Each March one brave Sounding Out! author takes on the task of wading through the catalog of the annual conference of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies (SCMS), to produce a curated guide for scholars interested in sound and its intersection with media. For several years now, SCMS has been both widening its intellectual scope and becoming one of the primary venues for scholars working in sound, and so making sense of the rich and noisy expansion of the field in this context takes a pretty keen ear.
This year we are extremely happy that that ear belongs to Alyxandra Vesey of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Vesey is not only a leading feminist sound theorist, a radio host, and an editor at our peer website Antenna, but she is also one of the people behind the recent special issue of Velvet Light Trap on Sound, which is sure to become a landmark in the field in years to come.
We asked her to begin with some thoughts on what this year’s offerings at the Montreal conference (held March 25 to 29) tell us about sound scholarship these days. Some food for thought for conference attendees as they contemplate the best place for an oven-warm Montreal bagel on a cold winter morning, or work up the courage to try out some rusty French in la belle province …
— Special Editor Neil Verma
In a recent essay for this site, Robin James situated Dove’s #SpeakBeautiful Twitter campaign within larger histories of patriarchal conventions that moderate “women’s literal and metaphoric voices to control their participation in and affect on society, ensuring that these voices don’t disrupt a so-called harmoniously-ordered society” (2015).
That line came back to me as I began assembling a list of relevant panels, workshops, presentations, and events for sound studies scholars at this year’s SCMS Conference. Of course, the field of film and media studies has been concerned about the voice since the works of Michel Chion, Kaja Silverman, Michele Hilmes and Roland Barthes, many of whose ideas have been revived in recent years, including in a recent issue of Velvet Light Trap, which pursued the voice through a variety of contexts.
Wednesday’s itinerary features “Hearing Voices, Songs, and Speech.” The panel is chaired by Kyle Stevens, who will also present research on the functions of voice-over in representations of suicide and women’s sexuality. Dolores McElroy’s research on Judy Garland, Patrik Sjoberg’s exploration of documentaries’ dubbing and lip sync practices, and Liz Greene’s work on pop music’s signification of middle-aged nostalgia rounds out the proceedings. On Saturday, “The Voice in Transition” includes presentations from chair Jennifer Fleeger, Sarah Wright, Tom Whittaker, and Christine Ehrick on opera in Italian film, silent cinema, dubbing in Spanish film, and Niní Marshall’s film comedies. “Hear and There: The Politics of Sound” include two compelling presentations: Cassie Blake and Tessa Idlewine’s work on female voiceover in theatrical trailers and Allison McCracken’s discussion on auditions and essentialism on NBC’s The Voice.
Heightened interest in podcasting also appears to be symptomatic of interest in the voice. The first day of the conference includes an entire panel on the subject. Chaired by Andrew Bottomley, “Podcasting: A Decade into the Life of a ‘New’ Medium” includes presentations from Brian Fauteux on podcast aesthetics and satellite radio, Andrew Salvati on historiography in Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, and Kelli Marshall on WTF host Marc Maron.
However, scholarly inquiry around podcasts may have as much to do with the interest in radio and the medium’s extensions online. On Thursday, Doron Galili and Gabriel Paletz will chair “A Paragon of Intermedial Adaptation: The War of the Worlds in Radio, Film, and Social Media,” exploring the program’s long afterlife alongside a co-authored paper by Neil Verma and Jennifer Stoever and respondent Timothy Corrigan. This event occurs simultaneously with a workshop on radio production cultures chaired by Bottomley and featuring participants Shawn VanCour, Tom McCourt, and David Uskovich. Friday afternoon winds down with a workshop chaired by Jason Loviglio entitled “The Problem of the Radio Canon” that includes Debra Rae Cohen, Bill Kirkpatrick, Kate Lacey, and Elena Razlogova. And on Saturday Jennifer Wang will chair “Fringe Time: Gender and Crossover Programming in the U.S. Radio-TV Transition” with presentations on soap opera’s transitional moment, ethnicity and diet-oriented programming, and discourses around liveness in wrestling from Elana Levine, Jennifer Lynn Jones, and Kate Newbold.
Saturday’s radio studies panels also touch on three other areas of interest for sound studies scholars: technological affordances, historical interventions, and identity politics. To that first point, Wednesday includes Tim Anderson’s presentation on musicians and the professional economies of social networking and Andrew deWaard’s discussion on big data’s influence over ownership in the recording industries. Saturday evening’s “Stream Engines: Streaming Services and Media Distribution” promises to deliver some compelling original research as well. Jeremy Morris and panel chair Devon Powers will co-present a paper on curation and digital music services. Eric Harvey will explore how streaming services become sites of commerce, an extension of his and Maura Johnston’s “Loose Change” series for Pitchfork.
In terms of historiography, Wednesday’s “Music Screens, Music Stars, Music Scenes” is at the top of my list. Chaired by Charlotte Howell, who will also present original research on Atlanta’s public access program The American Show, the panel includes Kristen Alfaro’s work on the Fales Library’s nightclubbing collection, Matt Stahl’s research on royalty reform for R&B artists in the mid-1980s, and Brad Stiffler’s study on TV Party and cable access in the 1970s.
Saturday afternoon includes “Historicizing Music and Transmedia” with presentations from Kyle Barnett, Kevin John Bozelka, chair Landon Palmer, and myself on Jazz Age-era media convergence, post-war publishing and recording practices, The Beatles’ relationship with United Artists, and playlist production as extensions of feminist activism. During that time, Morgan Sea of Tranzister Radio will also participate in a panel with Alexandra Juhasz on trans women’s AIDS media activism. If I could be at two places at once, I would.
This brings us back to questions of identity and how sound signifies larger representational strategies. On Thursday, Jack Curtis Dubowsky chairs “Sound Tracks,” which features presentations from Monique Bourdage, Carl Laamanen, and Rembert Hueser about gender and taste on Playboy after Dark, Her and acousmêtre, the music of La Chinoise, and queer musical signification. I’m also looking forward to seeing Ryan Powell’s presentation on “Queer Aurality in Seventies Gay Art Porn.” Thursday’s panels conclude with “Screening Instability: Genders, Genres, and Soundscapes of Cinematic Modernization in 1960s Mexico,” which includes Brian L. Price’s work on rock ‘n’ roll films in the country, chair Francisco Flores-Cuante’s analysis of masculinities in Viento Negro, and Carolyn Fornoff’s discussions on musical interludes. And on Friday, I plan to attend “She Bop on Screen: Girls, Popular Music, and Visual Media” with original research from Mary Kearney, Norma Coates, Morgan Blue, and Diane Pecknold on the gendering of post-war teen media, the Disney Channel and pop girlhood, and tween pop in the public sphere.
Finally, there are a number of special events for sound scholars to enjoy. Those interested in sound’s immersive potential should take time out on Friday night to visit the Satosphere Dome, which harnesses the potential of 360-degree screen projections, complex speaker system, and environmental sound to place visitors within a large-scale work of art. The official meeting of the Sound Studies Special Interest group (SSSIG) is Wednesday, 3/25, from 2-3:45pm in Les Voyageurs, Lobby Level. The official meeting of the Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group (RSSIG) will be Saturday, 3/28, from 9:00-10:45 pm, in Les Voyageurs 2, Lobby Level. In addition to SIG business, the RSSIG will also share an update from the Radio Preservation Task Force and will host award-Winning WireTap producer Mira Burt-Wintonick, who will present ideas on storytelling and sound design in the golden age of podcasting. How do you make your stories stand out in a sea of audio content? What’s different about producing for radio vs. podcasts? How do you create a signature sound? Part listening party, part discussion, this session aims to explore a variety of new sonic trends and possibilities in radio production.
