This April forum, Acts of Sonic Intervention, explores what we over here at Sounding Out! are calling “Sound Studies 2.0″–the movement of the field beyond the initial excitement for and indexing of sound toward new applications and challenges to the status quo.
Two years ago at the first meeting of the European Sound Studies Association, I was inspired by the work of scholar and sound artist Linda O’Keeffe and her compelling application of the theories and methodologies of sound studies to immediate community issues. In what would later become a post for SO!, “(Sound)Walking Through Smithfield Square in Dublin,” O’Keeffe discussed her Smithfield Square project and how she taught local Dublin high school students field recording methodologies and then tasked them with documenting how they heard the space of the recently “refurbished” square and the displacement of their lives within it. For me, O’Keeffe’s ideas were electrifying, and I worked to enact a public praxis of my own via ReSounding Binghamton and the Binghamton Historical Soundwalk Project. Both are still in their initial stages; the work has been fascinating and rewarding, but arduous, slow, and uncharted. Acts of Sonic Intervention stems from my own hunger to hear more from scholars, artists, theorists, and/or practicioners to guide my efforts and to inspire others to take up this challenge. Given the exciting knowledge that the field has produced regarding sound and power (a good amount of it published here), can sound studies actually be a site for civic intervention, disruption, and resistance?
Last week, we heard from the Assistant Director at Binghamton University’s Center for Civic Engagement, Christie Zwahlen, who argues that any act of intervention must necessarily begin with self-reflexivity and examination of how one listens. In coming weeks, we will catch up with Linda O’Keeffe‘s newest project, a pilot workshop with older people at the U3A (University of the Third Age) centre in Foyle, Derry, “grounded in an examination of the digital divide, social inclusion and the formation of artists collectives.” We will also hear from artist, theorist, and writer Salomé Voegelin, who will treat us to a multimedia re-sonification of the keynote she gave at 2014’s Invisible Places, Sounding Cities conference in Viseu, Portugal, “Sound Art as Public Art,” which revivified the idea of the “civic” as a social responsibility enacted through sound and listening. This week, artist/scholar Luz María Sánchez gives us the privilege of a behind-the-scenes discussion of her latest work, detritus.2/ V.F(i)n_1–1st prize winner at the 2015 Biennial of the Frontiers in Matamoros, Mexico —which uses found recordings and images to break the deleterious silence created by narco violence in Mexico.
There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.
Walter Benjamin, Illuminations
detritus is an open-ended art project I started in 2011, that has as its main subject the portrayal of violence in Mexico. I introduce the sounds and images of what I call the Postnational Violence in Mexico using the concept of detritus as the nucleus; I use the cultural objects I produce through my artistic practice as the vehicle. detritus actually explores violence (1) as it is portrayed through media (radio, TV, newspapers and online platforms) and (2) as it is registered, manipulated and transmitted by the different participants of it –civilians, the government, NGOs, the military, the cartels–.
The first stage of detritus deals with Mexican media, specifically online newspapers, radio and TV, during the Presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). The whole strategy of [former] President Calderón —even before he took office— was to knock down violence associated to drug trafficking in Mexico and, actually, just a few days after he did his pledge as President of Mexico, he declared the war against drug trafficking that underwent from 11December 2006 —when Calderón actually started this war by sending 5,000 soldiers and police officers to the state of Michoacán— until the last day he was in Office: 31 November 2012.
During the six years that this war took place, former President Calderón appeared in military garments as “Mexico’s Drug War Commander in Chief.” The main target of this military strategy was to re-claim the control on those states where Mexican cartels were in charge. As Guillermo Pereyra argues in México: violencia criminal y “Guerra contra el narcotráfico” (2012), “Mexico’s Drug War” began as a decision to recover sovereignty in a context of political and social crisis. At the end of this period, there were more than 45,000 officers deployed in the states of Mexico, Baja California, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Durango, and more than 60,000 casualties. US media called this war “The Mexican War on Drugs” or “Mexico’s Drug War.”
The research for the visuals of detritus included every single [online] edition of Milenio and Jornada —Mexican national newspapers—from 11 December 2006 until 31 November 2012, and eventually it also included Proceso magazine and El Blog del Narco, an online independent news outlet. This research allowed me to investigate how the media has steadily been increasing the volume of news and images dealing with this war, therefore contributing to the “normalization” of the very violence it covers. As Colombian artist Doris Salcedo states the normalization of barbarism comes from the excessive number of deaths that violence is leaving to the society and, [I will add] to the excessive number of images and sounds that media and individuals put on circulation and make it viral through social networks and online independent outlets. All of us are, either as transmitters or as receivers, building this texture of violence.
At the end of 2013 detritus was completed: more than 10,200 images, all of them categorized in a database that includes: title of newspaper, section, header, author of the photograph, caption, and a brief description of the image itself. I used a very simple process of photographic manipulation to alter those 10,200 images. Once transformed, these images are projected, for a very short period of time [2 seconds each] in a large screen. We could be standing in front of this projection for hours and never see any of those images repeated. For those who are drawn to numbers, we could see that at the beginning of this war, during a whole weekend, there will be four or five images related to the subject; by the end of 2012, there were more than 40 images during the same period of time.
But the description of the horror through Mexican media does not include all the necessary voices. That is why civilians started a process to empower themselves using the tools they have at hand–such as mobile phone’s cameras–a medium they can use without restrictions. Over the Internet, civilians circulated images, videos, and sounds of their day-to-day experiences dealing with extreme violence. They are not alone on this viralization of violence through audiovisual documents: members of drug cartels and self-defense groups are also uploading their combats. The big difference is each group’s “agenda.” Civilians are in search of an arena to share their experiences; cartels and other military groups are either in search of validation or in search of documenting the systematic violence used in order to control whole populations.
Therefore, the audio complement I designed for detritus, first detritus.2 and then its current iteration V.F(i)n_1 , features the sounds of shootings, recorded by civilians who happened to be at close range. Generally this footage was taken via mobile phone and uploaded onto YouTube, and, unlike the newspaper representations, the image is not necessarily what is most engaging, since the individual that is making the recording is usually at floor level, protected, in order to avoid being hit by a stray bullet. But the sounds are pristine: even if the image is almost motionless -in the corner of a room, looking through a small part of a window-, the sound describes better what is at stake: violence at a very close range. The sounds on these recordings are very similar: the shootings are placed in the background, and we generally listen to voices in the foreground.
Each of the twenty recordings that integrate to create detritus.2 was taken from You Tube. The shootings occurred in the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Zupango, Orizaba, Saltillo, Juarez, Changuitiro, Purépero, Xalapa, Jiquilpan, Santa María del Oro and Mexico City. All of them, played together, contribute to the assembly of what Salcedo calls a texture of sound. The recordings are reproduced/played by twenty portable digital speakers in the shape of guns. These sound-reproduction machines are completely autonomous–no power or sound cables attached–and each speaker is a sound component by itself. Once the battery is worn, the sound is gone until the battery is recharged, therefore restarting the process performance / sound – waste / silence. Silence is one of the worst problems when dealing with violence.The government and the drug cartels alike don’t want anybody to openly discuss these issues. Working with families within specific communities in Mexico and the US will help make their stories visible -out of the anonymous data- and visibility could empower them.
But exploring the “normalization” of violence through media is not my only intervention with detritus and detritus.2. Far from the sound art movement, where soundscape often functions as a neutral label that includes organized sounds taken from the surroundings, detritus.2 deals with Mexican contemporary cities’ sounds, recorded and disseminated by the same individuals that live within these acoustic situations. Those are the sounds that [also] construct the Mexican landscape, telling the story of the failed nation. Taken together, the sounds of detritus.2 amplifies the fact that we are standing in front of the failure of the Mexican state as we know it, and its civilian population has been dealing with this irregular situation for many decades. We have witnessed drug cartels infiltrate every layer of life; and just because many civilians end up surviving —with and around it—does not make the problem disappear. On the contrary, every broken boundary makes the problem harder and harder to be resolved.
