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Afecto Caribeño / Caribbean Affect in Desi Arnaz’s “Babalú Aye”

Recently, the new biopic and telenovela Celia, La Serie on the life of Celia Cruz reminded me of how her iconic call “Azucar!”(translated as sugar) engaged audiences to feel the sabrosura of her music. The soap-opera included documentary footage of the larger iconic events in Celia’s career that could not be recreated, scenes that captured how Cruz and the audience connected. The scenes that best captured this are when Celia performs with Fania at Yankee Stadium in 1973 and in Zaire in 1974. When she felt the audiences’ joy in her performance she’d share that expressive sentiment of the sweetness in the moment, taking audiences to a deeper ecstatic place.

I also felt and witnessed this myself when I saw Cruz perform at the Hollywood Bowl decades ago. It’s akin to what I sensed when also hearing Damaso Pérez Prado’s guttural “Maaam-bO” in his “Mambo No 5.” While watching Celia, La Serie, I asked my mom if she had ever watched Desi Arnaz on I Love Lucy. Her response included a dislike for Arnaz, while I remembered enjoying his performance of “Babalú Aye.” Our exchange raised the question: can Arnaz’s performance, like Cruz’s expressive phrasing or Pérez Prado’s musical cue, unify a Latinx and African diaspora through sound and affect?

1545202263_bc9f44a65c_oI posit that Arnaz’s televised performances of “Babalú Aye” like Celia’s “Azucar” or Prado’s “Mambo” exemplify what Alejandra T. Vazquez calls in Listening in Detail “vocal armament and ornament” (132), a sound that cultivates an afecto caribeño among Spanish-speaking diasporic migrants and their descents. My use of afecto here is a key sonic detail, playing upon the Spanish meaning to show tenderness and emotion. I also appreciate affect theory as it provides a framework by which to explore the emotionality and connection to experiences that have not been named. For example, in “Feeling, Emotion, Affect,” Eric Shouse writes about affect as “the body’s way of preparing itself for action in a given circumstance by adding a quantitative dimension of intensity to the quality of an experience. The body has a grammar of its own that cannot be fully captured in language.” I attempt here to cultivate a language that address how Arnaz’s physical and sonic articulation sets an entry to examine contributions by members of the Latinx Caribbean diaspora and its reach to those of us hearing and seeing them in a US context.

Growing up bilingual and bicultural in Los Angeles, I saw how my mom retained a bit of her homeland by watching a variety show called Siempre en Domingo. Many of the artists who performed were also heard on the local Spanish language station K-Love. The ritual gathering on Sunday nights as we watched the show metaphorically united my mom with her family.I believe that viewing and hearing her Mexico made the distance away from her family soften. For me, listening to the songs I heard on Siempre en Domingo then replayed on the radio helped codify something more than Mexican; it was pan-Latino. These moments of engaging with television shows mediate my experience of sound and affect, which I’ve named afecto caribeño (translated to “caribbean affect”).

l and rMy fondness of Desi Arnaz stems from a familiarity of Spanglish when I saw my first episodes of I Love Lucy (1951-1957) on Saturdays on KTLA. Its stars, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, played a married couple, and the comedy of errors would inevitably involve “Lucy Ricardo” trying to scheme something. In real life, Ball and Arnaz were a Hollywood power couple who produced their show, establishing a practice of syndication rights paid to the actors. Arnaz played “Ricky Ricardo,” the owner of the Tropicana nightclub where he was also the bandleader. When scenes featured him at the club he would always play the congas, thus creating a continuum of his earlier career as a musician to now television star.

Hearing Desi Arnaz speaking inglés with a Cuban accent was familiar to my ears. I knew that sound of English blended with español because it was what I heard from my parents and their acquaintances. In the show, misunderstandings happened because one could not decipher what “Ricky” meant or said. The mistranslations led to some comedic moments and the establishment of a long-running comedic television trope at the expense of Latino characters and actors, as explored by Dolores Inés Casillas and Sebastien Ferrada in “Listening to Modern Family’s Accent.” However, in Life on the Hyphen, Gustavo Pérez-Firmat describes Arnaz’s nilingüe–someone who speak neither Spanish nor English—and argues his nilingüe-ism was personified through “Ricky Ricardo” as “Spanish utterances shot through anglicisms so that the monolingual viewer can understand what he was saying” (43). But, Arnaz did not reach only “English-only’ ears. To my pocha ears Arnaz spoke a familiar—and not incorrect—spoken Spanish. As a young viewer, I had no reference for his mistakes. Sonically “Ricky’s” familiarity came through when he complained about “Lucy” in Spanish. Hearing the español I spoke at home on “I Love Lucy” is how I connected to the hyphened Americano via tv. Nowhere was this more pronounced than with Ricardo’s frequent performances of “Babalú”.

Diosa Costello and Desi Arnaz in Too Many Girls (1939)

Diosa Costello and Desi Arnaz in Too Many Girls (1939)

Before his film career, Arnaz was known as the mambo king. Due to his lackluster rise as a “Latin Lover” in Hollywood, Arnaz returned to work as a musician and began singing his signature “Babalú” around 1943. The song is attributed to Margarita Lecuona and published in 1939. “Babalú” conflates the popular 1940s-50s big band sound with a Cuban folksong (or son) sung to the Orishas (deities or gods). Babalú is an Orisha deity who oversees health and is revered because of his power over life and death, and is also known as San Lázaro within the pantheon of Catholic saints. By the time Arnaz made the song popular in the United States, the song had also been associated with Miguelito Valdés, who was known as “Mr. Babalú.” Other musical contemporaries like Damaso Pérez Prado were also making a name for themselves by developing a new sound that Latinized dance music in the U.S. According to Ed Morales in Living in Spanglish, it is in the 1950s that Prado creates his signature sound in Mexico City by “mixing North American swing and bebop” known as mambo (152).  However, it is Arnaz’s performance that I reference because of its reach to a multi-generational audience through syndication of the “I Love Lucy” show.

Desi_Arnaz_1950Each time Arnaz performs “Babalú” it serves as an offering to the Orisha to heal the longing for a homeland he left long ago, as experienced by many musicians like Cruz who live in exile. With each performance on the “I Love Lucy Show,” Arnaz reconnects to his cultura. Performing this on national television it’s not about the Anglo viewer who only sees Arnaz as the “Rhumba Rhythm King” (sic) (Pérez-Firmat, 52) made famous in movies; rather it is about Arnaz creating a space of agency through a prayer and healing ritual in song, thus an expression of Afecto Caribeño connecting the Latinx diaspora to something beyond national borders and generations.

For example, in Season 2 episode 21 “Lucy Takes a Job at the Bank,” Arnaz (as Ricky Ricardo) brings out his son Ricky Jr. to play the congas alongside him. Ricky as proud father shares his joy in this moment. The camera pans out to Lucille Ball and her co-star Vivian Vance sitting at the table. Arnaz instructs his son to “say thanks” and he replies in Spanish “gracias.” This exchange is profound because it accentuates the bilingualism and bicultural exchanges that happen in the home space now introduced to many via television. Arnaz continues, “Even though Little Ricky was born in America, there’s lots of Cuban in his heart.” The Cuban in his heart plays out in sonic beats through a father-and-son performance on the congas and the calling upon “Babalú Aye.”  Both Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz are happy parents, not just stage parents, who revel in this moment. As Ricky Jr. plays, his mother bangs on the table too and Arnaz looks up to the sky as if in gratitude for this moment to the Orisha Babalú.

