Hungry Listening

Hungry Listening

Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies

Dylan Robinson

Reimagining how we understand and write about the Indigenous listening experience

288 Pages, 6 x 9 in



Hungry Listening

Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies

Series: Indigenous Americas

Dylan Robinson

ISBN: 9781517907693

Publication date: May 12th, 2020

288 Pages


8 x 5

"In this brilliant and wide-ranging work, Dylan Robinson refuses to write about anything. Instead he demonstrates what it means at the practical, ethical, and political levels to write relationally with other living beings, including music, sound, belongings, languages, lands, ancestors, and readers. In method and content, Hungry Listening is a challenge to settler colonial sensory and political orders as well as a powerful affirmation of Indigenous thought, practice, and art."—Beth Piatote, author of The Beadworkers and Domestic Subjects

"Hungry Listening is a necessary and creative confrontation of the consequences of settler colonialism for Indigenous music and sound territories. Offering a robust critique of inclusionary performance as settler mis-audation, Dylan Robinson forwards a transformative politics of listening, a practice of guest listening that refuses capture and certainty. At once playful and intensely serious, Hungry Listening experiments with affective event scores and forms of direct address to allow readers to imagine approaches to visiting with Indigenous sound and performance."—Eve Tuck, University of Toronto

"Dylan Robinson employs a xwélméxw (Stó:lō) reading, listening, and thinking practice to enact a decolonial critique of the ‘sonic encounters’ between Indigenous vocal traditions and Western classical and popular music. Hungry Listening, by one of the field’s most generous, perceptive, visionary, and generative scholars, will be a game changer in the areas of Indigenous, sound, and performance studies."—Michelle Raheja, author of Reservation Reelism: Redfacing, Visual Sovereignty, and Representations of Native Americans in Film

"As a form of address, Hungry Listening is profoundly conscious of its multiple audiences, and enacts ethics of appropriate relationship, modeling to readers how musical scholarship can approach Indigenous creators, performers and musics in ways that respect Indigenous sovereignty and value Indigenous creations on their own terms."—Amodern

"Robinson manages to pose compelling arguments as to how much first needs to be unsettled whilst establishing the new ground needed for Indigenous sound studies to flourish."—Feminist Review

"An exemplary text which forges space for Indigenous epistemological and ontological existence through decolonial critique in the realm of sound studies."—Canadian Association of Music Libraries

"Hungry Listening is a powerful piece of listening through reading that not only critiques settler listening but also candidly address the ways in which settler colonialism has impacted Indigenous sonic spaces."—MUSICultures

WInner of the Best First Book from the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association
Winner of the Labriola Center American Indian National Book Award
Winner of the Ann Saddlemyer Award from the Canadian Association for Theatre Research

Reimagining how we understand and write about the Indigenous listening experience​

Hungry Listening is the first book to consider listening from both Indigenous and settler colonial perspectives. A critical response to what has been called the “whiteness of sound studies,” Dylan Robinson evaluates how decolonial practices of listening emerge from increasing awareness of our listening positionality. This, he argues, involves identifying habits of settler colonial perception and contending with settler colonialism’s “tin ear” that renders silent the epistemic foundations of Indigenous song as history, law, and medicine. 

With case studies on Indigenous participation in classical music, musicals, and popular music, Hungry Listening examines structures of inclusion that reinforce Western musical values. Alongside this inquiry on the unmarked terms of inclusion in performing arts organizations and compositional practice, Hungry Listening offers examples of “doing sovereignty” in Indigenous performance art, museum exhibition, and gatherings that support an Indigenous listening resurgence.

Throughout the book, Robinson shows how decolonial and resurgent forms of listening might be affirmed by writing otherwise about musical experience. Through event scores, dialogic improvisation, and forms of poetic response and refusal, he demands a reorientation toward the act of reading as a way of listening. Indigenous relationships to the life of song are here sustained in writing that finds resonance in the intersubjective experience between listener, sound, and space. 

Dylan Robinson is a xwélméxw (Stó:lō) writer, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, and associate professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is coeditor of Arts of Engagement: Taking Aesthetic Action in and beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and cocurator of Soundings, an internationally touring exhibition of Indigenous art scores.



Writing Indigenous Space

1. Hungry Listening

Event Score for Guest Listening I

2.Writing about Musical Intersubjectivity

xwélalà:m, Raven Chacon’s Report

3. Contemporary Encounters Between Indigenous and Early Music 

Event Score for those who hold our songs

4. Ethnographic Redress, Compositional Responsibility

Event Score for Responsibility: “qimmit katajjaq / sqwélqwel tl’ sqwmá:y”

5. Feeling Reconciliation

Event Score to Act