Matthew Mendez

Matthew Mendez's picture
Matthew Mendez (2016) is a Ph.D. student in music history. He holds an A.B. in music from Harvard University, and also earned Masters degrees (with distinction) from the University of Edinburgh and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. In addition, Matt is an alumnus of the Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies. At Harvard, Matt won the school’s Bowdoin Prize, awarded annually for an essay of high literary merit. He has also been the recipient of an ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Award for outstanding writing on music.
My dissertation project is a genealogy of the “right to one’s own voice,” a legalistic rubric that only became thinkable with the advent of sound reproduction, with its “splitting” of voices from bodies. Treating various legal fora as sites for the enactment of what I refer to as “ontological arbitrage,” I examine a series of cases from 1876 to the present–from campaign debates broadcast over early radio, television “sound-alikes,” and the present-day criminalization of hip-hop lyrics, to humanitarian testimony, forensic listening, and algorithmic “deepfake” voices–in which the voice takes on the guise of an evidential object assumed to directly index the real. Such scenarios underline the insoluble friction between a putative right to one’s own voice and the commonsense perception that (non-musicalized) sound resists capture as a form of intellectual property. My dissertation research has been supported in part by the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland.
More broadly, Matt is committed to bringing methodological perspectives from media theory, science studies, law-and-humanities, and critical race theory to bear robustly on post-1945 sound and experimental repertoires. Secondary research interests include psychoanalytic discourse and the material-semiotic transculturation of musical genre and expressive culture in the circum-Atlantic Spanish-speaking world over the longue durée.
Matt has previously published book chapters and journal articles on such topics as Julius Eastman, the postwar reception of Erik Satie, and Jean-François Lyotard’s musical writings. Matt also works as a public musicologist: he was the Publications Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center for the summer of 2014, and he remains active as a liner note and program annotator. Current non-dissertation projects include articles on the epistemology of space in Varèse and Dufourt, and on futurological campanology.
Program Type: 
Music History