But considerations for the voice also lead us to listen for silences and absences. In that regard, I’m reminded of Neil Verma’s desire “to see future presenters using sound in innovative ways to think about objects and events well outside the perimeter of sound studies, drawing experimental modes of listening in to the conference experience and challenging how scholarship itself is fashioned and displayed” at the end of his “Sound at SCMS 2013” post. This appeal brings to mind Pauline Oliveros’ concept of deep listening, which describes how the music heard in a live or recorded context cannot be reduced to composition without critical attention toward the intersection of producers, listeners, and their shared environment (Rodgers 2010). Such interests seem to influence certain panels’ and participants’ work, particularly “Historicizing Technical Standards and Practices in Film Sound,” “Sounding the Interactive Documentary: Non-fiction, New Media, and the Problem of Immersion,” and James Deaville’s “Music and Sound in Film Trailers: A Preliminary Ethnographic Study of Producers and Consumers.”
Yet I wonder how we could harness sound as a resource for developing pre-existing scholarly approaches and fields. How might we “use sound” in production and industry studies research not only of radio, but in scholarship around other areas and sectors where the image still has primacy? What can sound teach us about precarity and other bedrock concepts within those discourses?
Furthermore, how can we “use sound” as a political intervention? As a field, we know how to analyze sound for the purposes of academic critique. But sound’s relationship to activism is underrepresented at this conference. I’m heartened by Morgan Sea and Jonathan Sterne’s participation in workshops on trans women’s media activism and disability studies. But I want consideration for how to use sound as resources to challenge institutions and ideologies that advance the violent force of intersectional discrimination, civil rights violations, widening class division, surveillance, eroding labor rights, and geopolitical conflict.
In addition, how can we “use sound” to teach? Wednesday concludes with “Participatory Pedagogy” a workshop and networking event about issues related to teaching gender and media. How can we use sound not only to enter into discussions amongst ourselves, but as a resource in the classroom?
Nick Couldry argues that the role of the voice hinges upon the cultural and political value assigned to it, which “involves particular conditions under which voice as a process is effective, and how broader forms of organization may subtly undermine or devalue voice as a process” (2). A number of presentations, panels, and workshops take up the voice as a resource for inquiry. Others will be raising them to ask questions of sound, music, and aurality’s influence in shaping media technologies, texts, representational strategies, and reception practices. And, as always, there are silences and absences we must recognize and address.
Let’s listen. Let’s raise our voices as well.
Alyxandra Vesey is a feminist media scholar who uses industry and production studies approaches to explore the relationship(s) between gender, labor, and music. Her dissertation analyzes identity and music-based intermediary practices in post-network television. Her work has appeared in Antenna, Flow, In Media Res, The Moving Image, Cinema Journal, Studies in French Cinema, and Saturday Night Live and American TV. She is also an editor for Antenna and The Velvet Light Trap. As an extension of her scholarship, she is also a contributor to Bitch Magazine, a volunteer for Girls Rock Camp Madison, and the host of WSUM 91.7 FM’s “Feminist Music Geek Presents…”
Featured image: “Feux d’artifice au port du vieux Montréal” by Flickr user Emmanuel Huybrechts, CC BY 2.0
WEDNESDAY, March 25
Session A 10 – 11:45 a.m.
A11. Sound and Music
Chair: Michael Baumgartner, CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY
Ian Kennedy, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY, “Visual Music and the Enactive Theory of Musical Perception”
Mark Durrand, SUNY-UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, “On Seeing and Hearing in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1969)”
Summer Kim Lee, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, “‘Too Much Exposure’: The Paranoia of Race in Gothic Orientalism”
Michael Baumgartner, CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY, “Expanding the Horizon on Film Music Studies: Jean-Luc Godard’s Use of Music in His Films as a Counter-model to the Music in the Mainstream Film Tradition”
Session C 2:00 – 3:45 p.m.
C1. The Spoilage of America Garbage, Junk, and Audiovisual Noise in US Film and TV
Chair: Allison Rittmayer, NORTHWESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA
Michael Rowin, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, “Noise and Spectatorship in Lynch’s Films”
Tania Darlington, SANTA FE COLLEGE, “From Hill Street to Farmington: The Station House as Symbol of Urban Neglect in Television Police Procedurals”
Jacob Agner, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI, “Salvaging The Counselor: Watching Cormac McCarthy’s Really Trashy Movie”
Allison Rittmayer, NORTHWESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA, “‘Deswamped and Denuded, and Derivered’: Some Aspects of the Southern Gothic in Rural Noir Landscapes”
C11. Hearing Voices, Songs, and Speech
Chair: Kyle Stevens, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY
Dolores McElroy, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY, “In Extremis: An Inspirational Reading of Judy Garland and The Man That Got Away”
Patrik Sjoberg, KARLSTAD UNIVERSITY, “Your Tongue in My Mouth: Lip Synch, Dubbing, Ventriloquism, and the Othering of Voice in Documentary Media”
Liz Greene, DUBLIN CITY UNIVERSITY, “Listening, Singing, and Dancing to Pop Songs in Film: The Sound of Middle-aged Nostalgia”
Kyle Stevens, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY, “‘I Had No Thoughts at All’: Voice-over, Suicide, and Women’s Sexuality”
Session D 4:00 – 5:45 p.m.
D11. Music Screens, Music Stars, Music Scenes
Chair: Charlotte Howell, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
Kristen Alfaro, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, “Screens of Punk, Punks of Screen: Video History and the Nightclubbing Collection at the Fales Library, New York University”
Matt Stahl, UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, “We Have Paid a Price to Sing This Music: Aging R&B Stars’ Struggle for Reparations and Royalty Reform in the US Recording Industry, 1984–2004”
Brad Stiffler, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, “Anti-antinetwork TV: TV Party and the (Un)popular Avantgarde on 1970s Cable Access”
Charlotte Howell, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, “Symbolic Capital and Cable Access: Production Discourse of The American Music Show”
Sponsor: Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group
D18. Podcasting: A Decade into the Life of a “New” Medium
Chair: Andrew Bottomley, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
Brian Fauteux, WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY, “Blog Radio: Satellite Radio and the Aesthetics of Podcasting”
Andrew Salvati, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY, “Podcasting the Past: Historiography and Interactivity in Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History”
Kelli Marshall, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY, “Transmedia Storytime with Your Host Marc Maron”
Sponsor: Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Session E 6:00 – 7:45 p.m.