Upon reflection, I am aware of how television informed my childhood search for something that reflected how I spoke and heard the world. In these linguistic-sonic moments I reconnected to my mother’s homeland and sought to make sense of my pocha identity when I heard English spoken with a Spanish accent. In Relocations, Karen Tongson names these moments of connection that occur through a technological network as “remote intimacies” that can “account both technically and affectively, for the symbiosis that can happen between disparate subjects. . .I like to think that these imaginary correspondences sometimes have to happen across greater distances, both conceptually and topographically with other ethnicities, accents, nations (130)” The conceptual and topographical correspondence informs afecto caribeño as a means to enable critical connections to a Latinx diaspora centered en el Caribe highlighting the mestizaje of African and Spanish heritage, thus expanding upon Paul Gilroy’s notion of the “black Atlantic” on how the Atlantic slave trade also impacted culturally el Caribe.  Upon singing “Babalú Aye” Arnaz’s performance not only is a disruption to Anglo American viewers, but also “disrupts the myth of Cuban whiteness” (Vasquez, Listening in Detail, 150).

babalu-desiI am drawn to sonic experiences that can help unpack Latinidad and the multicultural roots that are informed by other migrations of Africans, Asians, and Spaniards to the Américas. I am a descendant of these mestizajes, as Gloria Anzaldúa writes in her canonical text Borderlands / La Frontera. A concept like afecto caribeño addresses the social and emotional exchanges that emanate from the complexity of these migrations and how they reveal themselves in momentary connections. When Arnaz performs as “Ricky,” he breaks that character upon playing the congas. Here he does not act as the nightclub owner; the reverberation of the conga mediates an  embodiment of his true self exemplifying un afecto caribeño.  

reina alejandra prado saldivar is an art historian, curator, and adjunct lecturer in the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and Liberal Studies Department at CSULA and in the Critical Studies Program at CALArts. As a cultural activist, she focused her earlier research on Chicano cultural production and the visual arts. Prado is also a poet and performance artist known for her interactive durational work Take a Piece of my Heart as the character Santa Perversa (www.santaperversa.com) and is currently working on her first solo performance entitled Whipped!

Featured Image: Desi Arnaz performing with Diosa Costello, 1948.

tape reel

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Look Who’s Talking, Y’all: Dr. Phil, Vocal Accent and the Politics of Sounding White

From the first time Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D.—better known as “Dr. Phil”—appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1998, dropping lines like, “My dad used to say, boy, don’t let yer alligator mouth overload yer hummin’ bird ass,” I was hooked. That accent! That no-nonsense, Southern sauce! From what fount of otherworldly knowledge did Phil drink? An insecure teen, gnawing and thrashing my way through high school’s convoluted social milieu (not to mention the murky waters of multiraciality), Dr. Phil’s frank, accented approach to life’s difficulties appeared as a god-send. It didn’t matter much what Dr. Phil was actually saying or whether his words when strung together formed logical thoughts, it was more the way he said things that affected me so. His deep, sing-songy lilt—preachy and avuncular—brought to mind a grandpappy smoking a pipe, whose wisdom was drawn from a hard day’s farmin’, not a god-forsaken textbook.

With Oprah’s endorsement, the Cult of Phil grew fast and strong. Dr. Phil became a national figure–the corporate media’s version of a public intellectual and my own personal hero. His daytime talk show provided him with a regular platform from which to dispense more of that golden, “Texan-dipped” advice, as The New York Times put it. Selling over 2 million copies, his 2003 classic Self Matters began the onslaught of McGraw-family oeuvre, including several by his wife, Robin, and son, Jay–the face of Phil’s teen self-help brand.  Not just a sage, Dr. Phil’s commitment to the McGraw family brand let us know he walked the walk. As evidenced by Dr. Phil’s opening credits, which feature behind-the-scenes glimpses of Mr. and Mrs. McGraw canoodling and his smiley next of kin, this family was for real.  They loved and laughed together while cross-promoting each other’s book projects. Teenage Me wondered, did white people get better than this?

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 8.29.09 PM

Screen capture from the opening credits to Dr Phil

Today, Dr. Phil’s star, and my admiration for him, have faded significantly, but one thing remains the same. Ever since I can remember, my older sister and I have communicated almost exclusively via over-the-top, celebrity impersonations and Dr. Phil became a particular mainstay; even now, we religiously observe the maintenance of the Phil “voice.” Pre-Phil, I can recall my sister addressing me in a raspy, befuddled tone startlingly akin to the Keanu Reeves of yesteryear. Not soon after Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure became a permanent piece of our home VHS library, Reeves’ trademark method of delivering lines amidst staggered, nonsensical pauses became an obsessive, sisterly tick. “Dude, shut the door when you pee” she might say, staring blankly at me and cocking her head abruptly to the side.

The use of certain impersonations shifted with the ebb and flow of popular culture’s somewhat predictable tide, depending on whose video was “TRL’s” most requested or whose face most frequently graced the cover of TV Guide. I rehearsed George Herbert Walker Bush’s famous “thousand points of light” campaign ad in front of the stained glass mirror adjacent to the family room television; after that, it was all about Phil Hartman’s witty and endearing impersonation of Bill Clinton.

https://screen.yahoo.com/clinton-mcdonalds-000000491.html

It went on that way until Dr. Phil’s shit blew up, and everything became solidified–as if, finally, my sister and I had found our one true voice. With age, I came to understand that Phil wasn’t the prophetic genius I’d hoped he was and that our compulsive Phil-talk was an oddity, to say the least. I began to wonder why, even as adults, we continued to embarrass ourselves in public and take such pains to text each other in mock-“Texan” (thank goodness for smart phones’ “add word” function).

It’s actually quite common for people to adopt alternate voices or speech patterns. Take, for example, child-directed speech (“babytalk”) or pet-directed speech. Both are customized forms of vocal communication or “prosodic modification,” which, while differing dramatically from normative adult speech in their intonation and grammatical structure, are considered customary forms of address. In fact, cross-linguistic studies show that babytalk and pet-directed speech are common across other European languages, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. As such, parents and pet owners can rest well knowing that prosodic modification of the child and dog varieties are nearly universal human ticks. Unfortunately, research into child- and pet-directed speech didn’t provide much insight into the unique phenomenon of “Phil-talk.” I had hoped to find other accounts in the literature, a history of similar episodes that might lift the shroud of tomfoolery, explain it away as all too common or evidence of psychological disorder x, y or z, something treatable with an esoteric name.

"Dr. Phil in Jacksonville" by Flickr user Craig ONeal, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Dr. Phil in Jacksonville” by Flickr user Craig ONeal, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While at this point in my life Phil-talk is more or less an asinine charade, it continues to function as a key component of our familiar vernacular. Interestingly, when re-visiting the many impersonations that have come to define our adolescent years (the Keanu years, the Bush Sr. years, the Phil years), one thing becomes clear: all the voices we’ve adopted have been those of white, male, cultural standard-bearers (Ironically, Keanu Reeves also happens to be Hapa, though I never knew as much. His breakout role as “Ted” helped to popularize the “California dude” archetype). Additionally, I should note, that at no time did any female impersonations enter my repertoire. If you’re going to gain a voice, better make it a male one, no? The racial and gender dissonance that Phil-talk begets drives the urge to perform it.

The author's mother, with the author's sister and the author. Picture is property of the author.

The author’s mother, with the author’s sister and the author. Picture is property of the author.

From an early age, my mother would tell me tales of her sacrifice—how hard she worked when she came to this country and how difficult life could be in 1960s post-war South Korea—all in a voice with barely a shred of mispronunciation or foreign intonation. My father, a second-generation Swiss-Italian American, scrupulously corrected her syntactical missteps and any other vocal nuances that sounded un-American. It was important to my mother to succeed as an American, and most importantly, that her children succeed too. The pressure I felt to make her content was borderline unbearable. When I started doing the voices, it made my mother happy. She sometimes tried joining in, attempting to mimic key Phil phrases like, “You have gawt to get reee-al,” but to no avail. “You do it better than me,” she’d say, “…my accent.”

