About

I am a researcher working on the intersection of musicology, sound studies and media studies. My first monograph The Logic of Filtering. How Noise Shapes the Sound of Recorded Music was published by Oxford University Press in 2021. It’s available for free Open Access download here.

In my work, I explore the relations between music, sound, and media from the nineteenth century to the present. I’m currently working on a book on German experimental music pioneers Einstürzende Neubauten’s 1981 debut album Kollaps for Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Europe-series, together with Jan Nieuwenhuis. Other research interests are the history of the conceptualisation of sounds in terms of their ‘spectrum,’ and the relation between sound and pseudoscience from the nineteenth century onward.

I published extensively on music, sound and popular culture, both academically and for wider audiences. I obtained my PhD in 2017 at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam with a thesis on the role of noise in sound recording. I subsequently worked as Postdoctoral Researcher at the Faculty of Music and Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge, as part of the ERC funded research project Sound and Materialism in the Nineteenth Century.

Besides my academic work, I’m an experienced advisor and consultant in the academic and cultural sectors, currently working as senior policy advisor at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). I also perform and record as a musician.

Education

PhD, Musicology, University of Amsterdam (Cum Laude)
2012 – 2016

PhD in Musicology at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (University of Amsterdam), on the role of noise in recorded sound and music. Completed Cum Laude.PhD in Musicology at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (University of Amsterdam), on the role of noise in recorded sound and music. Completed Cum Laude.

Master of Arts, Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam
2006 – 2008

Two year interdisciplinary research master at the Faculty of Humanities. Masterthesis: “The mechanics of Destruction. An analysis of authorship and political engagement in the work of Matthew Herbert.”

Bachelor of Arts, Musicology, University of Amsterdam (Cum Laude)
2002 – 2006

Including 5 months student exchange at Institut fur Populäre Musikwissenschaft, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. Bachelor thesis: “This was made to end all parties. An investigation of the work of Einstürzende Neubauten 1980-1990.”

Other Publications

Books

The Logic of Filtering. How Noise Shapes the Sound of Recorded Music. New York: Oxford University Press (2021). [DOWNLOAD FULL BOOK IN OPEN ACCESS HERE!]

Einstürzende Neubauten: Kollaps. 33 1/3 Europe, New York: Bloomsbury, forthcoming (together with Jan Nieuwenhuis)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“‘I Hear a New World.’ Moon Metaphors and Media Music.” In: James Gabrillo and Nathaniel Zetter (eds.), Articulating Media: Genealogy, Interface, Situation. London: Open Humanities Press, forthcoming (2022)

Electronic Contingencies. Karel Goeyvaerts’ Sine Wave Music and the Ideal of Perfect Sound,” In: Caleb Kelly, Jakko Kemper, Ellen Rutten (eds.), Imperfections: Studies in Mistakes, Flaws, and Failures. New York: Bloomsbury (2021). DOI 10.5040/9781501380303.ch-005

The Unmusical Ear: Georg Simon Ohm and the Mathematical Analysis of Sound.” Isis, Vol. 111, No.3, September 2020, pp. 471-493. DOI 10.1086/710318

Hearing Pastness and Presence. The Myth of Perfect Fidelity and the Temporality of Recorded Sound.” Sound Studies, Volume 6, Issue 1 (2020), pp. 29-44. DOI: 10.1080/20551940.2020.1713524

“‘Antennas Have Long Since Invaded Our Brains.’ Listening to the ‘Other Music’ in Friedrich Kittler.” In: Sander van Maas (ed.), Thresholds of Listening. Sound, Technics, Space. New York: Fordham University Press, (2015): 89-104. DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264377.003.0006

The Exceptional Purity of Sound. Noise Reduction Technology and the Inevitable Noise of Sound Recording.” Journal of Sonic Studies, Volume 7 (June 2014).

As Distant and Close as Can Be. Lo-fi Recording: Site-Specificity and (In)authenticity.” Soundscapes, Journal on Media Culture, Volume 15 (October 2012).

‘Over the Ruined Factory There’s a Funny Noise.’ Throbbing Gristle and the Mediatized Roots of Noise in/as Music.” Popular Music and Society, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2011), pp. 23–34. DOI : 10.1080/03007766.2011.539814

Dissertation

Noise Resonance Technological Sound Recording and the Logic of Filtering (Dissertation, University of Amsterdam, 2017).

Other

“The Future of Listening. Making Sense of Sound: Listening to Technical Media,” Naxos Music International, 11 November 2019.

“Wolfgang Ernst. Sonic Time Machines: Explicit Sound, Sirenic Voices, and Implicit Sonicity” (book review), Journal of Sonic Studies, 2017.

An Attempt to Sketch the Main Themes and Ideas – Introduction to Bernhard Siegert’s Passage des Digitalen.

More Things In Theory Than Heaven And Earth Are Dreaming Of. A conversation with Geoffrey Winthrop-Young by Melle Kromhout and Peter McMurray – Interview with media scholar and translator Geoffrey Winthrop-Young, December 2014.

Sound Studies: A Discipline? Review of the Sound Signatures Winter School, Amsterdam, January 2014. “Sounding Out!” Sound Studies Blog, 11 August 2014.

