An article on Glenn Gould and the history of technology has earned York University Professor Edward Jones-Imhotep the prestigious 2017 Abbot Payson Usher Prize.
The Usher Prize is awarded for the best scholarly work published during the preceding three years under the auspices of the Society for the History of Technology.
Jones-Imhotep, a professor in the Department of History, was awarded the honour for his recent article “Malleability and Machines: Glenn Gould and the Technological Self.” His article focuses on how the pianist Glenn Gould used recording media to create a new kind of listener.
“The article offers a new picture of an iconic artist and some suggestions for new ways to broaden how we think about the histories of technology,” said Jones-Imhotep. “My research provides a novel perspective on one of the most iconic musical artists of the 20th century.”
The prize committee said the decision to select Jones-Imhotep’s article was an unanimous one.
“In examining the ‘musical ideals’ that pianist Gould pursued, Jones-Imhotep creates a new picture of the artist – one rooted in the ‘technological self’ where morality, materiality, and aesthetics came together,” reads a citation from the committee. “We found this article offered a wonderfully detailed description of the pianist’s studio where machines and electronic media conjoined mundane artifacts like furniture to reflect Gould’s particular and sometimes peculiar philosophy toward both recording and changing the role of the listeners from passive recipients to active manipulators of the music they enjoyed.”
Jones-Imhotep’s essay was further described as thoughtful and well-written, and noted for bringing together concepts from sounds studies and the history of technology along with scholarship on aesthetics and recent work on the history of the self.
“Ranging from the mundane yet critical aspects of studio recording to Gould’s own artistic and philosophical views, Jones-Imhotep offers a new picture of an iconic artist and some suggestions for new ways to broaden how we think about the histories of technology,” the committee states.
The prize was awarded at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology in Philadelphia.
Watch Jones-Imhotep’s related talk at University of California, Berkeley.