E11. Hear and There: The Politics of Sound
Chair: Allison McCracken, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY
Jim Knippling, UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI, “Vicissitudes of Normativity in Non-diegetic Film Music: 1940–1975”
Tim Bell, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, “White Jazz: Music and Fantasies of English Modernity in The Avengers (1961–69)”
Cassie Blake and Tessa Idlewine, ACADEMY FILM ARCHIVE, “Better Seen than Heard: The Anomaly of Female Voiceover in Theatrical Trailers”
Allison McCracken, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY, “Blind Auditions and Vocal Politics: Enacting and Exposing Vocal Essentialism on NBC’s The Voice”
Sponsor: Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Wednesday Individual Papers of Interest
A5. Asha Tamirisa, BROWN UNIVERSITY, “Aurality, Virtuality, and the Feminization of Technological Space in Her”
A10. Lindsay Affleck, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-LOS ANGELES, “‘100 Dollars a Day Plus Expenses’: Richard Diamond as Radio Shamus and Hollywood Telefilm Production”
A17. Anna Dimitrova, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, “Polyphonic Soundscape in the Dardenne Brothers’ Film Lorna’s Silence”
A18. Tim Anderson, OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY, “Time for Brand Practice: Networking Finances and the ‘Social Musician’”
C6. Kara Fagan, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, “Dancing on Ice, Falling out of the Gender Script: Sonja Henie’s 20th Century Fox Musicals and the Feminization of Figure Skating”
Spring-Serenity Duvall, SALEM COLLEGE, “When Gen X Icons Grow Up: Celebrity, Aging, and (Trans) national Canadian Identity in the Careers of Alanis Morissette and Sarah McLachlan”
D5. Veronica Fitzpatrick, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, “The Also at Work in Every Intended Something: Belief, Belonging, Sound of My Voice, the East”
D12. Joseph Pfender, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, “The Lifespan of Circuits: Cinematic Experimentalism in the Chaotic Music of Louis and Bebe Barron”
D16. Rachel Kahn and Marc Rose, SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM AND UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH, “Music Video Art House: An Auteurist Study of the Music Video Production Company”
E12. Jing (Jamie) Zhao, CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG, “Problematizing a ‘Desirable’ Queer Media Culture: A Study of the Chinese Reality Talent Shows Super Girls, The Voice of China, and Your Face Sounds Familiar”
E20. Andrew deWaard, University of California-Los Angeles: “New Gatekeeper Same as the Old Gatekeeper: Big Data, Big Content, and the Continued Concentration of Ownership in the Music Industry”
THURSDAY, March 26
Session F 9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
F11. Composing Narratives: The Role of Music in Film and Television
Chair: Paula Musegades, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY
Paula Musegades, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY, “The Sounds of Shangri-La: Romantic Exoticism in Lost Horizon”
Sheri Chinen Biesen, ROWAN UNIVERSITY, “Blues, Smoke, and Shadows: Jazz in ‘Musical’ Noir Films”
Reba Wissner, MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY, “‘I Am Big—It’s the Pictures that Got Small’: Franz Waxman’s Scores for the Big and Small Screens: Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Twilight Zone’s ‘The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine’ (1959)”
Georgia Luikens, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY, “Singing Suburbia, Seeing Suburbia: Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti and the Operatic Teleplay”
Session G 11:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
G7. A Paragon of Intermedial Adaptation: The War of the Worlds in Radio, Film, and Social Media
Chair: Doron Galili, STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY
Co-Chair: Gabriel Paletz, PRAGUE FILM SCHOOL
Gabriel Paletz, PRAGUE FILM SCHOOL, “Book to Broadcast and across Media: Orson Welles’s Strategies of Adaptation”
Doron Galili, STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY, “War of the Worlds, Mass Media Panic, and the Coming of Television”
Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, SUNY-UNIVERSITY AT BINGHAMTON, “Invading Auditory Practice: On the War of the Worlds and #WOTW75”
Respondent: Timothy Corrigan, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Sponsor: Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
G12. Sound Tracks
Chair: Jack Curtis Dubowsky, ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY
Monique Bourdage, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, “‘You Don’t Appreciate True Musical Genius’: Negotiating Gender and Musical Taste on Playboy after Dark”
Carl Laamanen, OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, “Her and the Technological Acousmêtre”
Rembert Hueser, GOETHE UNIVERSITY FRANKFURT, “Easy Listening in Godard’s La Chinoise”
Jack Curtis Dubowsky, ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY, “Queer Monster Music”
Sponsor: Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group
G21. Workshop: Sound Work Radio Production Cultures
Chair: Andrew Bottomley, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
Shawn VanCour, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
Tom McCourt, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY
David Uskovich, ST. EDWARD’S UNIVERSITY
Sponsor: Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Session H 1:00 – 2:45 p.m.
H12. Historicizing Cinema’s Sounds and Color
Chair: Andrew Horton, UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
Benjamin Wright, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, “The House that Zimmer Built: Romantic Minimalism and Group Style in Contemporary Film Music”
Julie Hubbert, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, “Records, Repertoire, and Rollerball (1975): The Hi-Fi Movement and the New Hollywood Soundtrack”
John Belton, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY, “Man, God, and Kodachrome: The Beginnings of a Color Vernacular”
Session I 3:00 – 4:45 p.m.
I11. Historicizing Technical Standards and Practices in Film Sound
Chair: Katherine Quanz, WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY
Michael Slowik, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY, “The Curious Case of Myrna Loy: Voice, Ethnicity, Impersonation, and Early Synchronized Sound Technology”
Eric Dienstfrey, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, “Prints and the New Power Regulations: New Data on the 1938 Academy Curve”
Katherine Quanz, WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY, “The Aesthetic Impact of the National Film Board’s Sound Technology After 1956”
Kevin Donnelly, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON, “Progressive Rock, Technology, and Film in the 1970s”
Sponsor: Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Session J 5:00 – 6:45 p.m.
J11. Screening Instability Genders, Genres, and Soundscapes of Cinematic Modernization in 1960s Mexico
Chair: Francisco Flores-Cuautle, WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY
Brian L. Price, BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, “Rock and Roll Films and the Development of Mexican Counterculture”
Francisco Flores-Cuautle, WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Hyperbolic Masculinity and Effeminacy in Viento Negro (Dark Wind)”
Carolyn Fornoff, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, “Musical Interludes in Mexican Melodrama: Crafting a Sonic Space of Exclusion”
Ignacio Sanchez Prado, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, “A Hero and the Monsters of Modernity: Wrestler Cinema as Popular Cosmopolitanism”
Respondent: Sergio de la Mora, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-DAVIS
Special Event 7:30 p.m.
Wind from the Middle East: An Evening of Music and Film
Location: La Vitrola, 4602 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
The Middle East Caucus presents an evening of entertainment and discussion, featuring a performance by local Montreal musicians Sam Shalabi (playing oud) and Stefan Christoff (on electric guitar). Following the musical performance, there will be a presentation by Negar Mottahedeh, Associate Professor of Literature at Duke University, and author of Displaced Allegories: Post-Revolutionary Iranian Cinema. Professor Mottahedeh’s talk is titled “Le Vent Nous Portera: of lovers possessed, times entangled, and bodies carried away,” and will be accompanied by a video projection.
Metro: Station Laurier or a short taxi ride from the conference hotel.
