Amanda Modell is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at the University of California, Davis. Her dissertation research considers several convergences between music and the hereditary sciences, including Pandora’s Music Genome Project, 1920s eugenic studies of human musical ability, and the evolution of whale song. She’s grateful for support from the American Philosophical Society, the UC Davis Humanities Institute, the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute, and the UC Davis Social Justice Initiative. You can read her work in Media Fields.
Where are the lines between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ drawn concerning music, and how do race, gender, class, ability and species inform those divisions? This study analyzes relationships between music and heredity at several sites: 1.) 1920s US eugenics experiments on musical ability, 2.) Pandora Internet Radio’s Music Genome Project, a database that “codes” music using genomic metaphors and implicitly racialized parameters, and 3.) whale song, as it’s understood as “nonhuman culture” and mobilized in interspecies and trans-cultural environmental activism. Linking cultural studies, music studies and feminist science and technology studies, this study considers aesthetics and multi species bodies as intersections where power is contested, refused and transformed.