The failure of the Mexican State, or the “inferno” as is being called now, is something Mexico can no longer hide. When I say Mexico here, I am not referring to its general population–already exhausted already from decades on “survival mode”– but rather the Capitol elite: the government, investors, intellectuals, and journalists alike. This situation is not new to civilians living outside of Mexico City. Entire communities in the north of Mexico have been abandoning their belongings-jobs-lives, in extremely fast exodus, either to the US or to tranquil states like Yucatán. Thousands of mothers and fathers are looking for their sons and daughters taken by the cartels, in the best-case scenario they are put to work as slaves either at the drug camps or as prostitutes, in the worst they may be in the thousands of mass graves that pollute the country. Civilians understood early in the story that any complaint to the police would result in an even worse situation. For years, it has been known in the bus industry that a lot of young male and female travelers have been kidnapped to make them join this industry of slaves, and only recently they started to admit it: tons of luggage at bus terminals on the northern states of Mexico speak for those that went missing, and nobody said a word. Just the past 19 October 2014 a corpse of a went-missing-police-officer’s mother was placed in front of the Ministry of the Interior’s building: they never pursued an investigation over the disappearance of the young officer, and the last will of this ailing mother was her coffin to be placed in the street outside of the Ministry of the Interior as a way of extreme protest.
Listening Ahead: V. (u)nF_2
In the next phase of detrius.2, V. (u)nF_2–an acronym for Vis. (un) necessary force–I am making sculptural objects and sounds to construct a multi-channel sound-installation exploring the question: how do civilians in Mexico live through the extreme violence product of the fight against drug cartels in a state that has revealed its own failure? The artwork consists of a multiple series of custom-made ceramic-sound devices/megaphones in the shape of human heads/faces, molded after living family members of civilians that are still on the “missing” lists, maybe kidnapped and/or killed by drug cartels. In order to make an archive that includes each family’s data, I will collaborate with organizations that assist civilians on finding their relatives. To make a representative selection, I plan to analyze data through a mathematic-algorithm; chosen families will be invited to be part of the project. Each family will designate a member to participate symbolically as the “missing” person. A 3D-scan data portrait will be made of each participant, followed by a ceramic-3D-print. I will then install an electronic-circuit and megaphone inside of the hollow-human-head/faces-ceramic-objects. To develop the sound element –a thick stratum of noise– I will digitally modify a multiple-layered-construction of sounds after the stored data. The specifics of each story/participant will be presented at the exhibition space through an interactive database. Custom-made ceramic-objects/megaphones will be resting on the floor; in in order to cross the exhibition-space, visitors will have to carefully move these 3D-ceramic-portraits, each one representing an individual story.
V. (u)nF_2 is a gesture that listens forward, taking those 24,000–and counting–missing-individuals outside of data-archives and rehumanizing them through storytelling, 3D-scan/print technology and sound. The fact that I will use traditional methods to approach my subject —the horror of this war against civilians– but will also use state-of-the-art-technology in order to shape the hardware needed for sound-installation, combines a human-scale project with the possibilities of the digital-world, which places this project within the so-called Third-Industrial-Revolution but grounds it in the real.
Listen to other sound installations by Luz María Sánchez:
Frecuencias Policiacas// Police Frequencies: “Las grabaciones que forman parte del audio multicanal de la instalación, fueron llevadas a cabo en la central de radiocomunicación de la policía de Nuevo Laredo, y fueron facilitadas a la artista por reporteros del diario El Mañana en agosto de 2005. Los audios registran una confrontación entre la policía de Nuevo Laredo y un grupo criminal no identificado, y por las características de los mismos, se pueden escuchar a diversos elementos policiacos, así como a las controladoras de la radiocomunicación. La re-transmisión de estos sonidos en una matriz multi-líneal, colocan a la obra en nuevos niveles de codificación en los que la complejidad visual, auditiva y político social de esta realidad, se hacen patentes.” –Description by Roberto Arcaute y Manuel Rocha Iturbide
Frecuencias Policiacas// Police Frequencies: “The recordings are part of the multichannel audio installation carried out in the central police radio Nuevo Laredo, provided to the artist by El Mañana newspaper reporters in August 2005. The audio recorded a confrontation between police and an unidentified criminal Nuevo Laredo group. . .The re-transmission of these sounds in a multi-linear matrix placed to work in new levels of encryption that make evident the social visual, auditory and political complexity of this reality.” –Description by Roberto Arcaute y Manuel Rocha Iturbide
2487: “2487 speaks the names of the two thousand four hundred eighty seven people who died crossing the U.S./Mexico border . The work employs digital technology and sound as a means for transborder memorialization and protest, imposing the absence of those lost into the public sphere. Sánchez’ immersive sound environment remaps social history as the names of the deceased fly across the border through soundscape and digital media. Drawing from data acquired from activist websites, Sánchez created a sound map of names which she recorded digitally. Her final score, along with the database, has been exhibited widely but lives permanently on the world wide web, in commemoration and quiet protest. Sánchez’ work connects the digital and geographic landscape to the listener’s body, gaining entry through sound and transcending political and physical barriers”– Description from UCR Critical Digital 8/19/2012
Sound and visual artist Luz María Sánchez studied both music and literature. Through her doctoral studies Sánchez has focused on the role of sound-in-art since its inception in the 19th century through its evolution as an independent art practice in the 20th century. Sánchez then examined the radio-plays of Samuel Beckett linking them to the sound-practices that emerged in the mid-20th century. Sánchez has continued her research on technologized-sound: she was part of the conference Mapping Sound and Urban Space in the Americas at Cornell University, and her book Technological Epiphanies: Samuel Beckett’s Use of Audiovisual Machines will be published in 2015. Her artwork has been included in major sound-and-music festivals such as Zéppellin-Sound-Art-Festival (Spain), Bourges-International-Festival-of-Electronic-Music-and-Sonic-Art (France), Festival-Internacional-de-Arte-Sonoro (Mexico), and has presented exhibitions at Marion-Koogler-McNay-Art-Museum, Dallas Center for Contemporary Art, Galería de la Raza (San Francisco), John-Michael-Kohler-Arts-Center (Sheboygan), Illinois State Museum (Chicago/Springfield), and Centro de Cultura Contemporánea (Barcelona) amongst others. She was granted a special distinction in the category Nouvea-Musiques at the Phonurgia-Nova-Prix (Arles), was the recipient of a Círculo-de-Bellas-Artes-de-Madrid’s grant, and Yuko Hasegawa selected her for the Artpace-International-Artist-in-Residence. She is member of the Board-of-the-Sound Experimentation-Space at Museum-of Contemporary-Art (MUAC). Sanchez was recently awarded the First Prize of the Frontiers Biennial (2015).
REWIND!…If you liked this post, you may also dig:
“A Listening Mind: Sound Learning in a Literature Classroom”–Nicole Brittingham Furlonge
“Soundscapes of Narco Silence”—Marci R. McMahon
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 Monday, you heard from Kevin Allred (Women and Gender Studies, Rutgers) who read Beyoncé’s track “No Angel” against the New York Times’ reference to Michael Brown as #noangel. You will also hear from Liana Silva (Editor, Women in Higher Education, Managing Editor, Sounding Out!), Regina Bradley (writer, scholar, and freelance researcher of African American Life and Culture), and Madison Moore (Research Associate in the Department of English at King’s College, University of London and author of How to Be Beyoncé). Today, Priscilla Peña Ovalle (English, University of Oregon) gives us full Beyoncé realness, from TMZ Elevator to Beyoncé and Back Again,–Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever
Less than six months after Beyoncé released Beyoncé, she was momentarily silenced on the small screen when the gossip site TMZ released silent elevator security footage of a fight between her famous husband and sister. Doubly framed by the black and white of a surveillance video screen surreptitiously captured on a security guard’s camera-phone, the video’s silence left plenty of room for speculation. But the footage also revealed a woman conscious that her life is on record: Beyoncé’s body seemed to elude the camera’s full view and she emerged from the elevator with a camera-ready smile.