Sponsored By: Middle East Caucus and supported by SCMS
Thursday Individual Papers of Interest
F6. Zachary Campbell, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “The Audiovisual Otherwise: Valences of Media as Political Figurations”
F7. Denise Mok, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, “Transnational Agencies and Auras: Performance and Star Power in Transatlantic Film Performances in Early Sound Cinema”
F8. Theo Stojanov, CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY, “Manufactured Soundscapes: Recycled Media, Sound Archives, Materiality”
G10. Anupama Kapse, QUEENS COLLEGE-CUNY, “Autobiographies of Dissent: Memories of Screen Acting in the Early Sound Film”
G11. Colin Burnett, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, “The Vernacular of Rhythm: How the Language of Postwar Film Culture Elaborated on a Musical Analogy”
H8. Jane Stadler, UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND, “Sonic Disturbance: Film, Phenomenology, and the Threshold of Acoustic Experience”
H11. Anne Jerslev, UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, “David Lynch and Haptic Audio-Visuality in Crazy Clown Time”
H18. Ryan Powell, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, “Queer Aurality in Seventies Gay Art Porn”
I4. James Deaville, CARLETON UNIVERSITY, “Music and Sound in Film Trailers: A Preliminary Ethnographic Study of Producers and Consumers”
J7. Katherine Spring, WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY, “Film Music and Moral Rights in Hollywood’s Early Sound Era”
FRIDAY, March 27
Session K 9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
K22. Dis-locating Sound
Chair: Lutz Koepnick, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY
Co-Chair: Nora M. Alter, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY
Nora M. Alter, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY, “Shocking Sounds: Surrealism, Songs, and the Essay Film”
Jennie Hirsh, MARYLAND INSTITUTE COLLEGE OF ART, “Transmissions of Fascism: Advertising Architecture through the Ente Radio Rurale Poster Campaign”
Kenneth White, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, “Reason and Passion: Joyce Wieland, Pierre Vallières, and Cold War North American Avant-garde Cinema”
Lutz Koepnick, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY, “Sounds without Frontiers, Cinemas without Screens”
Sponsor: Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Session M 2:15 – 4:00 p.m.
M2. She Bop on Screen Girls, Popular Music, and Visual Media
Chair: Diane Pecknold, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE
Mary Kearney, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME, “Getting Girls to Rock: Gendering Rock ‘n’ Roll in US Teen Media, 1956–1966”
Norma Coates, UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, “Dangerous Representations: Empowered Teen Girls, the Monkees, and ‘The’ Monkees”
Morgan Blue, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, “Disney Channel’s Pop Girlhood”
Diane Pecknold, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE, “Spectral Cityscapes and the Tween Pop Public Sphere”
Sponsor: Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group
M8. Workshop: The Problem of the Radio Canon
Chair: Jason Loviglio, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Debra Rae Cohen, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA
Bill Kirkpatrick, DENISON UNIVERSITY
Kate Lacey, UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX
Jason Loviglio, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
Elena Razlogova, CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY
Sponsor: Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Special Event 9:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Satosphere: 360-Degree Spherical Screen with 157 Speakers
Location: Société des Arts et Technologies, 1201 Boulevard Saint Laurent, 3rd Floor
Channeling the techno-utopianism of Expo 67, the Satosphere Dome is a state-sponsored, permanent environment dedicated to large-scale moving image and sound experimentation. With a screen that is eighteen meters in diameter (that’s 60 feet!), you can sit back—or literally lie down—on the couches and ponder a distinct mode of spectatorship, immersion, and art. An experience of audio-visual envelopment not to be missed!
Metro: St Laurent
Directions: From conference hotel—a 15 minute walk from the hotel. Walk east on René-Lévesque and turn left (north) onto Boulevard Saint Laurent.
Sponsor: Concordia University
Friday Individual Papers of Interest
K13. Alan Pike, EMORY UNIVERSITY, “The Genrefication of Prison Films in the Early Sound Era”
K14. Thomas Dorey, YORK UNIVERSITY, “Pop-up Paratext: Film Directors, Music Videos, and Paramediality”
L9. Eileen Rositzka, UNIVERSITY OF ST. ANDREWS, “Corpographic Coordinates: Zero Dark Thirty, United 93, and the Sound of Vision”
L12. Lilya Kaganovsky, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, “Socialist Realist Sound”
M6. Vanessa Chang, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, “From Playback to Play: Gestural Invention and Digital Music”
M7. Michael B. Gillespie, OHIO UNIVERSITY, “‘Ne me quitte pas’: 9/11, Civic Pop, and Sonic Historiography”
SATURDAY, March 28
Session N 9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Room: Les Voyageurs 2, Lobby Level
N8. The Voice in Translation
Chair: Jennifer Fleeger, URSINUS COLLEGE
Sarah Wright, ROYAL HOLLOWAY-UNIVERSITY OF LONDON, “Locating the Voice in Silent Cinema: Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves”
Jennifer Fleeger, URSINUS COLLEGE, “Tito Schipa, Italian Film Sound, and Opera’s Legacy on Screen”
Tom Whittaker, UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL, “‘Being’ Woody Allen: Dubbing, Vocal Performance, and Stardom in Spanish Film”
Christine Ehrick, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE, “Voice, Gender, and the Soundscapes of Buenos Aires in the Comedy of Niní Marshall, 1937–1947”
Session O 11:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
O6. The Public Good Goes to Market: North American Public Service Media and the Marketplace in the Digital Convergence Era
Chair: Christopher Cwynar, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
Jason Loviglio, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, “NPR Listens: Psychographics, Audience Measurement, and the Privatization of Public Service Radio”
Kyle Conway, UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA, “Policy beyond the Nation-State; or, Why the French Didn’t Watch Canada’s Little Mosque on the Prairie”
Christopher Cwynar, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, “Social Service Media?: Assessing the CBC and NPR’s Engagement with Social Media Platforms”
Respondent: Laurie Ouellette, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
Sponsor: Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
O11. The Sonic Impact of Scale Local and National Radio in “the 1960s”
Chair: Darrell Newton, SALISBURY UNIVERSITY
Josh Glick, YALE UNIVERSITY, “Soundscapes of South Los Angeles: Radio and the Voices of Resistance”
Darrell Newton, SALISBURY UNIVERSITY, “Being of Color in Britain: Identity, 1960s Radio, and West Indian Immigration”
Eleanor Patterson, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, “We Are Not Reviving a Ghost: Reconfiguring Radio Drama in Post-network Era United States”
Alexander Russo, THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA, “Musical Storytelling to a Fragmented Nation: American Top 40 and Cultural Conflict”
Sponsor: Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Session P 1:00 – 2:45 p.m.
P7. Fringe Time: Gender and Crossover Programming in the US Radio-TV Transition
Chair: Jennifer Wang, INDEPENDENT SCHOLAR
Elana Levine, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE, “Picturing Soap Opera: Daytime Serials and the Transition from Radio to Television”
Jennifer Wang, INDEPENDENT SCHOLAR, “Resuscitating the Wife Saver: Gender, Genre, and Commercialism in Postwar Broadcasting”
Jennifer Lynn Jones, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, “Signal Size: Gender, Ethnicity, and Diet Episodes in the Radio-TV Transition”
Kate Newbold, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “‘Now the Booing Is Done in Soprano’: Wrestling, Female Audiences, and Discourses of Liveness in the Radio-to-TV Transition in America, 1940–1953”
Sponsor: Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
P10. Historicizing Music and Transmedia
Chair: Landon Palmer, INDIANA UNIVERSITY
Kyle Barnett, BELLARMINE UNIVERSITY, “Popular Music Celebrity, Jazz-age Media Convergence, and Depression-era Transmedia”
Kevin John Bozelka, AUSTIN COLLEGE, “Everything on the Pig but the Squeal: Artist/ Publishers and Recordings in the Post-WWII American Entertainment Industry”
Landon Palmer, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, “All Together Now: The Beatles, United Artists, and Transmedia Conglomeration”
Alyxandra Vesey, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, “Mixing in Feminism: Playlists, Networks, and Counterpublics”
Sponsors: Radio Studies and Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Groups
P12. Workshop: Trans Women’s Media Activism Digital Interventions and HIV/AIDS
Chair: Marty Fink, GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
Morgan Page, MCGILL UNIVERSITY
Morgan Sea, TRANZISTER RADIO
Bryn Kelly, INDEPENDENT SCHOLAR
Alexandra Juhasz, PITZER COLLEGE
Sponsor: Media Literacy & Pedagogical Outreach Scholarly Interest Group
Session Q 3:00 – 4:45 p.m.