When I was young, people looked at me and asked, “what are you?” OR “where are you from?” “America,” I would say. “I’m an American.” These questions were provoked by the racial ambiguity of my mixed-race heritage–the hint of Asianness that marked me as something else. I could not change the shape of my eyes, the contour of my cheeks or the fact that my mother was Korean. But, I could try my hardest to act and sound like an American. Phil-talk became a way to obscure the Asianness, to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I did, in fact, belong.

Rather than being merely a childhood performance of celebrity impersonations, I have come to think these various chapters were actually an attempt to perform sonic whiteness. Whether it was Keanu’s California dude cadence, George Bush Senior’s waspy nasality, or Phil’s prolonged Texan twang, I tried to perform in what Aja Martinez defines as “white voice” in her article “‘The American Way’: Resisting the Empire of Force and Color-Blind Racism” (593). She talks about Latino/a students using a “white voice” at school because they equate it with the voice of higher education, but I am really using it here as an explicit racial performance. As a a half Korean, half Euro-American teen girl (now woman) who decides to very literally adopt the voice of a White, 50-something, Texan, TV psychologist, “white voice” was the name of the game, and people loved it–especially my Korean immigrant mother.

For Asian Americans in particular, a people whose national belonging has been culturally questioned and legally denied, accents substantiate and make audible what the eye sees as un-American. In Shilpa Dave’s recently published Indian Accents: Brown Voice and Racial Performance in American Television and Film, she explores accents as they relate to cultural citizenship, national belonging and “the allocation of power.” Someone with an accent is “designated as an outsider to the dominant culture,” writes Dave. In contradistinction to “foreign” sounding accents, Southern accents are a classic symbol of American cultural belonging, like apple pie for the ears.

Would Phil’s wisdom sound as powerful or palatable without the accent? His appeal stems not only from his sometimes entertaining “Phil-isms” (e.g. “You can’t hide the sunrise from a rooster”), but from all that he and his voice signify. A white, male doctor giving advice on TV is hardly noteworthy, but Phil’s recognizably Southern accent separates him from the pack and softens the blow of his often severe advice.

Angela George [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Angela George [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Phil’s accent (and his ringing endorsement from Oprah, long a trendsetter for the white middle class) have a way of diminishing racial and class barriers and cleverly marketing his advice as “good ol’ common sense” that everyone can get behind. Though Southern African American vernacular is often represented, negatively, as “improper” or evidence of inferior educational attainment, a White doctor using many of the same linguistic nuances is considered “charming” and “folksy.” One of the reasons people listen(ed) to Phil is because he’s a good, moustachioed Southern doctor that’s gunna tell it to ya straight, ya’ll. This kind of cultural capital is hard to manufacture. This, I figured wrongly, was what I stood to gain, not considering for a moment all that might be lost.

Constantly searching for ways to be seen, heard, and accepted within an American system of racial binarism that privileges whiteness, denigrates blackness, and locates yellowness somewhere in a No Man’s Land of racial categorization, sound’s flexibility has always seemed to me like a means to belonging. Furthermore, as a multiracial, Korean/White woman, even no man’s land can seem out of reach. As Michael Omi notes in the Introduction to The Sum of Our Parts: Mixed-Heritage Asian Americans, within the historical and political context of the United States, (the “one-drop rule,” eugenic fears of racial intermixing, anti-miscegenation laws, etc.) multiracial identities have consistently been “contained, disregarded, [and] denied.” Multiraciality disorients and confuses insofar as it can discredit entrenched signifiers which make race perceptible to the eye and ear.

Previously on Sounding Out!, I discussed my identification with Nas and the rap world as both a move towards color and the formation of an authentic, multiracial self. A move in the opposite direction, experimenting with “white voice,” functions as another attempt to navigate America’s system of racial identification, albeit in a much more problematic vein. After years of Phil-talk and vocal impersonations of the white male variety, I am finally putting a stop to the charade. However earnest (or subconscious) an attempt to belong, the loss of time spent mimicking Phil represents an era of racial silencing that is somewhat difficult to stomach. Despite the amusement it has brought to friends and family, I am putting the voice to rest in service of getting real.

Featured image: “Dr. Phil” by Flickr user House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Christie Zwahlen is the Assistant Director at Binghamton University’s Center for Civic Engagement, where she has worked for four years to develop, expand and promote community engagement opportunities for students, faculty and staff. Previously, Christie worked for two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA, designing Service-Learning courses in conjunction with faculty at Thiel College and as the Coordinator of the Bridging the Digital Divide Program at Binghamton University. Christie earned her Master’s Degree in English and a Graduate Certificate in Asian & Asian American Studies from Binghamton University in 2009. She is currently enrolled in the English PhD program at Binghamton University.

That Infernal Racket: Sound, Anxiety, and the IBM Computer in AMC’s Mad Men

[Warning: Spoilers Ahead for Folks Not Caught Up with Season 7, Episode 5!]

In one of the more memorable – and squirm-inducing – scenes of this season of AMC’s Mad Men, brilliant but eccentric copywriter Michael Ginsberg (Ben Feldman) presents his colleague, agency copy chief Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) with his own severed nipple, placed carefully in a gift box. Ginsberg explains to the understandably horrified Peggy that the gift is both a token of his affection and a means of relieving pressure caused by the arrival of Sterling, Cooper & Partners’ (SC&P) newest acquisition: a humming, room-sized IBM System/360 mainframe computer. Explaining his enmity for the machine and his increasingly erratic behavior, Ginsberg tells Peggy that the “waves of data” emanating from the computer were filling him up, and that the only solution was to “remove the pressure” by slicing off his “valve.”

The arrival of the IBM 360 in the idealized 1960s office space inhabited by Mad Men is obviously an unsettling presence – and not only for Ginsberg. Since its debut in Episode 4, commentators (e.g. WaPo’s Andrea Peterson, Slate’s Seth Stevenson) have meditated on the heavy-handed symbolism surrounding the machine – both in terms of its historical significance and its implications for plot and character development. Typically cued through noise (or lack thereof), it is worth reflecting upon the role of sound in establishing the computer as a source of disruption. Between the pounding and screeching of installation and the drone of the completed machine’s air conditioner and tape reels, the sonic motifs accompanying the computer underline tensions between (and roiling within) SC&P staffers grappling with the incipient digital age. Likewise, the infernal racket produced by the installation and operation of the IBM 360 adds an important dimension to the tensions resulting from its presence, which can be read as allegories for the complexities and contradictions of our relationship with technology.

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The tone of the conflict is set even before we meet the IBM 360 toward the end of Episode 4: The Monolith – a reference to Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (Slate’s Forrest Wickman ably discusses the references). Like the unnerving silence used with such great effect in that film, the absence of sound frames our first encounter with the computer – or at least its promise. Early in the episode, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), newly rehabilitated from his forced exile from the agency, arrives one morning at SC&P to find the office deserted. The ghostly sequence is clearly meant to symbolize Draper’s detachment from the firm. But as the episode progresses and tensions mount over the possibility that the IBM 360 will render jobs obsolete, the desolate office suggests a more ominous meaning – a once lively space muted by cold, impersonal automation.

In following scenes, successive stages of mainframe installation are marked by convergences of conflict and cacophony. First, there is the din of the creative team as they evacuate their beloved lounge – now earmarked as computer space – and during which a distraught Ginsberg projects his indignation onto art director Stan Rizzo, who appears more accepting. “They’re trying to erase us!” Ginsberg exclaims bitterly. Later, Draper lounges on his office couch as a clop clopping of hammers outside signifies tangible change. As if this weren’t enough of a distraction, two men in the corridor begin to chat loudly over the noise. Going out to investigate, Draper strikes up a conversation with one of the men, Lloyd Hawley, installation supervisor and founder of a small technology company competing with IBM. “Who’s winning?” Draper asks innocently, “who’s replacing more people?” Clearly irritated by Draper’s tone, Harry Crane – SC&P media director and the computer’s lead cheerleader – offers Draper a condescending apology for the loss of his “lunchroom,” assures him the change was “not symbolic.” “No, it’s quite literal,” Draper retorts. Unabated, the pounding and screeching of construction work emphasizes his point.

