us freedom to act out with relative impunity. Or do they? Sound Play explores the aesthetic, ethical, and sociopolitical stakes of people's creative engagements with gaming's audio phenomena: from sonorous violence to synthesized operas, from democratic music-making to vocal sexual harassment. With studies spanning Final Fantasy VI, Silent Hill, Fallout 3, The Lord of the Rings Online, and Team Fortress 2, this book proposes that what we do in the safe and sound spaces of games can teach us a great deal about human values in everyday life.

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JUST VIBRATIONS: THE PURPOSE OF SOUNDING GOOD

University OF MICHIGAN Press

2016

Just Vibrations bends our collective ears toward the vitality and precarity of optimism, dependence, and reparative agendas in academia and in daily life. The book calls for a radical embrace of interpersonal care as a potential core—as opposed to merely extracurricular—component of intellectual labors. In the event we break, who will rush to criticize and who will stop to offer aid? Should our voices crack, who may take pains to listen all the more closely? Traversing the resonant archives of reindeer games, personal impairment, scholarly strife, queer hope, musical violence, and accessible soundscapes, this book advocates for care work as a barometer of better worlds.

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QUEERING THE FIELD: SOUNDING OUT ETHNOMUSICOLOGY

Oxford University Press

COMING FALL 2019

Queering the Field is the first book devoted to queer ethnomusicology. This collection of original essays makes an ambitious effort to queer musical fieldwork and expose new horizons of ethnomusicological scholarship. The volume raises two significant issues: first, ethnomusicology’s normalized approaches to musical ethnography (fieldwork, methodology, analysis, transcription); second, the sexual identities and modes of identification at play in the ethnomusicological field(s). Our eighteen authors expand the critical, social, and behavioral rubrics of musicality to examine the queer potentialities of play, performance, masquerade, and subjectivity.


Photo by Eli Burakian

As an Associate Professor of Music at Dartmouth College, I conduct research and teach varied courses in history, media, ethics, disability, race, and digital games. I received a B.A. in Music and English from Stanford University in 2007, and a Ph.D. in Musicology from Harvard University in 2013. Between 2012–16, I was a Junior Fellow with the Harvard Society of Fellows. During Fall 2019, I will serve as Acting Chair of Dartmouth’s Department of Music.

I'm a founding coeditor of University of Michigan Press’s Music & Social Justice series. In addition to books and academic articles, I have written op-eds and features for publications such as Washington Post, Slate, TIME, Huffington Post, and Pacific Standard. I sit on the Council of the American Musicological Society and on the boards of Journal of the Society for American Music, Music & the Moving Image, Women & Music, Ethnomusicology Review, Sound Studies, and Journal of Videogame Sound and Music. At Dartmouth, I serve on the Internal Advisory Panel for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement, the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid, and the Steering Committee of the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric.

In past years, I've enjoyed giving classical piano recitals featuring improvisations on themes from the audience.