Brian Kane holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley (B.A. in Philosophy, 1996; Ph.D. in Music, 2006). Prior to joining the faculty at Yale, he was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at Columbia University (2006-2008).
Kane, born in 1973, was raised in Los Angeles, California. As a youth, Kane taught himself to play the guitar and the saxophone, developing a keen interest in jazz and classical music. During his tenure as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, he began gigging on both instruments, playing at local clubs and venues, while pursuing degrees in Music and Philosophy.
After graduating, Kane pursued a diverse group of interests. In addition to working professionally as a jazz guitarist, Kane also continued to play saxophone, learned clarinet and bass clarinet, and was highly involved in the Bay Area’s free improvisation scene. He also began studying composition with Jorge Liderman, and organized his own new music ensemble, The Snooty Chamber Orchestra. In addition, he performed for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in the West Coast premiere of John Cage’s final work, Ocean.
In 2000, Kane returned to UC Berkeley as a graduate student in music composition, completing his Ph.D in 2006. He then moved to New York City on a Mellon Post-doctoral Fellowship in Music, at Columbia University before joining the faculty of Yale University in the Fall of 2008.
As a scholar, Kane has been pursuing interdisciplinary research, working in the margins between music theory, composition, philosophy, and auditory culture. The music-theoretical work centers on questions of sound and signification, working primarily with 20th century repertoire. Some central research themes concern: the relationship between music and skepticism; musical ontology; phenomenology; improvisation; histories of listening; subjectivity, in particular the persistence of the musical subject in recent critical theory, and psychoanalytical approaches to the musical self.
Some of these themes are interwoven in Kane’s first book, Sound Unseen: Acousmatic Sound in Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press, 2014). The word “acousmatic” denotes the separation of audition from all other sensory modalities, and is often deployed in phenomenological contexts in order to disclose the “essence” of listening. In Sound Unseen, Kane rethinks the question of acousmatic sound outside of its phenomenological context and demonstrates its centrality to current discourses on musical and auditory cultures. This also involves reconstructing the ideological and material history of acousmatic sound from its supposed origins in the Pythagorean school, through the rise of mechanically reproduced sound and electronic composition, to current discourses on the senses and contemporary compositional practices.
Parts of this project were published in Organised Sound (“L’objet Sonore Maintenant: Pierre Schaeffer, Sound Objects and the Phenomenological Reduction” and “Acousmate”), and The Journal of Visual Culture (“Acousmatic Fabrications: Les Paul and the Les Paulverizer”). Other articles and reviews have appeared in qui parle, Current Musicology, Contemporary Music Review, Music Theory Spectrum, The Journal of Music Theory, Opera Quarterly, and The Journal of the American Musicological Society, among others.
In addition, Kane is an editor at the Journal of Music Theory and a founding editor of nonsite.org, a journal of the arts and humanities. He is currently working on a project about jazz, ontology, and auditory culture.
Kane is also a composer with works for orchestra, chamber ensembles, vocalists, solo instruments, electronic music, sound installations and more. He has received performances around the United States and in Europe. Currently, he works mostly with electronics (analog and digital) in conjunction with Scott Petersen, under the name El Muco.
In addition, Kane is a dedicated jazz guitarist with a decade and half of professional experience. Kane has performed and recorded with the Frank Jackson Trio, The Jason Myers Trio, The Blue Room Boys, singer Lisa Baney, trumpeter Darren Johnston, and the legendary Hal Stein, as well as leading his own quartet and trio. He has appeared on records with Jay Johnson, Frank Jackson, Rod Sherell, Fatty Boom Boom, Tim Hockenberry, Steven Emerson, Gary David, Christie McCarthy and others. Recently, Kane performed at the 50th Anniversary celebration of Ginsberg’s Howl, backing up jazz poet David Meltzer, and a variety of others.
Brian has also recorded and toured with singer/songwriter Victoria Williams and Mark Olson (formerly of the Jayhawks) including performances at Austin’s South by Southwest, and The Rocky Mountain Folk Festival. He can be heard on Victoria William’s Water to Drink (Atlantic Records) and Sings Some Ol’ Songs (Dualtone Records), as well as Mark Olson’s My Own Jo Ellen (Hightone records) playing guitar, saxophone, clarinet, accordian, and as an arranger.