For the remainder of the episode, the raucous noise of construction acts as a leitmotif underscoring tensions between characters – between Peggy and Lou Avery (Draper’s priggish replacement at creative director), and between Draper and the interloper Lloyd. Finally, the end of construction is punctuated by a return to silence, as Peggy arrives one morning to see workers glide mainframe components noiselessly into the office.

Mad Men Logo. Used under the auspices of fair use for identification and critical commentary.

Mad Men Logo. Used under the auspices of fair use for identification and critical commentary.

With this emphasis on technology as a source of symbolic, physical, and sonic disruption, Matthew Weiner and the creators of Mad Men draw upon a rich literary tradition. A relevant example contemporaneous with the show’s “present,” is literary critic Leo Marx’s 1964 text The Machine in the Garden, which examines the complicated relationships between a “pastoral ideal” and technological progress within American literature and popular imagination. Marx’s analysis reveals that sound is often used to convey the disruptive presence of technology within the bucolic landscape of the American continent. In Hawthorne’s Sleepy Hollow for example, it is the interrupting shriek of a locomotive whistle that breaks the author’s harmonious reverie: “Now tension replaces repose: the noise arouses a sense of dislocation, conflict, and anxiety” (15). In the decidedly un-pastoral modern office space, the noise of the computer installation nevertheless signifies a momentous social change and irrevocable loss. Picking out these tensions has always been one of the show’s strengths – whether it is the computer, Draper’s double identity, or the quiet endurance of women to the misogyny of midcentury work and domestic life.

Change, however, has significant consequences for Ginsberg, the young copywriter and Holocaust survivor who, as CBS’s Jessica Firger observes, has been deteriorating psychologically for some time. The proximity of the IBM 360, and the incessant drone of its mind-controlling waves eventually puts him over the edge. As Draper and Peggy enter the office early in Episode 5, Ginsberg glowers into the room housing the IBM 360. “Stop humming, you’re not happy!” he explodes. As Peggy attempts to soothe her colleague, our perspective shifts to look out at them from inside the glass-encased computer room. From here, the mainframe’s ambient noise muffles Peggy’s words, suggesting isolation between human and non-human. This play of speech and silence reoccurs later in the episode as Ginsberg, working alone on a Saturday with tissues wedged in his ears, spies Lou Avery and SC&P partner Jim Cutler inside the computer room, their voices made inaudible by the droning computer in a delicious homage to 2001 (see Vulture’s amusing gif). But the noise is clearly affecting Ginsberg. “It’s that hum at the office! It’s getting to me!” he tells Peggy later that evening. He even claims the computer has affected his sexuality.

Ginsberg’s noise complaints would have resonated in 1969 New York. In November of that year, the New York Times ran a feature on the city’s nerve-shattering noise pollution, calling it a “slow agent of death.” In addition to the myriad construction projects, subways, car horns, jet planes, and standing machinery populating the city soundscape, office workers found scant respite indoors where phones, air conditioners, “computers and typewriters and tabulators” whirred, whined, and clacked throughout the day. The article went on to report that scientists studying the impact of prolonged noise exposure on the human body had concluded a variety of ill effects on the heart and nervous system. Though no connection was made between computers and sexuality (as Ginsberg claimed), the article reported that laboratory rats under prolonged noise exposure had indeed “turned homosexual,” an opinion that underlined deterministic associations between sexuality, psychological disorder, and external stimuli.

An advertisement for the IBM 360. Borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.

An advertisement for the IBM 360. Borrowed from Wikimedia Commons.

As SO! editor Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman has argued, noise in midcentury New York also signified a sonic-racial politics, in which the mainstream “listening ear” recoiled at the “noise” created by Black and Puerto Rican others. In terms of Mad Men’s computer however, it is technology, economic anxiety, and mental illness, rather than ethnicity that frames sonic disruption. The basis of these tensions are similar however, and various interactions with SC&P’s IBM 360 demonstrate, as Stoever-Ackerman writes in SO!, “the ways in which Americans have been disciplined to consider some sounds as natural, normal, and desirable, while deeming alternate ways of listening and sounding as aberrant [and] dangerous.” Though similar, the conflict with technology on Mad Men does not suggest a clear us/them, or us/”it” binary. The banging of construction may be at first antagonistic, but it’s finite – eventually the computer is normalized within the SC&P office space to the extent that Peggy chides Ginsberg’s exasperation in Episode 5 by insisting “it’s just a computer!” Ginsberg’s reaction is more complex however, implicating a contradictory relationship with technology: once fully installed, has the droning computer become “natural, normal, and desirable” despite previous ambivalence? Is the keen awareness and anxiety towards technology symbolized through Ginsberg (albeit in a extreme form) suggested as the “aberrant” listening practice, or could it be Peggy’s apparent acceptance?

Like most cultural texts set in the past, it is possible to read Mad Men allegorically, as suggesting a certain ordering of meaning and values. From the perspective of those who have long since domesticated computers, the controversies and tropes activated by SC&P’s IBM 360 might strike us as familiar, even quaint. As the sociologist Bruno Latour has argued however, we would be wise to consider how technology exerts a kind of social agency that structures and impacts our daily lives. As historical symbolism, the sounds and noises of the IBM 360 on Mad Men should remind us that technological progress is not teleological, but a struggle over meaning in which anxieties (about jobs, mind-control, surveillance, subjectivity, etc.) may be variously accommodated, suppressed, or dismissed as irrational.

Featured image: An IBM 360 Mainframe. Borrowed from Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0

Andrew J. Salvati is a Media Studies Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University. His interests include the history of television and media technologies, theory and philosophy of history, and representations of history in media contexts. Additional interests include play, authenticity, the sublime, and the absurd. Andrew has co-authored a book chapter with colleague Jonathan Bullinger titled “Selective Authenticity and the Playable Past” in the recent edited volume Playing With the Past (2013)and has written a recent blog post for Play the Past titled The Play of History.”

tape reelREWIND!…If you liked this post, you may also dig:

“DIY Histories: Podcasting the Past” -Andrew J. Salvati

“The Noise of SB 1070: Or Do I Sound Illegal to You?”– Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman

“DIANE… The Personal Voice Recorder in Twin Peaks” -Tom McEnaney

Sound at SCMS 2014

SCMSlogo-roundWith a wide array of departmental affiliations and disciplinary backgrounds represented among its society membership, as well as an active and creative leadership, the annual meeting of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies is an excellent place to get a sense of where sound studies is and might be heading in the academy. To help read those tea leaves at this year’s upcoming conference in Seattle, we are thrilled to welcome one of the key figures working at the intersection of sound and media today, Denison University Communications Professor Bill Kirkpatrick.

Bill is not only a first-rate scholar — he’s at the forefront of emerging work on sound media and disability — but he’s also a producer, one of the people behind Cinema Journal‘s podcast Aca-Media, which is helping to show how sound can be not only a media studies topic, but a way of doing media studies. As one of the co-chairs of the Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group at SCMS, Bill has also taken a leadership role in promoting the work of many other scholars, and we’re excited to hear from him on the state of the field. Here are his thoughts and a curated guide for how to make the most of the conference in the Emerald City this year.

– SCMS/ASA Editor Neil Verma

The Society for Cinema and Media Studies is clearly in a boom period for sound studies. In interviews for the March episode of Aca-Media, SCMS programmers Angelo Restivo and Bruce Brasell each noted the extraordinary rise in papers on sound as one of the key trends in the field, and the 2014 schedule bears this out with nearly 150 papers related to sound, music, and radio—an average of thirty each day of the conference, which will take place in Seattle from March 19-23.

