Andrew Niess


Sixth Year Graduate Student in Theory


Room 103, Lerner Music Building


I am a PhD candidate and Benjamin Franklin Teaching Fellow at the Music Department of the University of Pennsylvania.

In my work, I contend with the disorientation of thought and perception that accompanies contemporary ecological crises. I analyze (1) how theorists of this disorientation mobilize ideas about sound, its practices and technicities; (2) how theorists of sound and music in particular have grappled with this disorientation; and (3) how practitioners of sonic creativity reconfigure musical mattering through a residual aesthetics. Amid such disorientation, I seek to reorient my labor within music studies specifically, and within the humanities generally, toward a practice of what I call the parahumanities. I develop theories of “disorientation,” “sonic creativity,” “residual aesthetics,” “parahuman,” and “parahumanities.”

I think about, communicate, and aestheticize these problems through a modular creative practice that includes: writing propositional prose; designing speculative instruments; audio-visual archiving of sites of waste accrual; and convening performance spaces. This research practice stems from my commitment to communicating scholarship through experimental forms. Such forms help me to turn away from anthropocentric ways of relating toward parahuman ones.



Forthcoming. “Troubling Vocality: The Human Microphone and Parahuman Attunement.” In Oxford Handbook of Protest Music, eds. Noriko Manabe and Eric Drott. Oxford University Press.


Selected Presentations/Screenings:

7–9 June 2019. “Voicing the Ends of the World: Microbial Phonography, Attunement, and the Anthropocene.” Art in the Anthropocene Conference. Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

30–31 March 2019. Particulate Matters. Screening Scholarship Media Festival. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.


Audio-visual Projects:

2019. Particulate Matters. 10’ 46”.

…assembles narratives of living in relation with the Asbestos Superfund Site in Ambler, PA, where I grew up…

2019. PNEUMATOGRAPHY I. 2’ 37”.

…intensifies breathing as an aesthetic strategy for rendering sensible our affinities with parahuman scales, flows, and accumulations…




Courses Taught

MUSC 70: Intro to Music Theory & Musicianship (S ’19, F ’18)

MUSC 170: Music Theory & Musicianship I, TA/Lab Instructor (S ‘18)

MUSC 270: 18th-Century Counterpoint, TA/Lab/Keyboard Instructor (F ‘17)