Q18. Workshop: Something Good? The Sound of Music at Fifty
Chair: Desirée Garcia, Arizona State University
Steven Cohan, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY
Caryl Flinn, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
Sean Griffin, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY
Adrienne L. McLean, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT DALLAS
Desirée Garcia, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
Q22. New Approaches to Music and Film Theory and History
Chair: Lea Jacobs, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
James Buhler, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, “Toward a Theory of the Part-talkie”
Lea Jacobs, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, “Rethinking the Sync: Adorno, Eisler, and Eisenstein”
Jeff Smith, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, “Paying the Piper at Paramount: Budgets, Shooting Schedules, and the Score for Midnight (1939)”
Andrew Johnston, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Chromatic Rhythms and Display Memories”
Q23. Stream Engines: Streaming Services and Media Distribution
Chair: Devon Powers, DREXEL UNIVERSITY
Jeremy Morris and Devon Powers, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON AND DREXEL UNIVERSITY, “Now Streaming: Control, Content, and Curation in Digital Music Services”
Blake Hallinan, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, “‘My Context Is My Query’: Algorithmic Flow as Emergent Entertainment Paradigm”
Eric Harvey, WEBER STATE UNIVERSITY, “Listening Like a Platform: The Reorganization and Intensification of Streaming Music Commerce”
Chris Baumann, STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY, “It’s Not TV, It’s Netflix: On Streaming Netflix, Technological Obsolescence, and the Cultural Status of a Medium”
Session R 5:00 – 6:45 p.m.
R11. The Acoustic 1930s: Global Film Sound Technique and Aesthetic from Silent to Sound
Chair: Ling Zhang, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
Kathryn Kalinak, RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE, “New Means of Enormous Power: Soviet Film Music in the 1930s”
Charles O’Brien, CARLETON UNIVERSITY, “Film Sound and Dubbing Technique”
Jeremy Barham, UNIVERSITY OF SURREY, “When Is a Musical Film Not a Film Musical?: Diegetic and Generic Complexity in Germany’s First Sound Films”
Ling Zhang, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, “The Comic Soundscape and Audiovisual Heterogeneity: Yuan Muzhi’s Scenes of City Life (1935) and Street Angel (1937)”
Respondent: James Lastra, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
R12. Sounding the Interactive Documentary: Non-fiction, New Media, and the Problem of Immersion
Chair: Michael Baker, SHERIDAN COLLEGE
Co-Chair: Randolph Jordan, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY
Michael Baker, SHERIDAN COLLEGE, “Bear 71, Popular Music, and the Problem of Immersion”
Randolph Jordan, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY, “The Soundscapes of Mobile Periodization in Stan Douglas’s iOS app, Circa 1948”
Milena Droumeva, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY, “Curating Everyday Life: Smartphones and Interactive Documentary as Daily Practice”
Respondent: Andrew Utterson, ITHACA COLLEGE
Sponsor: Documentary Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Special Event 8:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Experiments in 3D: Norman McLaren
Location: Henry F. Hall Building, Concordia University, 1455 boulevard de Maisonneuve Ouest, Room H-110
Please refer to Montreal vicinity map on page 32 for location. Join us for a screening of four recently restored stereoscopic and stereophonic shorts by renowned Scottish-Canadian animator and experimental filmmaker Norman McLaren. The evening will also feature a new documentary about McLaren’s musical compositions entitled Norman McLaren: Animated Musician, with its director Donald McWilliams in attendance. A brief question period will follow the screening with the National Film Board filmmakers, researchers, and McLaren collaborators who formed the restoration team.
Films to be screened in 3D:
Around Is Around, directed by Norman McLaren, 1951 (3D animation)
Now Is the Time, directed by Norman McLaren, 1951 (3D animation)
O Canada, directed by Evelyn Lambart, 1952 (3D animation)
Twirligig, directed by Gretta Ekman, 1952 (3D animation)
Norman McLaren: Animated Musician, directed by Donald McWilliams, 2014 (documentary live action)
Directions: From the conference hotel—15 minute walk from the hotel. Walk west on René-Lévesque and then turn right on MacKay St. until you come to boulevard de Maisonneuve. The Hall Building will be on the north and west side of de Maisonneuve and MacKay.
Sponsors: Concordia University, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, and the National Film Board
Saturday Individual Papers of Interest
N7. Yeidy Rivero, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, “The Original Miami Sound Machine: The Emergence of Miami as a Production Center for the US and Latin America”
Christopher Westgate, JOHNSON & WALES UNIVERSITY, “Passion Points for Latin@ Pop Music: Heat, Hits, and the Emotion of Economics”
P17. Ioana Uricaru, MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE, “No Melo—Music and Minimalism in Recent Romanian Cinema”
Q4. Andrew Ritchey, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, “Trompe l’oreille: Dislocations of Sound and Sense in a Partly Québécoise Family of Recorded Sound Works by Michael Snow”
R7. Kathy Fuller-Seeley, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, “Becoming Benny: Jack Benny’s Production of a Radio Comedy Persona, 1932–1936”
Lauren Sklaroff, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, “The Hilarious Sophie Tucker: Humor, Womanhood, and the Dynamics of Delivery”
R20. Victoria Simon, MCGILL UNIVERSITY, “Anybody Can Be a Musician: Transparency and the Discursive Construction of Touch in Interfaces for Music Composition”
SUNDAY, March 29
Session S 9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
S16. Speaking of Sound: Historical Studies in Sound Practices and Technologies
Chair: Matthew Perkins, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-LOS ANGELES
Meredith Ward, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “The Sound Industry Lays the Golden Egg: Noise, Electroacoustical Research, and the Adjustment to Film Sound”
Casey Long, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON, “First Thing I Learned . . . Is When to Say Ain’t: Dialect in 1930s Hollywood”
Jennifer Psujek, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS, “‘Free to Do Anything’: Fight Club (1999), Indiewood, and the Composite Score at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century”
Matthew Perkins, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-LOS ANGELES, “Sound Work: The Acquisition of Sound Labor and Division Thereof at Vitaphone and Warner Bros., 1925–1931”
Sponsor: Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Session T 11:00 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
T11. Sound, Technology, and Auditory Knowledge
Chair: Alejandra Bronfman, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Axel Volmar, MCGILL UNIVERSITY
Carolyn Birdsall, UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM
Anthony Enns, DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY
Alejandra Bronfman, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
Session U 1:00 – 2:45 p.m.
U3. Workshop: What Can Disability Studies Do for Media Studies?