Last year, in his 2013 SCMS preview for SO!, Neil Verma sounded a little nervous that this rise in sound-related papers was somehow too good to be true: “This year may mark the point at which sound studies became – likely temporarily, and perhaps distressingly – normal.”  It might be temporary, but the quantity and variety of papers on sound again this year is definitely not distressing. Even more than last year, this year’s conference goes well beyond radio, music, and soundtracks to offer papers on sound in airplanes, in museums, in video games, and on phones, as well as governmental policies connected to sound and more.

Here are some trends and highlights I noticed while going through the schedule:

  1. In my first read-through, I was alarmed by what appeared to be a decline in the number of radio-themed papers and panels.  We know that SCMS is still establishing itself as a good place for radio studies, which the still-nascent Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group is beginning to help, but it would have been nice to see a few more panels in this area.  After my second reading of the schedule, however, it’s fairer to say that radio is holding steady, especially if we count podcasting. I hope to catch a lot of these papers, and you can’t go wrong with any of the Radio Studies SIG-sponsored panels (marked by * below). In the “something different” category, I’m particularly interested in Matt Sienkiewicz’s paper on “Radio Islam” in Afghanistan and Lana Lin’s “Psychoanalytic Reading of Upton Sinclair’s Mental Radio,” which will look at the intersections between radio and telepathy in the early social imaginary.
  2. Last year Neil urged sound studies to “keep it weird,” and there are definitely some papers this year that fit that bill. One of my favorites is Stephen Groening’s study of how the airplane environment affects issues of immersion and distraction, which is one of those topics I wish I’d thought of first.  I also hope to catch a paper by Dimitrios Pavlounis on how silent films before 1920 used the detective dictograph as a plot device, constructing the idea of sound recording in a silent medium. Sarah Street’s “Synthetic Dreams: Color-Film-Music in the 1920s” will examine some notable sound-image experiments (including Eisenstein’s) during the 1920s. And though I don’t know anything about it but the title, Todd Decker’s presentation on “Helicopter Music” has got to be good, right?
  3. For a town with as storied a musical history as Seattle, the music offerings this year do little to take advantage of place (something that Neil also noted regarding last year’s conference in the even more storied city of Chicago). Nonetheless there are all kinds of cool papers on music and musicals. Given the Beatles nostalgia this year, William Gombash’s paper on the promotional films for “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” seems apropos; pair it with Jessica Fowler on “The Monkees and the Birth of New Hollywood” and a talk on Elvis Presley’s musicals by Amanda McQueen for a DIY ’60s pop-musical mini-conference.  Or you could go the other direction with a panel on Wagner (H13) and several intriguing papers on opera (look for the papers by Sabine Hake, Ling Zhang, and Jennifer Fleeger).
  4. This is a good year for technologies of sound, from the cinematic apparatus to the architecture of listening spaces.  See, for example, Meredith Ward’s paper on “Architecting Listening in the Cinema House” or Rafael Freire on “The Conversion to Sound in Brazil,” to give just two interesting examples.
  5. The Scholarly Interest Groups for Sound Studies and Radio Studies will each be holding business meetings with special programming.   The Sound Studies SIG will meet over lunch on Friday (3/21, 12:15-2:00 in Ballard).  The Radio Studies SIG will meet the next morning (3/22, 9:00-10:45 in Ballard) and will feature a talk by folks from Seattle indie rock station KEXP about radio in a streaming age.
"Tower Records Seattle Music Mural" by Flickr user Zoomar, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

“Tower Records Seattle Music Mural” by Flickr user Zoomar, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

To help you navigate these and the other offerings, I’ve provided not one but two conference guides. The first is arranged chronologically for all the sound-related panels. The second is arranged topically in four categories (Sound & Soundtracks, Music & Musicals, Radio and Podcasting, and Other: Museums, Airplanes, Phones, Video Games, and Policy).  I’ve also added content notes on just a few papers where I’ve been in contact with the author and learned a bit more about the talk.  I apologize in advance for the inevitable errors and omissions! [please report any flubs to SO! ASA/SCMS Special Editor Neil Verma, nkhv@soundingoutblog.com, we’ll make corrections as needed]

In closing, what should we look for—or at least hope for—from SCMS in 2015?  I’ll list my three biggies:

Music:  The quantity of papers this year on opera and classical music in film and media, while still small, suggests that SCMS might finally be emerging as a conference for music scholars beyond pop music, and I hope this trend will continue.  I can’t get into the methodological and theoretical rifts within the discipline of musicology here, but for years Norma Coates, Tim Anderson, and many others have been working to make SCMS a viable alternative to the dominant musicology conferences that, in large and small ways, are hostile to (or simply wrong for) critical-cultural music scholars, especially if their topic has a TV/film component. So let the word go out that they are welcome here!  As a side note, can someone please take better advantage of the amazing history of music in Montreal next year?

Sound:  Nothing to complain about here—sound is alive and well. I would like to see a few more papers on television and sound, and one could argue that the aesthetic and economic analyses of sound could be supplemented with more papers on political and social dimensions of sound.  But overall sound studies seems to be in excellent shape at SCMS.

Radio:  I’m not pessimistic about radio studies at SCMS, but it is also not where I had expected it to be at this point.  We need to encourage more international scholars to participate, and we can hope that the Montreal venue will make it easier and more attractive for European radio scholars—of whom there are many—to apply. Thematically, there remains a troubling “donut hole” in radio scholarship that I hope more scholars will address:  we have lots of work on early radio (into the 1950s), and lots of work on contemporary radio and podcasting, but that leaves a half-century gap that doesn’t receive nearly enough scholarly attention.  In other words, radio studies is far from exhausted, so I hope that radio scholars and the RS SIG can make 2015 a year of growth and diversification for radio at SCMS.

* = Sponsored by the Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group

** = Sponsored by the Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group

Featured Image: “KEXP, Seattle” by Flickr user Curtis Cronn, CC BY-ND-ND 2.0

Bill Kirkpatrick is Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the Communication Department at Denison University in Ohio. His research interests include broadcast history, media and disability, and media policy. He is currently working on an anthology on media and disability and a monograph on the intersections of radio and disability in the 1920s and ‘30s. He is also a co-producer of the film and media studies podcast Aca-Media (www.aca-media.org).

"Bumbershoot procession, 1974" by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives, CC BY 2.0

“Bumbershoot procession, 1974” by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives, CC BY 2.0


I. Chronological Index
Jump to WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014
Jump to THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2014
Jump to FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2014
Jump to SATURDAY, MARCH 22, 2014
Jump to SUNDAY, MARCH 23, 2014

II. Topic Index
Jump to SOUND & SOUNDTRACKS
Jump to MUSIC & MUSICALS
Jump to RADIO/PODCASTING
Jump to OTHER

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I. CHRONOLOGICAL LIST

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19

Session A 10:00 – 11:45 a.m.

A4: French Auteurs: Becker, Demy, Bresson, Bunuel

Tracy Cox-Stanton, SAVANNA COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN, “Film Sound, Footsteps, and Unvoiced Desire in Bresson’s “Pickpocket” (1959) and Bunuel’s “Belle du Jour” (1967)”

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A10: Knowing the Score

Kevin Donnelly, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON, “Phantom Power: Electrifying an Old Silent Film”

Ariane Lebot, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, “Composing the Narrative: Bernard Herrmann’s Contribution to De Palma’s ‘Obsession’ (1976)”

Megan Alvarado Saggese, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY, “From Sound to Cinema: Dissonance and Disruption between Adorno’s Theory of Film and Kagel’s “Antithese””

Christine Sprengler, UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, “‘The Broom That Sweeps the Cobwebs Away’: Vertigo’s Soundtrack as Sound Art”

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A16: Re-viewing Feminisms

Elizabeth Watkins, UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS, “Gesture and the Female Voice”

Alexander Russo, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA, “Androids as the New ‘Other’: Janelle Monae’s Feminist Afrofuturism in The Metropolis Suite” (focuses on the sonic attributes of race and gender, as well as her engagement with the sounds of masculine black music of the second half of the 20th century)

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Session B 12:00 – 1:45 p.m.