Like Kevin Allred in his powerful reading of “No Angel,” I could not help but rethink Beyoncé in the wake of Michael Brown’s murder. I already read Beyoncé as a sophisticated response to the visual and aural policing of black female bodies, but the closed-circuit images of Beyoncé on TMZ (and in Beyoncé) made me reconsider silence as a damning convention of video surveillance; like Aaron Trammell in “Video Gaming and the Sonic Feedback of Surveillance,” I questioned (the lack of) sound as a technique of control. When the camera-phone recording of Kajieme Powell’s murder, photographed and narrated by a community member in real-time, was released with silent surveillance footage of the alleged theft, my appreciation of Beyoncé—as a response to those silent damnations—took a new turn.
“Resounding Silence and Surveillance” argues that Beyoncé returns the media’s visual-aural gaze. Because of its pop package, the album’s artistic composition and socio-cultural merit are often underestimated. Like the silence of surveillance footage, omitting any one sensory element from Beyoncé distorts the holistic meaning. To untangle this critically complex interplay of audio and video, I analyze the visualized song “Haunted” and briefly address the single “***Flawless” to show how the artist’s triple consciousness anchors Beyoncé. She is on to us: Beyoncé is the culmination of an artist who has spent her career watching us watch her. Temporarily silenced by footage that she could not control, Beyoncé resounds that “elevator incident”—and our sonic/optic perceptions of her feminism—with a flawless remix.
“I see music. It’s more than just what I hear,” declares Beyoncé. Her voiceover runs over the black screen that opens the promotional video “Self-Titled.” Released the same day Beyoncé premiered on iTunes, “Self-Titled” directs audiences to “see the whole vision of the album.” By design, Beyoncé is an immersive experience—like watching Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as a television event on MTV.
Because Beyoncé was born the same year the cable music channel MTV premiered, she has never known a world without the ability to “see music.” In many ways, her visual album reinvigorates the early spirit of MTV: after Beyoncé, we will “never look at music the same way again.” Though music videos exacerbate the pop single obsession that Beyoncé explicitly resists with Beyoncé, they also produce a unique kinetic connection with the listener-viewer, whose experience of sound is visually registered by the body as it processes shots and edits. This is especially true when strong imagery, rhythmic editing, and dance movements are expertly employed, as in Beyoncé.
Beyoncé deftly critiques the beauty and music/media industries that have been central to her pop success. If taken piecemeal, these critiques can be easily dismissed: the sustained gloss of her image works all too well. There is much to say on a video-by-video basis, but I focus here on the specific aural elements of “Haunted” that articulate Beyoncé’s refusal of the music industry’s status quo. This visualized rejection reveals the layers of racism and sexism that nonwhite female artists (even Beyoncé, even today) must negotiate.
Because of my personal and professional interest in music videos, I consumed Beyoncé as she intended: a sequence of MPEG-4 videos rather than AAC audio files. But it was not until I solely listened to the album that I could discern Beyoncé’s maturation as a black female multimedia pop/culture artist. One refrain from “Haunted” was especially effective:
I know if I’m onto you, I’m onto you/ Onto you, you must be on to me
The song’s ethereal quality is amplified by Boots (Jordy Asher), one of Beyoncé’s (then-unknown) collaborators with whom she shares “Haunted”’s writing and producing credit. The track builds slowly, supporting Beyoncé’s “stream of consciousness” delivery with layers of reverberation and waves of synth sounds like “Soundtrack” or the Roland TR-808 kick drum. Punches of bass accelerate the beat until Beyoncé riffs her explicit desire to create something more than a product:
The music winds to a halt, but the song is not over. Breathy, reverberating vocals transition the track and a piano is delicately introduced:
It’s what you do, it’s what you see
I know if I’m haunting you, you must be haunting me
It’s where we go, it’s where we’ll be
I know if I’m onto you, I’m onto you
Onto you, you must be on to me
At this point, the song “Haunted” is split into two videos: “Ghost” (directed by Pierre Debusschere) and “Haunted” (directed by Jonas Åkerlund). The videos’ visual differences exemplify the various points of view—from active subject to object of desire and back again—employed across Beyoncé. “Ghost”’s hypnotic visuals underscore the song’s sentiments: close-ups of Beyoncé’s immaculately lit visage soberly mouthing lyrics are intercut with medium shots of her still body swathed in floating fabric and wide shots of her athletic movements against sparse backgrounds. The ar/rhythmic cuts of “Ghost” enunciate an artistic dissatisfaction with the industry: visuals build against/with the synthetic beat, mixing Beyoncé’s kinetically intense movements with her deadpan delivery.
The fiery agency of “Ghost” sets up the chill of “Haunted,” a voyeuristic tour in which Beyoncé watches and is watched. The “knowing-ness” of her breathy refrain (“I know if I’m haunting you”) is heightened when the tempo accelerates in the song’s second half. There is much to say about “Haunted”—from the interracial family of atomic bomb mannequins to Beyoncé’s writhing boudoir choreography. Most significantly, she is the video’s voyeur and object of surveillance: her face appears on multiple television screens and her voyeur-character is regularly captured on closed-circuit footage. The “Haunted” video soundtrack features the foley and stinger sounds of a horror film, but these surveillance shots feature the low whirr of a film projector rather than silence. The silence of a moving image is so jarring that it compels us to watch differently, so much so that “silent” film scenes utilize a recorded sound of “nothing” (“room tone”) to focus the audience.
When Beyoncé finally resounded the silence of the “elevator incident,” she chose to do it through “***Flawless,” her explicit response to anti-feminist accusations. While the multifaceted anthem gained attention because of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s audio, the song is uniquely infused with a kind of docu-visuality thanks to Ed McMahon’s well-known voice and the Star Search jingle. These bookends cite a young Beyoncé losing to an all-male rock band, the kind heavily programmed during MTV’s early days. The clips reinforce the album’s critique of racial and gender hierarchies while questioning the double-edged “work ethic” required to surpass them. Of course, Beyoncé pre-emptively frames this discussion for us in “Self-Titled,” a necessary step that helps audiences appreciate the many moving parts of her tour de force, including her creative business mind.So when Beyoncé swapped the audio of Adichie and McMahon for Nicki Minaj, it was no less of a feminist move. Instead, Beyoncé silences TMZ gawkers:
She then offers herself as a medium of empowerment. Beyoncé may be part of a billion-dollar empire, but she willingly shares that pleasure with us:
I wake up looking this good
And I wouldn’t change it if I could
(If I could, if I, if I, could)
And you can say what you want, I’m the shit
(What you want I’m the shit, I’m the shit)
(I’m the shit, I’m the shit, I’m the shit)
I want everyone to feel like this tonight
God damn, God damn, God damn!
Beyoncé’s last word is an image. She and her creative team remixed the visuals of the “elevator incident”: the remix single website features black and white photos of Beyoncé and Minaj, simultaneously evoking surveillance footage and the photo booth images of a girls’ night out. Beyoncé is the work of an artist who has spent her career watching us watch her: this minor moment exemplifies Beyoncé’s multimedia resonance as an artist whose power is visible and audible across iTunes and TMZ screens alike.
