Brian Kane

Brian Kane's picture
Assoc Prof Music Dept
469 College St, New Haven, CT 06511-6609

Specializations: music theory; jazz; music and philosophy (with an emphasis on critical theory and phenomenology); aesthetic theory; avant-garde composition and electronic music since 1945; sound studies and new media; Pierre Schaeffer and acousmatic theory; experimental music and circuit bending; noise.

About: Brian Kane holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley (B.A. in Philosophy, 1996; Ph.D. in Music, 2006). Prior to joining the faculty at Yale, he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at Columbia University (2006-2008).

His scholarly work is interdisciplinary, located in the intersection of music theory, composition and philosophy.  Working primarily with 20th century music, Kane’s emphasis is on questions of sound and signification. Central themes in his research are: music and sound art, histories and theories of listening, phenomenology, improvisation, music and subjectivity, technology, conceptualizations of sound and music in literature and philosophy, and theories of the voice. 

Some of these themes are interwoven in Kane’s recent work on acousmatic sound. Acousmatic refers to the separation of audition from all other sensory modalities, and is often deployed in phenomenological contexts in order to disclose the “essence” of listening. In his forthcoming book, Sound Unseen, Kane investigates the question of acousmatic sound beyond its phenomenological context and demonstrates its pertinence to current work on musical and non-musical forms of listening. This also involves reconstructing the philosophical and material history of acousmatic sound from its supposed origins in the Pythagorean school, through the rise of mechanically reproduced sound and electronic composition, to contemporary discourses on the senses, sound, and composition.

Kane is chair of the Society for Music Theory’s Music and Philosophy Interest Group, and a founding editor of the humanities journal He is a co-founder of the Sound Studies Working Group at the Whitney Humanities Center.

Selected Publications: Sound Unseen: acousmatic sound in theory and practice, (Oxford University Press, forthcoming, June 2014).

“Eleven Theses on Sound and Transcendence,” forthcoming in Current Musicology.

“Badiou’s Wagner: Variarions on the Generic,” forthcoming in Opera Quarterly.

“Jean-Luc Nancy and the Listening Subject,” Contemporary Music Review, 31:5-6 (2012): 439-447.

“Musicophobia, or Sound Art and the Demands of Art Theory,” Nonsite 8 (Winter 2012/13).

“Xenakis: the first composer of biopolitics?,” in Exploring Xenakis, ed. Sharon Kanach (Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2012): 91-100.

“Acousmate: history and de-visualised sound in the Schaefferian tradition,” Organised Sound 17:2 (Fall 2012): 179–188.

“Acousmatic Fabrications: Les Paul and the Les Paulverizer,” Journal of Visual Culture 10:2 (August 2011): 212-231.

“Music, Image Schemata and the ‘Hidden Art’,” Nonsite 2 (Summer 2011).

“Excavating Lewin’s ‘Phenomenology’,” Music Theory Spectrum 33:1 (2011): 27-36.

“Aspect and Ascription in the Music of Mathias Spahlinger,” Contemporary Music Review 27:6 (2008): 595-609.

“Schaeffer: une pensée à l’état de vestiges,” in Pierre Schaeffer: Portraits Polychromes 13, ed. Evelyne Gayou. Paris: INA, 2008: 13-19. 

“L’objet Sonore Maintenant: Pierre Schaeffer, Sound Objects and the Phenomenological Reduction,” Organised Sound 12.1 (2007): 15–24.

“The Elusive ‘Elementary Atom of Music,’” qui parle 14.2 (2004): 117-143.

Links: Brian Kane’s website

Music Theory
Appointment Type: 
Graduate faculty
Undergraduate faculty