B6: Policy: The Law and other Gatekeepers

Birk Weiberg, ZURICH UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS, “Roy J. Pomeroy, Dunning Process Co., Inc., and Paramount Publix Corporation vs. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., Vitaphone Corporation, and Frederick Jackman: How the Movie Industry Learned about Patents.”

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B15: Promotional Culture

William Gombash, VALENCIA COLLEGE, “The Evolution of Media Convergence and Popular Music: The Promotional Films for “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever”” (will include discussion of how the Beatles recorded the songs and how the evolving nature of the complexities of the production of their music mitigated against live performances)

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B19: Avant-garde Aesthetic Strategies

Dustin Zemel, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Polyphony and Documentary Presentness”  (explores the idea of Bakhtinian literary polyphony and it’s relationship/relevance to film, using Jonas Mekas’s The Brig as an example of how overlapping voices in the soundtrack can effectively facilitate the presentation of multiple, autonomous presences.)

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Session C 2:00 – 3:45 p.m.

C6: Narrative Forms of/and American Authorship

Paul Cote, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, “Encountering Sonic Memories: Sound, Childhood, and Escapism in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.””

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C8: The Spaces of Media Production and Consumption

Meredith Ward, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “Black Boxes and Rich, Repressed Sounds: Architecting Listening in the Cinema House”

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C10: Listening to Films: Cinematic Sound and Media Culture in East Asia

Nicole Huang, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “Listening to Films: Radio and Communal Film Culture in 1970s China”

Kerim Yasar, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME, “Otozukuri: Affect, Ontology, and Techne in Early Japanese Radio Drama and Talkie Sound Effects”

Giorgio Biancorosso, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG, “Double Agents and The Poor Man’s Orchestra: Music and the Aesthetic of the Self in *Chunking Express* (1994)”

Ling Zhang, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, “The Flowing Ambiguity of Soundscape: Female Voice-over in Spring in a Small Town and Fei Mu’s Chinese Operatic Sound Aesthetic”

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Session D 4:00 – 5:45 p.m. 

D4: The Globalization of Post-Millenial Persian Media

Matt Sienkiewicz, BOSTON COLLEGE, “Uncle Sam’s Koran: American Broadcasting, Koranic Values and Hybrid “Radio Islam” in Afghanistan”

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D6: Objects: The Medium Is the Material

Paul Jasen, CARLETON UNIVERSITY, “Infrasound: Spectres of the Manmade Unknown”

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D10: Physician, Heal Thy Selfie

Stephanie Brown, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, URBANA-CHAMPAIGN, “‘A Waiting Room That Doesn’t Suck’: Negotiations of Agency, Authenticity, and Community in the “Mental Illness Happy Hour Podcast””

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D13: New Histories of Animation

Lora Mjolsness, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE, “Sound, Synchronization, and Subversion: The Early Animation of the Brumberg Sisters”

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D15: Distribution in the Digital Age

Tim Anderson, OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY, “Why Don’t We Give it Away?: Value and “Free” for an Emerging Music Industry”

Jeremy Morris, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “‘App’etite for Digitization: App-based Albums and the Virtual Commodification of Music”

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"Sub Pop 20th Anniversary!" by Flickr user Rakka, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Sub Pop 20th Anniversary!” by Flickr user Rakka, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


THURSDAY, MARCH 20

Session E 9:00 – 10:45 a.m. 

E1: Gender and Contemporary Technologies

Jacqueline Vickery, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS, “Mobile Phones, a Girl’s Best Friend?: How the Mobile Phone Industry Legitimizes Surveillance, Commodifies Talk, and Genders Technology”

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*E10: Sound: Aesthetics and Ideology

Justin Morris, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, “Radio Ranch: Emergent Seriality in 1930s Film and Radio”

Paula Musegades, BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY, “Silence is Golden: Aaron Copland’s Film Score for “The Heiress””

Yuki Takinami, UNIVERSITY OF TOKYO, “The Issue of Sound-Cinema Aesthetics in Early-1930s Japan: Theory and Practice”

Alejandra Bronfman, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, “Screeches, Static, and Silence: The Fragmented Terrain of Caribbean Radio”

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E13: Deleuzian Aesthetics

Justin Horton, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Vibration, Resonance, Deformation: Deleuze’s Soundful Aesthetics”

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E19: New/Media/Art/Objects

Alison Wielgus, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, “Watch Out! The World’s Behind You: Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable and the Promises of Expanded Cinema” (discusses the influence of La Monte Young and drone music on the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, and how the live performance of such music creates a new context for interpreting the Warhol films screened during the events; unfortunately Alison will not be able to attend the conference, but you can contact her for more information)

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Session F 11:00 – 12:45 p.m.

F1: Reconsidering Psychoanalysis and Media Studies: Towards a Productive Intersection

Lana Lin, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY,  “Are These Thoughts My Own?: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Upton Sinclair’s “Mental Radio””

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F5:  Margins of the New Wave: Japanese Cinemas of the 1960s

Michael Raine, UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, “Music, Musicals, and the Margins of the Japanese New Wave”

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F16: Feminist Approaches to War Media

Debra White-Stanley, KEENE STATE COLLEGE, “Combat Medicine, Gendered Trauma, and Audio-Vision” (an interdisciplinary integration of sound studies with the idea of “women at war”)

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F17: Negotiating Race in Digital Spaces

Sarah Florini, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “Networked Enclaves: Black Podcasters’ Responses to the George Zimmerman Verdict”

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**F18: Documentary Sound and the Global City

Rita Safariants, VASSAR COLLEGE, “The Gig is in the Boiler Room: Filming Leningrad’s Rock-n-Roll Counterculture”

Josh Glick, YALE UNIVERSITY, “The Renegade in the Network: Joe Saltzman, CBS, and Soundtrack Innovations”

Ashish Chadha, UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND, “Sound in the City: Experimental Documentaries of Films Division in India”

Noelle Griffis, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, “Telling it Like it Is: The Camera as Voice in AFI Supported Minority Youth Films of the 1960s”

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Session G 1:00 – 2:45 p.m.

**G18: Between Speech, Music, and Noise: The Voice in Recent Film and Television

John Richardson, UNIVERSITY OF TURKU, “Between Dialogue and Sound: The Voice, Audiovisual Flow, and the Aestheticizing Impulse”

Robynn Stilwell, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, “Walking and Talking and Singing and Dancing: Axes and Boundaries in the Television Soundscape”

Claudia Gorbman, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, TACOMA, “The Master’s Voice”

Mitchell Morris, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, “Fictions of the Facture: Vocal Realities in “Velvet Goldmine”

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Session H 3:00 – 4:45 p.m.

