Issue 42.1


Special Issue: Sound, Part 1

Published: March 2009

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 13 essays, totalling 224 pages

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This issue, the first of a two-part special, takes the study of sound into literary and critical practices where work on visuality and the gaze has held sway, and it suggests the importance sound studies hold for the blurring of oppositional boundaries. The thirteen essays collected here engage sound as a medium for interrogating identity, for improvising multiculturalism, as well as for approaching subjectivity as a technological extension; sound as wordless and as found in silence; and sound as gesture. The issue includes explorations of the history of sound; of the soundings of a text; of the sound archive; and of the multimedial basis of psychoanalysis. There is an interest here in “irreducible openness.” The issue attempts to take down boundaries—between the senses, between cultures, between performer and text.

Sounding the Hyperlink: Skewed Remote Musical Performance and the Virtual Subject

David Cecchetto

This essay uses the sound-art practice Skewed Remote Musical Performance as a probe for considering the implications of sonic ontology. Understanding sound as radically relational, the essay argues that subjectivity is a technological extension that, in the acoustic reality of our virtual age, has rendered the human always-already posthuman.

Kant and the Sublime Murmur of the We

Cory Stockwell

This essay examines the workings of voice, attunement, and unboundeness in Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Through an analysis of the soundings of this text, the essay attempts to arrive at a Kantian theory of community, one that is marked by an irreducible openness to the outside.

Soliloquies of Silence: James Turrell’s Theatre of Installation

Clark Lunberry

The artist James Turrell’s installations appear, at first glance, the ideal setting for what Turrell himself describes as a “wordless experience.” The light or darkness encountered within them is often so sensual, or severe, as to leave one silenced and speechless. Yet sounds (and words), sounds that speak of language’s enduring narrations, nonetheless often arise within such installations.

Songs of Freedom: The Politics and Geopolitics of Modern Jazz

Robert Bennett

Our conventional understanding of the 1950s as a silent, conformist generation has largely been shaped by visual images from television sitcoms. Listening to the alternative sounds of fifties jazz and rock and roll reveals a broader sense of the period’s multiple cultural and political voices.

The Talkie Cure: Psychoanalysis and the Art of Noise

Colin Hugh Moore

Lacan’s “mirror stage” simultaneously introduces the child to two distinct information channels—in other words, to multimedia. The mirror stage thus anticipates an encounter with the multimedia apparatus of the sound film. This essay views psychoanalysis in relation to sound cinema to uncover its multimedial basis.

Acousmatic Presences: From DJs to Talk-Radio Hosts in American Fiction, Cinema, and Drama

Umberto Rossi

DJs and talk-show hosts are undoubtedly cultural icons in the American mediascape, and as such they appear in several novels, films and in the play Talk Radio, by Eric Bogosian. This essay analyzes the socio-political implications of how DJs and talk-show hosts are depicted by taking them back to their historical background.

When Silence Plays Vielle: The Metaperformance Scenes of Le Roman de Silence in Performance

Linda Marie Zaerr

Performance-based exploration of the thirteenth-century Le Roman de Silence can extend discussions of ambiguity by clarifying the experience of the sound of the poem. Homonymic terminology breaks down the boundary between performer and text, while metaperformance elements impose identities of characters on performer and audience.

The Sounds of the Audience

Robert P. McParland

A variety of audience sounds can be heard in the literature of the early twentieth century. Authors depict social frames at the opera, concert hall, or theatre, where audience sounds intervene: coughing, rustling of programs, whispering, fictional audiences speaking through sound and gesture. This essay asks how modernist writers connect verbal, musical, and visual art to incorporate the new sounds of their modern environment in their stories.

“Oui, let’s scat”: Listening to Multi-Vocality in George Elliott Clarke’s Jazz Opera Québécité

Katherine McLeod

Set on the apple-blossomed streets of Quebec City, Québécité sings the story of two multicultural couples—Laxmi Bharati and Ovide Rimbaud, and Malcolm States and Colette Chan—whose loves are thwarted and recovered as they encounter familial and personal prejudices towards cultural difference. Listening to the two female characters, who have sparked extensive critical debate on the issue of performing cultural identity, this essay asks how Québécité calls for a rethinking of critical approaches to sound as a medium for improvising multiculturalisms.

friend/ to any/ word: Steve Lacy Scores Tom Raworth

Kevin McNeilly

Combining techniques of close listening and close reading, this paper interrogates the intersections of sound and text in Tom Raworth’s poetry and in Steve Lacy’s music, particularly in their score for (and performances of) “Out of a Sudden,” an elegy for the Swiss poet Franco Beltrametti. Maurice Blanchot’s work on friendship and absence provides a conceptual template for their collaboration.

Sound Mind: Josephine Dickinson’s Deaf Poetics

Jessica Lewis Luck

Using theories of deaf cognition, this essay explores the compelling soundscape of the poetry of Josephine Dickinson. Her Deaf poetics expands traditional notions of poetic sound, shifting the locus of sound experience from the voice and ear to other organs of sound-processing, such as the mind’s inner voice, the mouth, the lips, and the resonating spaces of the proprioceptive body.

Past Performance, Present Dilemma: A Poetics of Archiving Sound

Kate Eichhorn

This essay explores the possibility of archiving sound, specifically poetry in performance. Our deep attachment to the familiar oppositions that govern the ideas of the archive and the repertoire, including the opposition between orality and writing, is identified as the primary obstacle to realizing the sound archive’s full potential.

The Morrison Songbook: Proliferation in Jazz

Tamas Dobozy

This essay examines Toni Morrison's novel through the theories of Michel de Certeau to suggest a utopian vision founded upon "doing" rather than "discourse." The essay suggests that jazz is not only a cultural practice but a radical way of envisioning community.