Thanks to Elizabeth Peterson, Charise Cheney, Loren Kajikawa, André Sirois and Jennifer Stoever for providing research and intellectual support for this essay
Priscilla Peña Ovalle is the Associate Director of the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Oregon. After studying film and interactive media production at Emerson College, she received her PhD from the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television while collaborating with the Labyrinth Project at the Annenberg Center for Communication. She has written on MTV, Jennifer Lopez, and Beyoncé. Her book, Dance and the Hollywood Latina: Race, Sex, and Stardom (Rutgers University Press, 2011), addresses the symbolic connection between dance and the racialized sexuality of Latinas in popular culture. Her next research project explores the historical, industrial, and cultural function of hair in mainstream film and television. You can find her work in American Quarterly, Theatre Journal, and Women & Performance.
REWIND!…If you liked this post, check out:
Aurally Other: Rita Moreno and the Articulation of “Latina-ness”-Priscilla Peña Ovalle
Music Meant to Make You Move: Considering the Aural Kinesthetic–Imani Kai Johnson
Karaoke and Ventriloquism: Echoes and Divergences–Sarah Kessler and Karen Tongson
Today the SO! Thursday stream inaugurates a four-part series entitled Hearing the UnHeard, which promises to blow your mind by way of your ears. Our Guest Editor is Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist at NeuroPop and author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind (Bloomsbury, 2012), whose insightful work on brings us directly to the intersection of the sciences and the arts of sound.
That’s where he’ll be taking us in the coming weeks. Check out his general introduction just below, and his own contribution for the first piece in the series. — NV
Welcome to Hearing the UnHeard, a new series of articles on the world of sound beyond human hearing. We are embedded in a world of sound and vibration, but the limits of human hearing only let us hear a small piece of it. The quiet library screams with the ultrasonic pulsations of fluorescent lights and computer monitors. The soothing waves of a Hawaiian beach are drowned out by the thrumming infrasound of underground seismic activity near “dormant” volcanoes. Time, distance, and luck (and occasionally really good vibration isolation) separate us from explosive sounds of world-changing impacts between celestial bodies. And vast amounts of information, ranging from the songs of auroras to the sounds of dying neurons can be made accessible and understandable by translating them into human-perceivable sounds by data sonification.
Four articles will examine how this “unheard world” affects us. My first post below will explore how our environment and evolution have constrained what is audible, and what tools we use to bring the unheard into our perceptual realm. In a few weeks, sound artist China Blue will talk about her experiences recording the Vertical Gun, a NASA asteroid impact simulator which helps scientists understand the way in which big collisions have shaped our planet (and is very hard on audio gear). Next, Milton A. Garcés, founder and director of the Infrasound Laboratory of University of Hawaii at Manoa will talk about volcano infrasound, and how acoustic surveillance is used to warn about hazardous eruptions. And finally, Margaret A. Schedel, composer and Associate Professor of Music at Stonybrook University will help readers explore the world of data sonification, letting us listen in and get greater intellectual and emotional understanding of the world of information by converting it to sound.
— Guest Editor Seth Horowitz
Although light moves much faster than sound, hearing is your fastest sense, operating about 20 times faster than vision. Studies have shown that we think at the same “frame rate” as we see, about 1-4 events per second. But the real world moves much faster than this, and doesn’t always place things important for survival conveniently in front of your field of view. Think about the last time you were driving when suddenly you heard the blast of a horn from the previously unseen truck in your blind spot.
Hearing also occurs prior to thinking, with the ear itself pre-processing sound. Your inner ear responds to changes in pressure that directly move tiny little hair cells, organized by frequency which then send signals about what frequency was detected (and at what amplitude) towards your brainstem, where things like location, amplitude, and even how important it may be to you are processed, long before they reach the cortex where you can think about it. And since hearing sets the tone for all later perceptions, our world is shaped by what we hear (Horowitz, 2012).
But we can’t hear everything. Rather, what we hear is constrained by our biology, our psychology and our position in space and time. Sound is really about how the interaction between energy and matter fill space with vibrations. This makes the size, of the sender, the listener and the environment, one of the primary features that defines your acoustic world.
You’ve heard about how much better your dog’s hearing is than yours. I’m sure you got a slight thrill when you thought you could actually hear the “ultrasonic” dog-training whistles that are supposed to be inaudible to humans (sorry, but every one I’ve tested puts out at least some energy in the upper range of human hearing, even if it does sound pretty thin). But it’s not that dogs hear better. Actually, dogs and humans show about the same sensitivity to sound in terms of sound pressure, with human’s most sensitive region from 1-4 kHz and dogs from about 2-8 kHz. The difference is a question of range and that is tied closely to size.
Most dogs, even big ones, are smaller than most humans and their auditory systems are scaled similarly. A big dog is about 100 pounds, much smaller than most adult humans. And since body parts tend to scale in a coordinated fashion, one of the first places to search for a link between size and frequency is the tympanum or ear drum, the earliest structure that responds to pressure information. An average dog’s eardrum is about 50 mm2, whereas an average human’s is about 60 mm2. In addition while a human’s cochlea is spiral made of 2.5 turns that holds about 3500 inner hair cells, your dog’s has 3.25 turns and about the same number of hair cells. In short: dogs probably have better high frequency hearing because their eardrums are better tuned to shorter wavelength sounds and their sensory hair cells are spread out over a longer distance, giving them a wider range.
Then again, if hearing was just about size of the ear components, then you’d expect that yappy 5 pound Chihuahua to hear much higher frequencies than the lumbering 100 pound St. Bernard. Yet hearing sensitivity from the two ends of the dog spectrum don’t vary by much. This is because there’s a big difference between what the ear can mechanically detect and what the animal actually hears. Chihuahuas and St. Bernards are both breeds derived from a common wolf-like ancestor that probably didn’t have as much variability as we’ve imposed on the domesticated dog, so their brains are still largely tuned to hear what a medium to large pseudo wolf-like animal should hear (Heffner, 1983).
But hearing is more than just detection of sound. It’s also important to figure out where the sound is coming from. A sound’s location is calculated in the superior olive – nuclei in the brainstem that compare the difference in time of arrival of low frequency sounds at your ears and the difference in amplitude between your ears (because your head gets in the way, making a sound “shadow” on the side of your head furthest from the sound) for higher frequency sounds. This means that animals with very large heads, like elephants, will be able to figure out the location of longer wavelength (lower pitched) sounds, but probably will have problems localizing high pitched sounds because the shorter frequencies will not even get to the other side of their heads at a useful level. On the other hand, smaller animals, which often have large external ears, are under greater selective pressure to localize higher pitched sounds, but have heads too small to pick up the very low infrasonic sounds that elephants use.
But you as a human are a fairly big mammal. If you look up “Body Size Species Richness Distribution” which shows the relative size of animals living in a given area, you’ll find that humans are among the largest animals in North America (Brown and Nicoletto, 1991). And your hearing abilities scale well with other terrestrial mammals, so you can stop feeling bad about your dog hearing “better.” But what if, by comic-book science or alternate evolution, you were much bigger or smaller? What would the world sound like? Imagine you were suddenly mouse-sized, scrambling along the floor of an office. While the usual chatter of humans would be almost completely inaudible, the world would be filled with a cacophony of ultrasonics. Fluorescent lights and computer monitors would scream in the 30-50 kHz range. Ultrasonic eddies would hiss loudly from air conditioning vents. Smartphones would not play music, but rather hum and squeal as their displays changed.
And if you were larger? For a human scaled up to elephantine dimensions, the sounds of the world would shift downward. While you could still hear (and possibly understand) human speech and music, the fine nuances from the upper frequency ranges would be lost, voices audible but mumbled and hard to localize. But you would gain the infrasonic world, the low rumbles of traffic noise and thrumming of heavy machinery taking on pitch, color and meaning. The seismic world of earthquakes and volcanoes would become part of your auditory tapestry. And you would hear greater distances as long wavelengths of low frequency sounds wrap around everything but the largest obstructions, letting you hear the foghorns miles distant as if they were bird calls nearby.
