Cameron Brinitzer

Cameron Brinitzer

Historian & Anthropologist of Science, 2022-2023 Berggruen Fellow


Cameron Brinitzer earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of History and Sociology of Science in 2022. With Etienne Benson, he co-edited and contributed to an Isis Focus section (March 2022 issue) that investigates some of the ways that field concepts, fieldwork practices, and field sciences have been transformed since the mid-twentieth century. His dissertation and first book project, Culturing Evolution: A History and Anthropology of a Cognitive Science of Culture in Illiberal Hungary, examines how life and mind scientists have operationalized concepts of culture such that this famously nebulous epistemic object can be measured and materialized in laboratory experiments and incorporated into evolutionary theories. His fieldwork with cognitive scientists at the Central European University unfolded amid the CEU’s forced move from Budapest to Vienna, after the university was legislated out of Hungary by the country’s avowedly “illiberal” government.

As a USC Berggruen Fellow, Brinitzer will work toward completing his first book project, while beginning an adjacent project focused on the recent history of supranational scientific funding instruments in Europe, the rise of illiberal and nationalist political movements across the continent, and emerging relations between sciences and politics of culture today.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.