H3: Negotiating Identity, Belonging, and Citizenship in Transnational Latino Communities in the US

Veronica Zavala, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA BARBARA, “Alivianadas: Spanish-Language Radio Incentives”

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H4: French Film Archives: New Findings, New Forms

Charlie Michael, EMORY UNIVERSITY, “The Lescure Report and the Future of French Audiovisual Policy” (an analysis of the participatory blog that the French Ministry of Culture launched to have a public discussion about audiovisual reform)

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*H9: Regionalism, Accent, and Dialect at the BBC, 1930-1955

Debra Rae Cohen, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA, ““There’s No Such Thing as Reet”: Reclaiming Region in Burbleton””

Ian Whittington, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI, “Regional Voice, National Crisis: J.B. Priestley as Second World War Radio Celebrity”

Emily Bloom, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Speaking Oirish: The BBC Third Programme and Irish Drama”

Damien Keane, UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO, “A Back-Window on Belfast: W.R. Rodgers’ The Return Room”

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H13: Cinema & Wagner

Amy Stebbins, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, “Being Richard: History, Myth, and the Biopic”

Rebekah Rutkoff, CUNY, “Towards a Complete Order: Markopoulos and Wagner”

Ken Eisenstein, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO / BUCKNELL UNIVERSITY, “‘All Things Pass Into the Night’: Music, Montage, and Wagner in Billy Wilder’s “Love in the Afternoon” (1957)”

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*H15: Branded Entertainment of the Past

Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ““The Dean of Radio Salesmen” vs. “The Huckster”: Jack Benny’s Struggle with Sponsor Lucky Strike, 1944-1948”

Cynthia Meyers, COLLEGE OF MOUNT SAINT VINCENT, “The Problems of Branded Entertainment: BBDO, Sponsors, and Blacklists on Radio and Early Television”

Lauren Bratslavsky, UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, “Soft Hands and Soft Westerns: The True Stories of Death Valley Days, 1930-72”

Andrew deWaard, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, “Marty Weiser, Exploitation Agent: Product Placement, Publicity, and the Tie-Up Business in Hollywood, 1940-1980”

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H19: Intermedial Modernisms: Cinema’s Expanded Horizons in the 1920s

Sarah Street, UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL, “Synthetic Dreams: Color-Film-Music in the 1920s”

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H25: Once More with Feeling: Audiences, Origins, and Affect in the Hollywood Musical

Desiree Garcia, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Life Upon the Wicked Stage: The Origins of the Hollywood Show Musical”

Sean Griffin, SOUTHERN METHODIST UNIVERSITY, “Don’t Fence Me In: B Studio Musicals’ Appeal to Marginalized Audiences”

Caryl Flinn, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, “The Kitschy Feelings of Kitschy Musicals”

Kelly Kessler, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY, “I Dreamed a Dream of Close-Ups Gone By: “Les Misérables” and the Visual Excess of Stage-to-Screen Transfers in the FX Era”

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Session I 5:00 – 6:45 p.m.

I4: Museum as Medium: Technology, Spectatorship, Space

Karine Bouchard, UNIVERSITY DE MONTREAL, “(Im)mobilized Sound: Towards Listening Experiences in the Museum Exhibition.”

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**I10: Sounds of Labor: Musicians’ Employment in Hollywood’s Transition to Sound

Jennifer Fleeger, URSINUS COLLEGE, “Putting Opera to Work: Song, Stardom, and Labor in the Vitaphone Opera Shorts”

Rob King, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, ““I Want Music Everywhere”: Underscoring in the Hal Roach Studios’ Early Sound Films”

Daniel Goldmark, CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY, “The Musical Roots of “The Jazz Singer””

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I11: Rethinking Wong Kar-wei: New Approaches to an Established International Auteur

Angelo Restivo, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Wong Kar-wai: Sound + Image”

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I19: Makes Me Feel Some Kinda Way: Television and Black Women’s Affect

Racquel Gates, COLLEGE OF STATEN ISLAND, CUNY, “The Ratchet Public Sphere: Love and Hip Hop Atlanta and Black Women’s Culture”

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"Musicians and dancers at Pike Place Market, circa 1972" by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives, CC BY 2.0

“Musicians and dancers at Pike Place Market, circa 1972” by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives, CC BY 2.0


FRIDAY, MARCH 21

Session J 9:00 -10:45 a.m.

J1: What Is “The Symbolist Temptation?” The Aesthetics of Symbolism in Transnational Cinema

Tami Williams, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE, “A Music of Silence: Abstraction and Sensation in Belle Époque Symbolist Theater and 1920s French Art Cinema”

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J3: Brazilian Cinema Revisited: Technologies, Exhibition, Reception

Rafael Freire, UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL FLUMINENSE, “The Conversion to Sound in Brazil”

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*J10: Radio and Other Sounds

Hannah Spaulding, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “Eavesdropping as Entertainment: The Enormous Radio and Shut Up Little Man!”

Jack Curtis Dubowsky, ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY,  “The Music of Brokeback Mountain”

Ming-Yuen Ma, PITZER COLLEGE, “Noises of Protest: Sound, Race, and Violence in Christian Marclay’s Guitar Drag and Paul D. Miller’s Rebirth of a Nation”

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J19: Race, Gender, and the Body in Found Footage Film

Jaimie Baron, UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA, “Unintentional Singers and Racial Ventriloquism in Contemporary Found Footage Videos” (Explores how found footage (remix) videomakers are literally making their (speaking) subjects sing and how this constitutes a form of ventriloquism)

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Session K 12:15-2:00 p.m.

*Meeting of the Sound Studies Scholarly Interest Group

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K9: Medium and Method in “Early Television” History

Kate Newbold, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “Television Ontology and Media Methodology: Exploring Televisual Fragmentation in Phonograph, Broadcast, and Print Industries, 1926-1940”

Luke Stadel, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “Radio/Television/Sound, 1922-1941”

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K18: Revisiting Kurosawa

Michael Bourdaghs, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, “Hearing the Cold War: Kurosawa Akira’s Soundtracks and Soviet Film Theory”

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Session L 2:15-4:00 p.m.

**L10: Sound Waves: Technology and Practice in Film Sound

Charles O’Brien, CARLETON UNIVERSITY, “Multi-Track Sound and the Battle of Paris: American and German Films for French Distribution”

Eric Dienstfrey, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “Splits, Quad, and the Psychedelic: Dolby’s Rear Channels Examined”

Katherine Quanz, WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY, “The Industrial Impact of Toronto’s Transition to Digidesign Technology in the Mid-2000s”

Benjamin Wright, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, “Atmos Now: How Dolby is Transforming the Art and Craft of Sound Mixing”

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"Sound Garden" by Flickr user The Kozy Shack, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Sound Garden” by Flickr user The Kozy Shack, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


SATURDAY, MARCH 22

Session M 9:00-10:45 a.m.

*Meeting of the Radio Studies Scholarly Interest Group (featuring guests from KEXP to talk about radio in a streaming age)

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M4: What is Socialist Realism? Reexamining Soviet Post-montage Cinema

Vincent Bohlinger, RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE, “Soundtrack Design in Soviet Early Sound Film”

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M7:  Playing with Avatars

Lyn Goeringer, OBERLIN CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC, “No Avatar Required: Audio-reactive Games and Physical Connectivity”

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**M10: Global Approaches to Film Sound

Pavitra Sundar, KETTERING UNIVERSITY, “Thinking Sound, Rethinking History in Hindi Cinema”

James Lastra, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, “From Mickey Mouse to Peter Kubelka”

Esra-Gokce Sahin, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, “Soundscape and Humor in Acharaka Comedy in Prewar Japan”

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M16:  Hispanic Musicals: Nationalisms and Transnational Stars

Valeria Camporesi, AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF MADRID,, “Latin Stars, Spanish Women: Lola Flores in the 1950s”

Ana Lopez, TULANE UNIVERSITY, “La Vecindad: A Musical Space for the Mexican Cinema”

Dolores Tierney, SUSSEX UNIVERSITY, and Sergio de la Mora, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, DAVIS, “Re-mapping Mexican Cinema of the 1970s: Music and Female Sexuality in Zona Roja”

Enrique Garcia, MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE, “From Brechtian to Hollywood Approach: The Hispanic Community and Salsa Music in the Documentary Our Latin Thing (Nuestra Cosa) and the Biopic/Musical El Cantante”

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M17: Forms of Non-Fiction: Voices, Realisms, Disciplines, Shadows

James V. Catano, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Voiceover and the Essay Film”

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Session N 11:00-12:45 p.m.