But these sounds are still in the realm of biological listeners, and the universe operates on scales far beyond that. The sounds from objects, large and small, have their own acoustic world, many beyond our ability to detect with the equipment evolution has provided. Weather phenomena, from gentle breezes to devastating tornadoes, blast throughout the infrasonic and ultrasonic ranges. Meteorites create infrasonic signatures through the upper atmosphere, trackable using a system devised to detect incoming ICBMs. Geophones, specialized low frequency microphones, pick up the sounds of extremely low frequency signals foretelling of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Beyond the earth, we translate electromagnetic frequencies into the audible range, letting us listen to the whistlers and hoppers that signal the flow of charged particles and lightning in the atmospheres of Earth and Jupiter, microwave signals of the remains of the Big Bang, and send listening devices on our spacecraft to let us hear the winds on Titan.
Here is a recording of whistlers recorded by the Van Allen Probes currently orbiting high in the upper atmosphere:
When the computer freezes or the phone battery dies, we complain about how much technology frustrates us and complicates our lives. But our audio technology is also the source of wonder, not only letting us talk to a friend around the world or listen to a podcast from astronauts orbiting the Earth, but letting us listen in on unheard worlds. Ultrasonic microphones let us listen in on bat echolocation and mouse songs, geophones let us wonder at elephants using infrasonic rumbles to communicate long distances and find water. And scientific translation tools let us shift the vibrations of the solar wind and aurora or even the patterns of pure math into human scaled songs of the greater universe. We are no longer constrained (or protected) by the ears that evolution has given us. Our auditory world has expanded into an acoustic ecology that contains the entire universe, and the implications of that remain wonderfully unclear.
Exhibit: Home Office
This is a recording made with standard stereo microphones of my home office. Aside from usual typing, mouse clicking and computer sounds, there are a couple of 3D printers running, some music playing, largely an environment you don’t pay much attention to while you’re working in it, yet acoustically very rich if you pay attention.
This sample was made by pitch shifting the frequencies of sonicoffice.wav down so that the ultrasonic moves into the normal human range and cuts off at about 1-2 kHz as if you were hearing with mouse ears. Sounds normally inaudible, like the squealing of the computer monitor cycling on kick in and the high pitched sound of the stepper motors from the 3D printer suddenly become much louder, while the familiar sounds are mostly gone.
This recording of the office was made with a Clarke Geophone, a seismic microphone used by geologists to pick up underground vibration. It’s primary sensitivity is around 80 Hz, although it’s range is from 0.1 Hz up to about 2 kHz. All you hear in this recording are very low frequency sounds and impacts (footsteps, keyboard strikes, vibration from printers, some fan vibration) that you usually ignore since your ears are not very well tuned to frequencies under 100 Hz.
Finally, this sample was made by pitch shifting the frequencies of infrasonicoffice.wav up as if you had grown to elephantine proportions. Footsteps and computer fan noises (usually almost indetectable at 60 Hz) become loud and tonal, and all the normal pitch of music and computer typing has disappeared aside from the bass. (WARNING: The fan noise is really annoying).
The point is: a space can sound radically different depending on the frequency ranges you hear. Different elements of the acoustic environment pop up depending on the type of recording instrument you use (ultrasonic microphone, regular microphones or geophones) or the size and sensitivity of your ears.—
Featured image by Flickr User Jaime Wong.
Seth S. Horowitz, Ph.D. is a neuroscientist whose work in comparative and human hearing, balance and sleep research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and NASA. He has taught classes in animal behavior, neuroethology, brain development, the biology of hearing, and the musical mind. As chief neuroscientist at NeuroPop, Inc., he applies basic research to real world auditory applications and works extensively on educational outreach with The Engine Institute, a non-profit devoted to exploring the intersection between science and the arts. His book The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind was released by Bloomsbury in September 2012.
REWIND! If you liked this post, check out …
Learning to Listen Beyond Our Ears– Owen Marshall
This is Your Body on the Velvet Underground– Jacob Smith
Happy new year, dear Sounding Out! readers! Early January brings about New Year’s resolutions, specials on bins for holiday ornaments, Three Kings’ Day, and our yearly MLA sound studies panel round-up. This year, MLA 2014 attendees will get another blast of cold temperatures because this year’s convention is in Chicago—not much of a difference weather-wise from Boston but just as exciting! If you’re undecided about what panels to check out or if you’re not sure about where to start with the MLA Program, you’re in the right place: I combed the MLA Program page by page and condensed it just for our sound studies aficionados. If you’re sitting this MLA out or if you’re just curious about what the following panels are all about, it’s easy to follow the conference from home if you have access to Twitter. MLA is one of the most active academic conferences on social media: there’s the lively twitter hashtag #MLA14, the individual hashtags for each session (#s–followed by the session number), and an attentive twitter account (@MLAConvention), so even if you’re not in Chi-town you can still see what’s going on at your favorite panels this week.
Whereas last year some of the sound-oriented panels had a particular digital angle, this year there are several panels look at the intersection of sound and literary studies. The titles may not suggest sound, but the presentations do. For example, panel #s384 Literary Crossroads: African American Literature and Christianity includes presentations on representations of gospel and spirituality in different African American books. Another panel of interest is #s414, Literature and Media in the Nineteenth-Century United States arranged by the Division on Nineteenth-Century American Literature. (This panel resonates nicely with Sounding Out!’s Sound in the Nineteenth Century forum which just ended last Monday.) The focus on literature may come from the fact that the MLA brings many literary scholars together, but it is encouraging that the study of sound is also overlapping with the study of literature.
Despite that the convention brings literature scholars from across the United States together, some of the more intriguing sound-oriented panels are not focused on literature at all. In fact, several panels address sound from the angle of music. Panel #s131, The Musics of Chicago brings together High Fidelity and Lupe Fiasco, and panel #s162 on the HBO series Girls includes Chloe H. Johnson’s paper “Dancing on My Own: Popular Music and Issues of Identity in Girls.“ Although the fields of literary studies and cultural studies are sometimes in tension with each other, some MLA presenters are approaching popular culture particularly from an aural angle.
Music is not the only presence of sound in the MLA Program. Several panels bring up sound in conjunction with pedagogy. Some of our readers may remember the forum Sounding Out! hosted last year on sound and pedagogy—a forum of which I was a part. I’m glad to see other language, composition, and literature teachers are thinking about sound too. Panel #s114, Dialects of English Worldwide: Issues in English Language Studies includes several papers that think about spoken English nowadays. For those who are interested in how the sound of students’ speech are intersected by structural racism and public policy will find lots to think about with this panel. If you’re looking for concrete suggestions on using sound as a pedagogical approach, panel #s213 has some answers. Twenty-First-Century Pedagogies, arranged by the Discussion Group on the Two-Year College includes a presentation on sound essays by Kathryn O’Donoghue from the Graduate Center at City Univ. of New York.
Where will Team SO! be at MLA 2014? Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman can be found at the DH Commons pre-conference workshop on Thursday, January 9, 2014; she will be presenting Friday, January 10 at 8:30 am on her research on Lead belly and Richard Wright as part of panel #s221, Singing Out in the American Literary Experience. Regular writer Regina Bradley will be presenting Friday at 5:15 pm on panel #s403 Words, Works, and New Archives: Studying African American Literature in the Twenty-First Century. Guest blogger Scott Poulson-Bryant will be at panel #s447, The Seventies in Black and White: A Soundtrack on Saturday at 8:30 am. I will be presenting on Friday morning at panel #s218, a roundtable on the graduate seminar paper and will be leading panel #s788, Back Up Your Work: Conceptualizing Writing Support for Graduate Students on Sunday at 1:45 pm. You can catch us on Twitter: @lianamsilvaford and @soundingoutblog where we’ll be live-tweeting panels and keeping followers up to date on convention chatter. Who knows, maybe there’ll be an impromptu SO! tweet-up? Stay tuned to our social media feeds!
