PoL # 17 Occupational sounds: Michael Rockefeller’s tapes from Netherlands New Guinea, 1961

With Ernst Karel
Date: Tuesday July 14th, 2015
Time: 18:30
Venue: LCC, Elephant & Castle reception (Directions)
Free with limited capacity

Rockefeller_Nature

For this session, I will present and discuss selections from a remarkable body of sound recordings, made in 1961 in what was then Netherlands New Guinea as part of the Harvard Peabody Expedition. Organized by filmmaker Robert Gardner and conceived as a fully multimedia investigation of the so-called ‘stone age’ culture of the Dani of the Baliem Valley, the expedition resulted in thousands of photographs, Gardner’s film Dead Birds, Peter Mathiessen’s ecological essay Under the Mountain Wall, and nearly 30 hours of sound recordings, which were recently digitized. The sound recordist was the young heir to the Standard Oil fortune and son of a future US Vice President, Michael Rockefeller, who would disappear mysteriously in New Guinea later that year. Far from being limited to speech, music, or overt performances, Rockefeller’s microphone and Nagra were used to record many aspects of the human and nonhuman environments. The product of a specific moment in the histories of colonialism in New Guinea, of anthropology, and of ethnographic audiovisual media production, the sound recordings are an intriguing and rare document of a peculiar ethnographic encounter. Ernst Karel, 2015.

[Image: Rockefeller, recording notes]

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