Chair: Bill Kirkpatrick, DENISON UNIVERSITY
Elizabeth Ellcessor, INDIANA UNIVERSITY
Mara Mills, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY
Tasha Oren, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE
Jonathan Sterne, MCGILL UNIVERSITY
U12. Music Structures and Affect
Chair: Britta Hanson, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Katherine Reed, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, “Between Grace and Nature: The Tree of Life’s Musical Dialogic Process and Formal Structure”
Phoebe Macrossan, UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES, “Constructing Glee’s Sung-through Musical Narrative through Spontaneity and Verisimilitude”
Christopher Culp, SUNY-UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, “‘This Isn’t Real, but I Just Wanna Feel’: Musicals, Television, and the Queer Ineffable Passage of Time”
Britta Hanson, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, “Music as Rhetoric in Contemporary Documentaries”
U18. Discontinuous Colonial Modernities of Media Film and Radio in British Malaya and Portuguese Southern Africa
Chair: Peter Bloom, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-SANTA BARBARA
Co-Chair: Nadine Chan, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Ines Cordeiro Dias, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-LOS ANGELES, “Discourses of Urban Modernity in Portuguese Colonial Cinema”
Nadine Chan, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, “Cinematic Afterlives: Films of the Malayan Emergency at the Transition from Empire to Independence”
Peter Bloom, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-SANTA BARBARA, “Learning the Speech of Counterinsurgency as National Allegory: BBC Radio and Instructional Propaganda Film during the Malayan Emergency”
Respondent: Peter Limbrick, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-SANTA CRUZ
Sponsor: Middle East Caucus and Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group
Sunday Individual Papers of Interest
T7. Keir Keightley, UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, “Tin Pan Alley Goes Silent: Two Films about the Music Industry in 1919”
T13. Roger Almendarez, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “Radio Arte—The Formation of a Mediated, Local Latina/o Identity in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood”
Throughout the month of March, nerdcore MCs Mega Ran (Raheem Jarbo) and Sammus (Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo) will be embarking on the “Rappers with Arm Cannons” Tour. Both artists independently based their monikers on two of the most notable video game characters to possess arm cannons, (Mega Man and Samus respectively), but they have since collaborated on several songs and a SoundScan charting Castlevania project, as well as sharing the stage at numerous concert venues and conventions, and releasing individual albums and videos that have received international attention and critical acclaim. Now three years later the two teachers-turned-rappers have decided to take their show on the road alongside rapper and sound engineer Storyville (Matthew Weisse), who has recently joined forces with Mega Ran to release their February 2015 album “Soul Veggies.”
While at first glance the name of the tour appears a bit tongue-in-cheek, it calls necessary attention to the growing presence of Black nerdcore artists like Mega Ran and Sammus who cast their experiences as people of color against the backdrop of nerd and geek culture. In Mega Ran’s case, this has meant writing verses about his struggle to make sense of his Black nerd identity while growing up amongst a very rough crowd in Philadelphia. For Sammus, being a rapper with an arm cannon has largely meant reconciling her ideas about the lack of diverse representations of Black women in notable movies, games, and cartoons among other media forms.
Both Mega Ran and Sammus began making beats on the Playstation game MTV Music Generator. Since that time Sammus has brought together the production styles of Kanye West, Daft Punk, Björk and various video game composers to produce beats that are rich with video game synths and uniquely chopped samples. Mega Ran has similarly drawn on his love of hip hop artists, such as Redman, Nas, and Busta Rhymes as well as music from video games such as Mega Man, Final Fantasy VII, and River City Ransom.
On Tuesday, March 10th, the tour stopped at Cornell University’s Just About Music center where SO! Editors J. Stoever And Aaron Trammell sat down with the trio for a very frank and open discussion on how to survive and thrive as independent artists in the new music economy. Here’s a choice sample of that conversation:
The tour began on March 5th in NYC and will continue through March 19th with final stops in Austin, TX at this year’s South-by-South-West (SXSW). For full details on tall of the dates visit http://sammusmusic.com/shows-tour-dates/
Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo is a PhD student in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University. Since completing a senior thesis on digital music software, tacit knowledge, and gender under the guidance of Trevor Pinch, she has become interested in pursuing research in the emergent field of sound studies. She hopes to combine her passion for music with her academic interests in technological systems, bodies, politics and practices that construct and are constructed by sound. More specifically she would like to examine the politics surrounding low-income community studios, as well as the uses of sound in (or as) electronic games. In her free time she produces hip hop beats and raps under the moniker Sammus (based on the video game character, Samus Aran, from the popular Metroid franchise).
Making Music at Studio X: The Identity Politics of Community Studios-Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo
SO! Amplifies: Regina Bradley’s Outkasted Conversations-Regina Bradley
This September, Sounding Out! challenged a #flawless group of scholars and critics to give Beyoncé Knowles-Carter a close listen, re-examining the complex relationship between her audio and visuals and amplifying what goes unheard, even as her every move–whether on MTV or in that damn elevator–faces intense scrutiny. Last week, Regina Bradley (writer, scholar, and freelance researcher of African American Life and Culture) introduced us to the sonic ratchetness of Baddie Bey; the week before you heard our Beyoncé roundtable podcast featuring our first two writers, Priscilla Peña Ovalle (English, University of Oregon) and Kevin Allred (Women and Gender Studies, Rutgers)–as well as Courtney Marshall (English, University of New Hampshire) and Liana Silva (Editor, Women in Higher Education, Managing Editor, Sounding Out!), who will close out our series next week. Today, madison moore gives us not only great face but killer hair choreo. Mic drop. Hair flip.–Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever
“Which Beyoncé are you trying to do?,” a sale associate at Beauty Full, the largest beauty supply house in Richmond, Virginia, asked me. It was a good question, because the shop had whole rows of wigs and ponytails that conjured Beyoncé enough for what I needed to do. Choosing just one would be tough.
“This one is very Beyoncé,” he said, pointing to a style reminiscent of the huge, teased out curly Afro Beyoncé worked in the early 2000s. I wasn’t really feeling this particular style but I could tell my sales guy was living it. “It’s not fierce enough!” I told him. “I need something that really moves!” I’d been invited to give an hour-long lecture on Beyoncé at a university, one of my first gigs, and I was out at the last minute shopping for a wig to wear during my talk so that I could give the children a little sip of Beyoncé. That’s when I saw it: a long, black and dark brown two-toned wig with curls for eternity that I knew would look great on stage. Come on, wig!
I wanted to wear a wig “that really moves!” during this talk to demonstrate what I feel is the creative genius of Beyoncé’s performance persona: what I call “hair choreography.” Not unlike dance moves intended for the body, “hair choreography” is a mode of performance that uses hair to add visual drama to the overall texture of sound and it’s the special genius of Beyoncé’s stagecraft. On one occasion some friends and I were drinking wine and downing live Beyoncé videos on YouTube when one of us was like “I am living for her hair choreography!” I’m not sure we invented the concept but the phrase “hair choreography” has certainly stuck with me. Hair choreography is one of the secret weapons of the pop diva, those places in a live performance where she flips and whips her hair in exactly the right point, using “haircrobatics” to punctuate a moment, a feeling, raising the stakes, the sex appeal, and even the energy in the audience.
Hair choreography is exciting because it tells a story, but even more than telling a good story in performance “hair choreography” punctuates everything else happening on stage: the lights, the dance moves, the glitter, the sequins, the music. In this way, “hair choreography” becomes part of the spectacular offering of stage presence; a type of magnetism that, despite everything else happening on stage, draws us into a single performer – the star – whose single energy needs fill up the whole space. “Hair choreography” occurs in those moments of a live performance where the hair is flipped, whipped, dipped, spun and amplified during the most exciting, emotion-filled sounds and dance moves.
Even though many scholars still often approach them as separate practices, sound and motion are so fluidly entangled, as Jennifer Stoever has revealed. In this way, “hair choreography” builds on performance studies scholar Imani Kai Johnson’s call for the “aural-kinesthetic.” The “aural-kinesthetic” is not a method or a theory but simply a way for scholars to think about how music and movement happen at the same time. “Hair choreography” is about the relationship between sound, body and movement, and how each of those comes together to leave a visceral impact on an audience.