Liana Silva-Ford is co-founder and Managing Editor of Sounding Out!.
Featured image: “Mississippi North” by Flickr user John W. Iwanski, CC-BY-NC-2.0
THURSDAY, JANUARY 9, 2014
8:30 am-11:30 am
3. Get Started in the Digital Humanities with Help from DHCommons
Chicago A–B, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING: Ryan Cordell, Northeastern Univ.; Josh Honn, Northwestern Univ.; Katherine A. Rowe, Bryn Mawr Coll.
The workshop welcomes language and literature scholars who wish to learn about, pursue, or join digital humanities (DH) projects but do not have the institutional infrastructure to support them. Representatives of DH projects and initiatives will share their expertise on project design, outline available resources and opportunities, and lead small-group training sessions on DH technologies and skills. Preregistration required.
12:00 pm-1:15 pm
31. Radical Curators, Vulnerable Genres: Lost Histories of Collecting, Editing, Bibliography
Michigan–Michigan State, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING: Meredith L. McGill, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
Jessica J. Beard, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz;
Alex Black, Cornell Univ.;
Jane Greenway Carr, New York Univ.;
Ellen Gruber Garvey, New Jersey City Univ.
Laura Helton, Univ. of Virginia
Courtney Thorsson, Univ. of Oregon
33. Sir Walter Scott and Music
Sheffield, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Lyrica Society for Word-Music Relations
PRESIDING: Jeff Dailey, Five Towns Coll.
1. “Cutting Out the Castle Quicksand: Scott’s Bride, Donizetti’s Lucia, and the ‘Personally Furious’ Ayn Rand,” Shoshana Milgram Knapp, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ.
2. “‘Drifting through the Intellectual Atmosphere’ from Scott’s Old Morality to Liszt’s Hexameron,” Catherine Ludlow, Western Illinois Univ.
3. “Walter Scott, British Identity, and International Grand Opera: Isidore de Lara’s Amy Robsart(1893),” Tommaso Sabbatini, Univ. of Chicago
For abstracts, visit lyricasociety.org.
75. Voice and Silence
Mississippi, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Division on French Medieval Language and Literature
PRESIDING: Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner, Boston Coll.
1. “Gut Feelings,” Jason D. Jacobs, Roger Williams Univ.
2. “Tomboy Silence,” Wan-Chuan Kao, Washington and Lee Univ.
3. “Giving Voice to the Word of God; or, Bernard of Clairvaux Sings the Song of Songs,” Kris Trujillo, Univ. of California, Berkeley
114. Dialects of English Worldwide: Issues in English Language Studies
Illinois, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Present-Day English Language
PRESIDING: Elizabeth Bell Canon, Emory Univ.
1. “‘Speak the Language of Your Flag': American Policy Responses to Nonanglophone Immigrants,” Dennis E. Baron, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
2. “The Sounds of Silence: Standard and Nonstandard Englishes in Contemporary Ethnic American Writing,” Melissa Dennihy, Queensborough Community Coll., City Univ. of New York
3. “Star Spanglish Banter: Harnessing Students’ Linguistic Expertise,” Jill Hallett, Northeastern Illinois Univ.
4. “Emerging Attitudes toward New Media within the Discourses of Poetics and Literature,” April Pierce, Univ. of Oxford
131. The Musics of Chicago
Chicago H, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING: Shawn Higgins, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs
1. “Sweet Home Chicago? (Dis)Locating the American ‘Race Record’ in High Fidelity,” Jürgen E. Grandt, Univ. of North Georgia
2. “Experiment and Exodus in the Music of Chicago,” Toshiyuki Ohwada, Keio Univ.
3. “Fly Girls or Blackface? The Racial and Gender Politics of Lupe Fiasco,” Jorge Santos, Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs
141. Enduring Noise: Sound and Sexual Difference
Illinois, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING: Rizvana Bradley, Emory Univ.
1. “Listening to Gertrude Stein’s Repeating: Sonorous Temporality in The Making of Americans,” Erin McNellis, Univ. of California, Irvine
2. “Queer Extensities: Pauline Oliveros and Disco,” Amalle Dublon, Duke Univ.
3. “Metal, Reproduction, and the Politics of Doom,” Aliza Shvarts, New York Univ.
RESPONDING: Rizvana Bradley
162. Girls and the F Word: Twenty-First-Century Representations of Women’s Lives
Los Angeles–Miami, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING : Tahneer Oksman, Marymount Manhattan Coll.
1. “‘My Shoes Match My Dress . . . Kind Of!': The Politics of Dressing and Nakedness in Girls,” Laura Scroggs, Univ. of Minnesota, Twin Cities
2. “She’s Just Not That into You: Girls, Dating, and Damage,” Jennifer Mitchell, Weber State Univ.
3. “Dancing on My Own: Popular Music and Issues of Identity in Girls,” Chloe H. Johnson, York Univ., Keele
RESPONDING: Nancy K. Miller, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York
FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2014
8:30 am-9:45 am
207. Diversifying the Victorian Verse Archives
Chicago A–B, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING : Meredith Martin, Princeton Univ.
1. “Recovering Tennyson’s ‘Melody in Poetry': Salon Recitations and Musical Settings,” Phyllis Weliver, Saint Louis Univ.
2. “Morris Metrics: The Work of Meter in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Yopie Prins, Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor
3. “Digital Archives and the Music of Victorian Poetry,” Joanna Swafford, Univ. of Virginia
For abstracts, visit https://sites.google.com/a/slu.edu/diversifying-the-victorian-verse-archives/
213. Twenty-First-Century Pedagogies
Michigan–Michigan State, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on the Two-Year College
PRESIDING: Stacey Lee Donohue, Central Oregon Community Coll.
1. “Not on Wikipedia: Making the Local Visible,” Laurel Harris, Queensborough Community Coll., City Univ. of New York
2. “Survival Spanish Online: Designing a Community College Course That Bridges Culture and Authentic Connections,” Cecilia McGinniss Kennedy, Clark State Community Coll., OH
3. “Sound Essays: A Cure for the Common Core,” Kathryn O’Donoghue, Graduate Center, City Univ. of New York
4. “Leveling Up! Gamifying the Literature Classroom,” Jessica Lewis-Turner, Temple Univ., Philadelphia
For abstracts, visit commons.mla.org/groups/the-two-year-college/announcements/ after 15 Dec.
217. Cuba on Stage
Arkansas, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Cuban and Cuban Diaspora Cultural Production
PRESIDING: Vicky Unruh, Univ. of Kansas
1. “José Triana, Virgilio Piñera, and the Racial Erotics of Cuban Tragedy,” Armando Garcia, Univ. of Pittsburgh
2. “Estorino’s Gray Ghosts,” David Lisenby, Univ. at Albany, State Univ. of New York
3. “Musical Trangressions on the Cuban Stage: Rap, Rock, and Reggaeton,” Elena Valdez, Swarthmore Coll.
4. “Locating the Malecón,” Bretton White, Colby Coll.
221. Singing Out in the American Literary Experience
Old Town, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Folklore and Literature
PRESIDING: Mark Allan Jackson, Middle Tennessee State Univ.
1. “Re-sounding Folk Voice, Remaking the Ballad: Alan Lomax, Margaret Walker, and the New Criticism,” Derek Furr, Bard Coll.
