Delia Casadei, Penn Alumna and Assistant Professor of Musicology of UC Berkeley Presents New Work at Penn on October 12

September 29, 2021

The Department of Music is thrilled to welcome back Penn Alumna Delia Casadei who is now an Assistant Professor of Musicology at UC Berkeley. She has published work on the intersection of voice, ideologies of language and intelligibility, and politics in twentieth century Italian music. Her latest essay, Vico Signifying Nothing, is out in the Spring 2021 Issue of Representations and concerns the relationship of sound and theories of history in Giambattista Vico’s writings. At the moment, she is working on a book entitled Risible Creature: Laughter and Sound Reproduction at the Limit of Language, which will explore the vocal and political phenomenon of laughter—particularly recorded laughter—in the twentieth century.  


Delia Casadei

Laughter as Sound Reproduction

October 12, 2021 (Tuesday) — 5:15 pm to 7:30 pm

Lerner Center
Penn Music Building
201 S. 34th Street, Room 102



In this talk, I attempt to connect ideas about the sonic phenomenon of laughter with the history of biological reproduction. In the western tradition—here loosely defined as everything from greek mythology, the bible, to poetry, phonography and medical treatises—the phenomenon of laughter has well-documented links to the most carnal aspects of earthly life. To laugh is to be hailed into procreation, gestation, birth, as well as sowing, fertility and harvest. In fact, I argue that we can be more precise: the act and sound of laughter aid supposedly “natural” forms of reproduction at moments of crisis—they jolt recalcitrant matter and people into fertility and proliferation. Rephrased in more contemporary vocabulary, laughter is, and has long been, a biotechnological device. Where, then, is this reproductive laughter audible, and under what conditions? I offer some thoughts on how laughter’s history can—sometimes—be heard at the intersection of sound, voice, and ideologies of sexual reproduction. 


This lecture is free and open to the public.