Lectures / Presentations

“Spectrum/Spectre: Representing Sound.” presentation at: accelerator workshop Music from Earth, 9-10 May 2022, Harvard Radcliffe Institute.

“Introduction to The Logic of Filtering.” Presentation at: New Directions in Sound Studies Group, 4 November 2021, University of Amsterdam.

“The Sonic Politics of Arca.” Talk at: Regenerative Feedback, May 2019, Worm, Rotterdam.

“What’s That Sound!? How 19th Century Acoustics and 20th Century Media changed the Sound of Music.” Lecture at: Centre for Music and Science Seminar, 21 May 2019, Cambridge UK.

“Sounds, Waves, Signals. On the Intertwining of Music and Media (1843 – 2019).” Lecture at: Musique et Science Sociales Seminar, l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 6 May 2019, Paris.

“Electronic Imperfection. Karel Goeyvaerts’ Sine Wave Music and the Ideal of Perfect Sound.” Paper presented at: Imperfections Conference, 11-12 March 2019, University of Amsterdam.

“In Search of Sonic Purity. How Acoustics and Technology Changed Music.” Lecture at: Stephen Hales Talk, Corpus Christi College, 20 November 2018, Cambridge University.

“Ohm’s Unmusical Ear. On the Sine Wave as a Mode of Sonic Representation.” Paper presented at: The Audible Spectrum: Sound Studies, hearing culture and sound arts, Cité de la Musique/Philharmonie de Paris, 7-9 June 2018, Paris.

“Resisting Pure Sound. Debunking the Myth of Perfect Fidelity, or Why Humans Will Never Be in Charge.” Talk at: Regenerative Feedback, Project Room, 25-27 May 2018, New York, USA.

“Nature Has Completely Denied Me a Musical Ear. Are Musical Notes Sine Waves, and Why (Not)?” Paper presented at: Material Cultures of Music Notation20-22 April 2018, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.

“The Primary Logic of Filtering. Ideal and Physical Filters and the Technical Production of Sound.” Lecture at: Cultural Techniques of Radiophonics Workshop, 19-20 October 2017, Universität Basel, Basel, Switserland.

“Tones That Have Lasted for Eternities. The Ideal Sine Wave between Symbol and Signal” (revised version).Paper presented at The Royal Musical Association’s 53rd Annual Conference, 7-9 September 2017, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.

“I Hear a New World. Friedrich Kittler’s Concept of Music in the Age of Technical Media.”Paper presented at: Excavating Media. Devices, Processes, Apparatuses, 30 June/1 July 2017, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

“Tones That Have Lasted for Eternities. The Ideal Sine Wave between Symbol and Signal.” Paper presented at: After Idealism: Sound as Matter and Medium in the 19th Century, 17-18 March 2017, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

“The Sound of the ‘Other Music‘. Music In the Age of Technological Filters.” Presentation at: Princeton-Weimar Summer School for Media Studies, Princeton University, 19-26 June 2016, USA.

“The Ever-Present Noise of Sound. On the Inevitability and Necessity of Noise in Recorded Sound and Music.” Lecture at: Musicology Colloquium, 21 May 2015, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

“In the Fourier Domain, We Are Immortal. Noise, Time and the Limits of Sound Reproduction.” Presentation at: Sound Signatures Summer School, Part II: Epistemologies and the Order of Sound, 18-22 August 2014, NYU Center/MPIWG Berlin, Germany.

“All Things Must Pass. Some Thoughts on Algorithms, Noise and Temporality.” Presentation at: Algorithm and the Humanities, University of Amsterdam, 11 June 2014.

“Noise.” Lecture at: Interdisciplinary Bachelor program, iArts Maastricht, 5 June 2014.

“A Soft Landing into a Bed of Noise. Dithering: Hiding Noise with Noise in Digital Sound.” Paper presented at: Bone Flute to Auto-Tune. Conference on Music & Technology in History, Theory and Practice, 24-26 April 2014, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

“How Much Noise is Necessary? Dithering and the Necessity of Noise in Digital Sound.” Paper presented at: ASCA Workshop 2014. Maps and Rhythms: Knowledge and Experience in (Bio)political Orders, 16-18 April 2014, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

“Dithering. a Different Perspective on Noise in Sound Recording.” Presentation at: Sound Signatures Winter School, Part I: Spaces, Objects and Embodied Practices, 13-17 January 2014University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

“The Exceptional Purity of Sound. Noise Reduction and the (Dys)functionality of Noise in Recorded Music.” Paper presented at: Functional Sounds. First International Conference of the European Sound Studies Association, 5-6 October 2013, Humboldt Universität, Berlin, Germany.

“On Friedrich Kittler’s ‘Signal-Rausch-Abstand.’” Presentation at: Discourse Network: 2000 – Reading (Around) Friedrich Kittler, University of Amsterdam, 11 December 2012.

“Noise, Sound, Media. Revaluing Noise in the Media Age.” Paper presented at: Supersonix Conference, 21-23 June 2012, Society for Literature, Science and the Arts Europe, London, UK.

“As Distant and Close as Can Be. Lo-fi recording: Site-Specificity and (In)authenticity.” Paper presented at: The Fifth Annual Art of Record Production Conference, 13-15 November 2009, University of Glamorgan, Cardiff, UK.

Melle Jan Kromhout

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