2. “‘A Voice to Match All That': Lead Belly, Richard Wright, and Lynching’s Sound Track,” Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, Binghamton Univ., State Univ. of New York
3. “Stunting Gualinto: The Limits of Corrido Heroism in Americo Paredes’s George Washington Gomez,” Melanie Hernandez, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
For abstracts, write to email@example.com.
261. Applying Linguistics to the Learning of Middle Eastern Languages
Huron, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on General Linguistics
PRESIDING: Terrence Potter, Georgetown Univ.
1. “How Strategic Can They Be? Differences between Student and Instructor Attitudes toward Language Learning Strategies,” Gregory Ebner, United States Military Acad.
2. “Needs-Analysis Informed Task Design in Arabic Foreign Language Programs in the United States: Insights from Learner Perceptions and Production,” Maimoonah Al Khalil, King Saud Univ., Riyadh
3. “Linguistic Advantages and Constraints in the Classroom: Judeo-Spanish as an L2,” Bryan Kirschen, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
For abstracts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
263. John Clare: The Voices of Nature
Chicago C, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the John Clare Society of North America
PRESIDING: Rochelle Johnson, Coll. of Idaho
1. “Speaking for the Trees: Margaret Cavendish, John Clare, and Voicing Nature,” Bridget Mary Keegan, Creighton Univ.
2. “Clare’s Air: Sound in Motion,” Paul Chirico, Univ. of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Coll.
3. “John Clare: The Unusual and Challenging Natural Historian,” Eric H. Robinson, Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston
12:00 pm-1:15 pm
269A. Chicago Latina/o Writing: A Creative Conversation
Sheraton I, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Office of the Executive Director
PRESIDING: Ariana Ruiz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
SPEAKERS: Rey Andújar, Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe
Brenda Cárdenas, Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Paul Martínez Pompa, Triton Coll.
Achy Obejas, Chicago, IL
270. Women’s Education in Third World Countries
Parlor G, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Interdisciplinary Approaches to Culture and Society
PRESIDING : Shirin E. Edwin, Sam Houston State Univ.
1. “Narrative Approaches to Transmitting Regional Oral and Instrumental Literary Traditions in the Works of Aminata Sow Fall,” Julie Ann Huntington, Marymount Manhattan Coll.
2. “Gender, Class, and Education: Intersections in South Asian Literature,” Maryse Jayasuriya, Univ. of Texas, El Paso
3. “Women’s Schooling in Clarice Lispector’s Narrative: A Brazilian Education,” Alejandro E. Latinez, Sam Houston State Univ.
279. Dadaphone: Indeterminacy in Words and Music
Huron, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Lyrica Society for Word-Music Relations and the Association for the Study of Dada and Surrealism
PRESIDING : Jeff Dailey, Five Towns Coll.
1. “Black Dada,” Kathy Lou Schultz, Univ. of Memphis
2. “Aleatory Adaptation and Indeterminate Interpretation: Radiohead’s In Rainbows as Faustian Rock Opera,” Meg Tarquinio Roche, Northeastern Univ.
3. “Game Changer: Cage’s Word-Music Combination in ‘Renunion’ and ‘Solo 23,'” Sydney Boyd, Rice Univ.
4. “Graphic Notation in Contemporary Music and Its Debt to Dada,” Laura Prichard, Univ. of Massachusetts, Lowell
For abstracts, visit lyricasociety.org.
5:15 pm-6:30 pm
384. Literary Crossroads: African American Literature and Christianity
Addison, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Conference on Christianity and Literature and the Division on Literature and Religion
PRESIDING: Katherine Clay Bassard, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
1. “God’s Trombones, the Social Gospel, and the Harlem Renaissance,” Jonathan Fedors, Univ. of Pennsylvania
2. “When the Gospel Sings the Blues in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man,” Claudia Rosemary May, Univ. of California, Berkeley
3. “Faith Moves: Belief and the Body in Bill T. Jones’s Chapel/Chapter and Toni Morrison’sParadise,” Leslie Elizabeth Wingard, Coll. of Wooster
For abstracts, write to email@example.com.
403. Words, Works, and New Archives: Studying African American Literature in the Twenty-First Century
Michigan–Michigan State, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the College Language Association
PRESIDING : Warren Carson, Univ. of South Carolina, Spartanburg
1. “The Field and Function of African American Literary Scholarship: A Memorial and a Challenge,” Dana A. Williams, Howard Univ.
2. “The Black Book: Creating an Interactive Research Environment,” Kenton Rambsy, Univ. of Kansas
3. “Keepin’ It Interactive: Hip-Hop in the Age of Digital Reproduction,” Regina Bradley, Kennesaw State Univ.; Jeremy Dean, Rap Genius, Inc.
414. Literature and Media in the Nineteenth-Century United States
Chicago A–B, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Division on Nineteenth-Century American Literature
PRESIDING : Meredith L. McGill, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
SPEAKERS: Jonathan Elmer, Indiana Univ., Bloomington
Teresa Alice Goddu, Vanderbilt Univ.
Naomi Greyser, Univ. of Iowa
Brian Hochman, Georgetown Univ.
Christopher J. Lukasik, Purdue Univ., West Lafayette
Lauren A. Neefe, Stony Brook Univ., State Univ. of New York
For project statements, panelist biographies, and description of roundtable format, visit19thcamlitdiv.wordpress.com after 1 Dec.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 11, 2014
8:30 am-9:45 am
441. Socialist Senses
Ohio, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Slavic Literatures and Cultures
PRESIDING : Nancy Condee, Univ. of Pittsburgh
1. “The Materiality of Sound: Esfir Shub’s Haptic Cinema,” Lilya Kaganovsky, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
2. “From the Cinema of Attractions to the Cinema of Affect in Early Socialist Realism,” R. J. D. Bird, Univ. of Chicago
3. “Ineluctable Modality of the Visible: Gorky’s Return and the Onset of Clarity,” Petre M. Petrov, Princeton Univ.
For abstracts, visit mlaslavic.blogspot.com/ after 30 Dec.
447. The Seventies in Black and White: A Soundtrack
Purdue-Wisconsin, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING : Jack Hamilton, Harvard Univ.
1. “Mutts of the Planet: Joni Mitchell Channels Charles Mingus,” David Yaffe, Syracuse Univ.
2. “Righteous Minstrels: Race, Writing, and the Clash,” Jack Hamilton
3. “Broken Masculinities: Black Sound, White Men, and New York City,” Scott Poulson-Bryant, Harvard Univ.
10:15 am-11:30 am
474. African American Voices from the Civil War
Michigan–Michigan State, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING : Timothy Sweet, West Virginia Univ., Morgantown
1. “The Color of Quaintness: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Black Song, and American Union,”Jeremy Wells, Indiana Univ. Southeast
2. “‘If We Ever Expect to Be a Pepple': The Literary Culture of African American Soldiers,” Christopher A. Hager, Trinity Coll., CT
3. “‘And Terrors Broke from Hill to Hill': The Civil War Poems of George Moses Horton,” Faith Barrett, Duquesne Univ.
4. “The Negro in the American Rebellion: William Wells Brown and the Design of African American History,” John Ernest, Univ. of Delaware, Newark
485. Digital Practice: Social Networks across Borders
Missouri, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Division on Twentieth-Century German Literature
PRESIDING : Stefanie Harris, Texas A&M Univ., College Station
1. “Kafka and the Kafkaesques: Close Reading Online Fan Fiction,” Bonnie Ruberg, Univ. of California, Berkeley
2. “Network Politics, Wireless Protocols, and Public Space,” Erik Born, Univ. of California, Berkeley
3. “Intersections of Music, Politics, and Digital Media: Bandista,” Ela Gezen, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
Responding: Yasemin Yildiz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana
For abstracts, visit german.berkeley.edu/transit.