One video that shows the importance of hair choreography to Beyoncé’s package is her medley “If I Were A Boy/You Oughta Know,” a mélange of the soft hard rock her own track coupled up with the aggressive rock of Alanis Morissette’s iconic break-up jam of the same title. In the clip, as Beyoncé segues from “If I Were A Boy” into “You Oughta Know” the wind machines appear to blow her hair faster, and with every emotional note or beat she knocks her head to the side with attitude, forcing her straight hair with it. By the time Beyoncé sings “And I’m here, to remind you…,” the most emotional (and recognizable) transition of the song, the hair is already going full blast. Guitars and drums go off while strobe lights engulf the stage in a frenzy of chaos.
At “You, you, you oughta know” she falls to her knees and performs a choreographed head bang while sliding across the floor using only her knees. It’s important to note here that the singing has stopped because this is a moment of “hair choreography,” a transition indicating an impending change in mood.
Everyone loves Beyoncé’s hair. In her will the late comedian Joan Rivers requested “a wind machine so that even in the casket my hair is blowing just like Beyoncé’s.” There are countless YouTube tutorials showing young girls how they too can achieve that Beyoncé look with weaves, wigs and lace fronts. Even the comedian Sommore, who stared in the 2001 film Queens of Comedy , had something to say about Beyoncé’s hair:
Beyoncé is a bad motherfucker. Oh this bitch bad. Let me tell ya’ll how bad this bitch is. I went to see her concert in Atlantic City after she had her baby. I sat in the second row – this bitch was flawless. I mean I’m talking about the bitch was flawless. Only problem I had with Beyoncé…she had on too much hair! This bitch came out she had at least 18 packs of hair on. She came out I thought the bitch was the cowardly lion from The Wiz. I’m sitting there in awe of this bitch neck, I’m like, “This bitch neck is strong as a motherfucker!”
All jokes aside, the mystery of Beyoncé’s hair-–and all of the technologies involved in keeping it moving–is part of the genius of her brand image, particularly because it works to make her ethnically ambiguous.. Having various types of hairstyles allows her creole body to infinitely play with race, and this makes her marketable to nearly everyone. Is she black? Is she Spanish? Is she biracial? Could she be Brazilian or from Latin America? Yes. In this way, her hair choreography not only punctuates her sound, but it shapes the very way it is heard, enabling her to morph into more personalities and fit into more demographics than even Lady Gaga or Madonna. It’s why she’s able to sound sexy or inspirational, “hood” or “classy,” vampy or masculine, vocal or dance-y. Look at a video like “XO,” to me the most mass-marketable song on BEYONCE. First of all she looks fabulous, but I think it’s hard to watch that video and not feel like it’s specifically pitched to 15-year-old white girls in Connecticut. Everything about the video, especially her sweeping hair flourishes, positions Beyoncé as relatable to teenage girls all over the US.
As dance studies scholar Melissa Blanco Borelli sees it the mulatta body engages with a practice she calls “Hip(g)nosis,” or a type of hypnosis enacted by the yellow-bodied performer on fascinated audiences. This type of hypnotics, via the hips, “exposes the male gaze” by thinking through the “pleasure and consumption of the mulatta…” (She Is Cuba, forthcoming, Oxford University Press). Through hip(g)nosis Beyoncé has learned to use her ambiguous skin color and hair optics to her (monetary) advantage as a way to slide in and out of ethnic categories. Indeed, what does the fact that she is the lightest member of Destiny’s Child and also the groups’ most successful member have to do with her celebrity? The irony in all of this race play is that she was recently awarded the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award after her jaw-dropping 15-minute performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, and she is one of the few contemporary black pop singers who can play with race in the same way Michael Jackson did.
When I watched her recent MTV VMA performance I screamed a lot during her show, but the one moment I remember specifically, and still keep rewinding back to, happened right at the end of “Mine,” to me the best track on BEYONCE. She vamps “MTV, Welcome to My World,” and quickly spins and flips that hair back around baby, giving face to the camera, making millions of queens all over America scream YAASSS!!! at the top of their lungs. Beyoncé herself nodded back to queer performance and performers during a performance of “XO” this year on February 28th 2014 at the O2 Arena in London, after one overzealous fan threw a wig at Beyoncé as she sauntered off the stage and into the crowd (3:17).
When she turned around to pick the wig up she ad libbed “You got me snatching wigs, snatching wigs” into her microphone, knowing perfectly well that “Beyoncé snatching wigs” is one of the most popular fan-created Internet memes. In black gay male performance culture people often talk about “snatching wigs” or “coming for your wig,” and to this end scholars like E. Patrick Johnson and Marlon Bailey have done important work in theorizing the interplay between black gay colloquialisms and performance. If you’re “snatching wigs” then you’re performing better than everybody else while completely eradicating the competition. You’re seemingly indefatigable. Snatching a wig means a particular performance was highly effective or unique, and a snatched wig implies how an audience might surrender itself to a strong performer, as was the case with the aforementioned wig thrower. Beyoncé definitely understands the power of stage presence; a type of magnetism that, despite everything else happening on stage, draws us into a single performer – the star – whose single energy needs fill up the whole space. Filling up an empty stage with a single body is a lot of space to fill if you think about it. And making an audience focus on you when there are 10,000 other things are happening around you is an even more challenging task.
But “snatching wigs” can also mean you’re revealing someone’s deepest secrets, something you know they’re hiding. What’s underneath a wig but a secret – your real hair texture, a bald spot you don’t want anyone else to know about. A snatched wig can mean a break of the illusion. When I wore that wig during my Beyoncé talk to demonstrate hair choreography everyone knew it was fake – I put it on in front of them – but if the wig came off the illusion would have been broken nonetheless.
Part of Beyoncé’s monumental fame has to do with the fact that while she synchronizes, punctuates, captivates, and performs, she never lets us see underneath her wig. She just lets it whip.
madison moore (Ph.D., American Studies, Yale University, 2012) is a research associate in the Department of English at King’s College London. Trained in performance studies and popular culture, madison is a DJ, writer and pop culture scholar with expertise in nightlife culture, fashion, queer studies, contemporary art and performance, alternative subcultures and urban aesthetics. He is a staff writer at Thought Catalog, Splice Today, and his other writing has appeared in Vice, Interview magazine, Art in America, Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture, the Journal of Popular Music Studies and Theater magazine. He is the author of the Thought Catalog original e-book How to Be Beyoncé. His first book, The Theory of the Fabulous Class, will be published by Yale University Press.
REWIND!…If you liked this post, check out:
Karaoke and Ventriloquism: Echoes and Divergences–Karen Tongson and Sarah Kessler
– Yvon Bonefant
“New Wave Saved My Life*”-Wanda Alarcon
After a rockin’ (and seriously informative) series of podcasts from Leonard J. Paul, a Drrty South banger dropped by SO! Regular Regina Bradley, a screamtastic meditation from Yvon Bonenfant, and a heaping plate of food sounds from Steph Ceraso, our summer Sound and Pleasure series gets even louder with Kariann Goldschmidt‘s work on live events in Brazil. Brasil Ao Vivo! –-JS, Editor-in-Chief
Brazilians pray, cheer and celebrate in public and often in close physical proximity to each other. From the nearly 3 million people that flocked to Copacabana Beach to hear Pope Francis lead a mass in 2013 to the huge crowds that regularly turn out for concerts at Maracanã stadium, Brazilians earn their global reputation for large-scale public events. Of course there is Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador; the largest LGBT Pride Parade in the world held in São Paulo; and then there is football.