12:00 pm-1:15 pm
508. Performing Blackness in the Nineteenth Century
Chicago A–B, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Division on Nineteenth-Century American Literature
PRESIDING : Harvey Young, Northwestern Univ.
1. “Being Touched: Sojourner Truth’s ‘Spiritual Theatre’ and the Genealogy of Radical Black Activism,” Jayna Brown, Univ. of California, Riverside
2. “Frederick Douglass and the ‘Claims’ of Democratic Individuality in Antebellum Political Theory,” Douglas Jones, Princeton Univ.
3. “’Dey Make Me Say Dat All De Time: Performance Art, Objecthood, and Joice Heth’s Sonic of Dissent,” Uri McMillan, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
509. Becoming Chroniclers: Latin American Women Writers and the Press, 1920–73
Parlor F, Sheraton Chicago
PRESIDING : Vicky Unruh, Univ. of Kansas
1. “The Opportunities of Technology: Cube Bonifant’s Radiophonic Chronicles in El universal ilustrado,” Viviane A. Mahieux, Univ. of California, Irvine
2. “Key Moments in the Subversion of a Genre: Alfonsina Storni and Clarice Lispector Redefine Womanhood,” Mariela Méndez, Univ. of Richmond
3. “Issues of Gender and Genre: Isabel Allende and Clarice Lispector Writing Chronicles, 1968–73,” Claudia Mariana Darrigrandi, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
572. Illness and Disability Memoir as Embodied Knowledge
Los Angeles–Miami, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the MLA Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession
PRESIDING : Rachel Adams, Columbia Univ.
1. “Recoding Silence: Teresa de Cartagena, Medieval Sign Lexicons, and Deaf Life Writing,” Jonathan H. Hsy, George Washington Univ.
2. “‘Twisted and Deformed': Virginia Woolf, Alison Bechdel, and Crip-Feminist Autobiography,” Cynthia Barounis, Washington Univ. in St. Louis
3. “‘My Worry Now Accumulates': Sensorial and Emotional Contagion in Autistic Life Writing,” Ralph James Savarese, Grinnell Coll.
For papers or abstracts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org after 1 Jan.
3:30 pm-4:45 pm
586. Early Modern Media Ecologies
Great America, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING: Jen Boyle, Coastal Carolina Univ.
1. “Needlework Networks: Paper, Prints, and Female Authorship,” Whitney Trettien, Duke Univ.
2. “Sidney Circularities: Music and Script in the Contrafactum Lyric,” Scott A. Trudell, Univ. of Maryland, College Park
3. “Stage, Stall, Street, Sheet: Multimedia Shakespeare,” Adam G. Hooks, Univ. of Iowa
For abstracts, visit www.scotttrudell.com.
591. Multilingualism in Native American and Aboriginal Texts
Kane, Chicago Marriott
Program arranged by the Division on American Indian Literatures
PRESIDING : Beth H. Piatote, Univ. of California, Berkeley
1. “Reading Resistance and Resisting Readings in a Bilingual Text,” Laura J. Beard, Univ. of Alberta
2. “Narrative and Orthography in Cree Oral Histories,” Stephanie J. Fitzgerald, Univ. of Kansas
3. “Ongwe Onwe Languages in the Fourth Epoch of Iroquois History,” Penelope M. Kelsey, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder
4. “Poetics of ka ‘āina and na ‘ōiwi: Language(s) of Land, Earth, and the Hawaiian People in Haunani-Kay Trask’s Night Is a Sharkskin Drum,” Nicole Tabor, Moravian Coll.
5:15 pm-6:30 pm
624. Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy in Medieval and Early Modern England: Form and History
Old Town, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING : Ian Cornelius, Yale Univ.
1. “Singing and Speaking Boethius in Anglo-Saxon England,” Anne Schindel, Yale Univ.
2. “Sensible Prose and the Sense of Meter: Ethics and the Mixed Form in Boethius and After,” Eleanor Johnson, Columbia Univ.
3. “Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and an Expansive Theology in the Late Sixteenth Century: Queen Elizabeth’s Translation in Context,” Linda Suzanne Shenk, Iowa State Univ.
For abstracts, write to email@example.com.
625. Verbal and Visual Satire in the Nineteenth Century
Chicago F, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING : Joseph Litvak, Tufts Univ.
1. “Organizing Anarchy: Class, Intellectual Property, and Graphic Satire,” Jason Kolkey, Loyola Univ., Chicago
2. “The Reemergence of Radical Satire in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Frank A. Palmeri, Univ. of Miami
3. “Turn-of-the-Century Satirical Plots of Fenian and Anarchist Terrorism,” Jennifer Malia, Norfolk State Univ
645. Current Issues in Romance Linguistics
Parlor F, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Discussion Group on Comparative Romance Linguistics
PRESIDING : Andrea Perez Mukdsi, Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York
1. “Attribution in Romance: Reconstructing the Oral and Written Tradition,” Martin Hummel, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
2. “Pronouns and the Author-Reader Relationship in Academic Portuguese,” Karina Veronica Molsing, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul; Cristina Perna, Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul
3. “The Semantic Feature [+INFLUENCE] and the Spanish Subjunctive,” M. Emma Ticio Quesada, Syracuse Univ.
4. “Palatalization in Chilean Spanish and Proto-romance,” Carolina Gonzalez, Florida State Univ.
For abstracts, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 12, 2014
12:00 pm-1:15 pm
742. Socialist Culture in the Age of Disco: East European Popular Pleasures
Parlor F, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages
PRESIDING: Jessie M. Labov, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
1. “Imperial Disco: Czeslaw Milosz and Science Fiction,” Mikolaj Golubiewski, Free Univ.
2. “The ‘Movement of Writing Workers’ and State Stability in the 1970s German Democratic Republic,” William Waltz, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison
3. “Flaming Socialist Creatures: Hippies as Auteurs in Soviet Latvia,” Mark Svede, Ohio State Univ., Columbus
For abstracts, visit mlaslavic.blogspot.com/.
744. Mass versus Coterie: The Audiobook
Missouri, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Division on Prose Fiction
PRESIDING : Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Rutgers Univ., New Brunswick
1. “‘Fully Fleshed Out and Filled with Emotion': Accent, Region, and Identification in the Reception of The Help,” Sydney Bufkin, Univ. of Texas, Austin
2. “Joyce, LibriVox, and the Recording Coterie,” Brandon Walsh, Univ. of Virginia
3. “Alien Stereo: China Mieville’s Embassytown,” Christopher Pizzino, Univ. of Georgia
1:45 pm-3:00 pm
788. Back Up Your Work: Conceptualizing Writing Support for Graduate Students
Grace, Chicago Marriott
PRESIDING : Liana Silva-Ford, Houston, TX
Tara Betts, Binghamton Univ., State Univ. of New York;
Lee Ann Glowzenski, Duquesne Univ.;
Annemarie Pérez, Loyola Marymount Univ.
Abigail Scheg, Elizabeth City State Univ.
792. Old Materials, New Materialisms
Missouri, Sheraton Chicago
Program arranged by the Division on Methods of Literary Research
1. “Objects, Authors, and Other Matter(s) in the Gloria Anzaldúa Archive,” Suzanne M. Bost, Loyola Univ., Chicago
2. “Writing Histories of Listening: Acoustemology as Literary Practice,” Ely Rosenblum, Univ. of Cambridge
3. “Even the Stones Cry Out: Archival Research and the Inhuman Turn,” Andrew Ferguson, Univ. of Virginia
4. “A Life of Its Own: A Vital Materialist Look at the Medieval Manuscript as an Agentic Assemblage,” Angela Bennett Segler, New York Univ.