The relationship between large-scale public events and sound hit home as the country reacted to the national team’s humiliating loss to Germany in the semi-final round of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The world witnessed a different kind of public outpouring as the Brazilian public mourned. Within hours of the initial shock at the lopsided score, images of Brazilian football fans weeping and screaming in the stadium and on the street became a humorous meme with music and sound playing a prominent role. By the next day, most Brazilian football observers were taking pleasure in the public spectacle of weeping fans. With the abundance of images featuring hysteria, videos mocking the intensity of the crying went viral with dramatic musical scores. One observer proclaimed : “essa capacidade de rir de nós mesmos é uma das melhores qualidades”; the capacity to laugh at ourselves is one of our best qualities. That Brazilians express all varieties of emotions and annual passages together in public for everyone to witness, even when they border on campy excess, allow for everyone to feel the pleasures of community and the power of public performance.
All of this led me to believe that such a public culture has an effect on the aesthetics of what performance studies scholar Philip Auslander calls “liveness” in recorded music and related viral media. Auslander argues that the appeal of liveness for television broadcasts, concerts, and other stage performances allows audiences to feel the immediacy of the moment even if the presence of mediation, such as screens and on-air censorship, is obvious. The international spectacle of Brazilians emoting en masse, then, has a direct relationship with Brazilian sonic aesthetics. Nowhere, I argue, is this more prominent than in the (sometimes viral) popularity of live recordings.
That immediacy Auslander speaks of spreads to many aspects of Brazilian popular culture, including the popularity of concert DVDs and albums which are regularly listed among the most popular domestic recordings. In fact, concert records tend to be more popular than the studio albums that inspire the tour. These live albums often carry the designations Ao Vivo, live or MTV Acústico (the equivalent of the Unplugged albums popular in the United States), and they are often recorded in such a way so as to feature the interaction of the crowds. In place of the draw for authenticity (a value that permeates the MTV Unplugged recordings) is the love for community, and for experiencing big emotions together no matter how obviously they are mediated through cameras, microphones and other technology. Through the example of the continued popularity of live albums in Brazil, there is an opening for a different theorization for sounding liveness; in place of celebrating canonic performances and virtuosity, the valorization of liveness in Brazil reinforces the importance of crowds and the so-called “popular classes” at the root of the politicized singer-songwriter genre MPB or Música Popular Brasileira.
The pleasure and preference for live recordings also extends to social media. For meme chasers, a good example of this is Michel Teló’s 2011 hit “Ai Se Eu Te Pego.” The song and video were recorded ao vivo before a crowd dominated by young women. A close listen reveals that sounds of Teló’s female audience members are just as important as his voice even if his voice is only slightly louder in the mix. There is barely a moment in the recording when the audience stops making itself heard; the engineering revels in their presence. This is especially obvious during the opening seconds of the track when Teló and his audience sing “Nossa, nossa / assim você me mata / Ai, se eu te pego / Ai, ai, se eu te pego” [Wow, wow / you kill me like that / Ah, if I could get you / ah, ah, if I could get you] in unison at nearly the same volume in the mix. When the accordion and electric bass (crucial instruments for the song’s forró style) finally enter over the screaming audience, there is a noticeable break in the tension set up by the audience and Teló singing together. Their cries, like those in other live recordings, illustrate Teló’s appeal to the crowd in that moment while also allowing other listeners to imagine themselves there.
Teló’s song went viral (as of this writing, the official version currently has nearly 580 million views on YouTube and over 72 million plays on Spotify), with alternate video versions teaching the song’s dance steps and others highlighting global football stars dancing and singing along to the song. At one point Neymar, the national team’s biggest hope for World Cup victory, sang with Teló in front of a crowd. In general, Teló’s live songs easily outpace his studio recordings in terms of virality, and, I would argue, that a major part of the appeal of “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” is its provenance in a concert setting. It is just as important that the screaming throngs of women are audible as it is for those dance steps to be easy and recognizable. The liveness of the recording is so important, in fact, that the screaming audience appears as sampled snippets in the Pitbull remix. In its viral form, Teló’s song united the popularity of live spectacle with Brazil’s enthusiasm for other live events, merging concert goers with football fans.
The popularity of Teló’s live song is not an isolated incident. Look, for example, at record sales figures for all time. Two are live albums by artists who do not appear elsewhere on the list. Other albums that have sold more than 2 million copies in Brazil alone are by Roberto Carlos (Acústico MTV) and the teen pop/rock duo Sandy and Júnior (As Quatro Estações ao Vivo and Era Uma Vez… Ao Vivo). In 2011, five of the top ten albums in Brazil fit the ao vivo mode with little regard to genre: MPB stars Caetano Veloso and Maria Gadú are there alongside sertanejo artists Paula Fernandes and Luan Santana. In 2012, three of the top 20 best-sellers were live albums. Meanwhile, DVDs of concerts in Brazil continue to be strong sellers. Thus, the communal pleasure palpable on-screen translates to that experienced in the home.
Compare this with the status of live records in the United States in the last few years where they have rarely seen any chart success. If anything, liveness continues in YouTube clips and Spotify Sessions but not in physical sales and downloads. This is probably because live albums for U.S. based artists are embedded with different values having to do with the rock authenticity rather than communal pleasure. These performances demonstrate the chops of the musician and valorize the concerts (and tours) as events. The double live albums from the 1970s such as as Frampton Comes Alive, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s One More From The Road, and Kiss Alive! hold a prized place in the classic rock canon, often as much for extended guitar solos rather as the screaming throngs of fans. In the late ‘80s and early ’90s live albums, especially MTV Unplugged, re-inscribed a love of liveness through acoustic instruments and songs that reached back into the roots of American popular music. Eric Clapton’s Unplugged (1992) even topped the Billboard album charts and won 6 Grammy awards including Album of the Year while other records such as Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York and U2’s Rattle and Hum were multi-platinum hits. While there is the occasional top-40 live single, these songs are the exception to a genre of that has has moved liveness to YouTube rather than streaming and MP3 markets.
SO! contributor Osvaldo Oyola has noted there is a tension between the efforts recording engineers often go through to make studio recordings sound as immediate as possible, and those that call attention to the recording process. Live records replace the need to sound polished with the need to sound spontaneous, often reveling in mistakes and banter. That immediacy is something I enjoy when listening to live recordings and it has a parallel for many people who participate in the reception of major events in real time through social media.
In Brazil, audiences enjoy the immense power of participation in live events. As part of a larger work in progress I’m particularly fascinated by how this power and pleasure is mediated through the sonic experience of recordings and viral social media. Whether they are sharing tears over an international football loss or singing along to “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” Brazilians extend Auslander’s liveness by prolonging and replaying the immediacy of the crowds to experience that shared sonic moment, again and again.
Kariann Goldschmitt is a Visiting Lecturer in the Faculty of Music at University of Cambridge. Her scholarly work focuses on Brazilian music, modes of listening, and sonic branding in the global cultural industries. She has published in the Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Popular Music and Society, American Music, Yearbook for Traditional Music, and Luso-Brazilian Review and contributes to the South American cultural magazine, Sounds and Colours.
Featured image: Adapted from “Gloria” by Flickr user Lourenço Fabrino, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
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