N2: The Precarious Aesthetic in Contemporary Moving Images

Arild Fetveit, UNIVERSITY OF COPENHAGEN, “Death, Love, and Cinematic Nostalgia: The Precarious Aesthetic of Lana Del Ray” (linking the aesthetics of her videos to her music, in particular to the ways in which she uses her voice)

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*N6: Locating Radio: The Symbolic, Cultural, and Political Dimensions of ‘Place’ in North American Radio Broadcasting

Brian Fauteux, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “Localities and Independent Music in Satellite Radio Programming”

Catherine Martin, BOSTON UNIVERSITY, “‘I’ve Got My Eyes Open and I Can’t be Crooked’: Female Virtue and National Identity in “Terry and the Pirates””

Eleanor Patterson, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “This American Franchise: Negotiating the Production of Local Public Radio for a Global Audience”

Jennifer Wang, INDEPENDENT SCHOLAR, “Some ‘Homemakers’ are More Than Housekeepers: Negotiating Modern Living, Gendered Spheres, and the Rural Lifestyle in Wisconsin Radio”

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N11: The Little Flashlight of the Usher: Objects in Exhibition Between Spectator and Screen

Stephen Groening, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY, “‘If You Don’t Want to Look at It, No One Can Force You’: Spectatorship, Agency, and Headphones”

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**N16: Teaching Post-Production Sound From a Sound Studies Perspective

Mark Berger, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY

Jay Beck, CARLETON COLLEGE

George Larkin, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY

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Session O 1:00-2:45 p.m.

O4: Expanding the Meanings of Film: Cinema and the Nation in East Germany

Sabine Hake, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN, “The Popularity of High Culture: On the DEFA Opera Film”

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O8: Sinophone Cinemas

Alison Groppe, UNIVERSITY OF OREGON, “Multilingualism in Singaporean Film Dialogue: Authenticity or Argument?”

O14: Breath and the Body of the Voice in Cinema

Ian Garwood, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, “Lost in Non-Translation: Analysing Film Voices from a Position of Linguistic Incompetence”

Liz Greene, QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY BELFAST, “The Gasping Breath: Controlling the Female Voice in Hollywood Cinema”

Nessa Johnston, GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART, “The Embodied Aural Encounters of Drama-Documentary”

Philippa Lovatt, UNIVERSITY OF STIRLING, “Breathing Bodies: Sound and Subjectivity in the War Film”

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Session P 3:00-4:45 p.m.

P7: “Women Contained”: Figuring Feminism in the Films of Todd Haynes

Respondent: Maria San Filippo, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, BLOOMINGTON

Matthew Von Vogt, INDIANA UNIVERSITY, BLOOMINGTON, “Structural Anorexia in “Superstar””

Jess Issacharoff, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, ““Poison’s” Oath in Another Language: Todd Haynes’ Feminist Promise”

Michael Hetra, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, “Music and the Vicissitudes of Desire in Todd Haynes’s “Mildred Pierce””

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P18: Beyond Bond: Alternative Perspectives on the James Bond Franchise

Meenasarani Murugan, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY,  “‘Unlike Men, the Diamonds Linger’: Bassey and Bond beyond the Theme Song”

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*P22: Musics and Medias

Shawn VanCour, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, “In Search of Spectacular Sound: Aesthetic Innovation in Classical Music Programming on Early U.S. Television”

Lindsay Affleck, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, “The Young Man with a Horn: Harry James and the Intersection of the Big Band Era and Classical Hollywood”

Christopher Cwynar, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “Unbuttoning National Public Radio: Assessing the Place of Popular Music in NPR’s Current Affairs Programming”

Norma Coates, UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, “5% of It is Good:” Leonard Bernstein, CBS Reports, and the Cultural Accreditation of Rock Music”

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Session Q 5:00-6:45 p.m.

Q4: Staging Spain: Performance and Acting in Spanish Cinema

Tom Whittaker, UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL, ““Sounding Authentic: Direct Sound and Spanish Vocal Performance in the 1970s””

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Q5: Indian Cinema in the 1930s: Scripts, Parsi Theater, and Melodrama in the Early Sound Film

Anupama Kapse, CUNY, QUEENS COLLEGE, “At Home in One’s Voice: Melodrama and Aural Performance in the Early Sound Film”

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Q8: New Media History

Andrew Bottomley, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “What is Internet Radio? A Historical Genealogy of the Discourses of Radio in the Digital Era”

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Q15: Roadshows to Revisionism: Mapping Shifts in Distribution and Exhibition from the 1950s to the Present

Dennis Bingham, INDIANA UNIVERSITY – PURDUE UNIVERSITY INDIANAPOLIS, “‘Hey, Big Spender’: How Bob Fosse Ran Afoul of Roadshows and Discovered the Revisionist Musical”

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Q18: Sound, Vision, and Experience in Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s “Leviathan (2012)”

Respondent: Catherine Russell, CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY

Christopher Pavsek, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY, “Where’s the Sense in Sensory Ethnography?”

Ohad Landesman, TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY, “Faraway, So Close: “Leviathan” and the Digital Future of Observational Ethnography”

Eirik Frisvold Hanssen, NORWEGIAN UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, “‘His Eyes Are Like the Rays of Dawn’: Color Vision and Embodiment in “Leviathan””

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Q22: Cinematic Spaces in the Urban Global South

Paulina Suarez-Hesketh, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, “Dancing Pictures, Mobile Publics (Mexico City, 1930s -1950s)”

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"KEXP Concerts at the Mural" by Flickr user Chelsea Nesvig, CC BY 2.0

“KEXP Concerts at the Mural” by Flickr user Chelsea Nesvig, CC BY 2.0

SUNDAY, MARCH 23

Session R 9:00-10:45 a.m.

R2: War/Film

Todd Decker, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY ST. LOUIS, “Helicopter Music”

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R7: Labor Practice and Labors Lost

Josh Heuman, TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY, “All of This Sometimes Tends to Look Like a Closed-Shop Operation: Organizing and Professionalizing Labor Markets and Relations in Early Broadcast Writing”

Michael Slowik, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY, “Losing the Human Element: The Shift from Live to Recorded Music in Hollywood’s Early Sound Era”

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**R10: Sound Effects and Sound Affects

Karly-Lynne Scott, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “‘The Voice of Shouts and Moans’: Haptic Aurality, Resonance, and Affect in Pornography”

Ian Kennedy, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY, “Damion Romero’s I Know! I Know! and the Sonic Translation of Nonhuman Affect”

Dong Liang, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, “Is There a Sound Effect in this Score?: SFX in Transition”

Kelly Kirshtner, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MILWAUKEE, “Bodies of Proof: Sound and the Aesthetics of Discovery in Televisual Space”

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R20: Beyond Sight and Sound: Film and the Multisensory Experience

Respondent: Carl Plantinga, CALVIN COLLEGE

Joseph Kickasola, BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, “The Senses Know: Wong Kar‐Wai’s Multisensory Aesthetic”

William Brown, ROEHAMPTON UNIVERSITY, “A Touch of Nostalgia, or Time and Cinematic Synaesthesia”

Luis Antunes, UNIVERSITY OF KENT & NORWEGIAN UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, “Multimodal Segmentation in Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line”: Insight into the Time Window of Multisensory Integration”

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R24: About Time

Jeff Heinzl, UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, “MTV Meets Slow Cinema: Feedback Loops and the Long Take in G.O.O.D. Music’s Mercy (2012)”

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Session S 11:00-12:45 p.m.

S3: Nontheatrical Film Communities

Pamela Krayenbuhl, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, “Raising the Barre in Screendance Scholarship: An Archival Analysis of the Dance Company Film”

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S8: New Hollywood and the Archive

Jessica Fowler, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES, “We’re the Young Generation and We’ve Got Something to Say: The Monkees and the Birth of New Hollywood”

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S9: A Global Pre-History of Reality TV

Aniko Imre, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, “Socialist Idols: Reality Music Competition Programs in the Soviet Bloc”

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**S10: Audible Cinema: Explorations in Sound

Kartik Nair, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, “‘The Body in the Voice’: Labor, Sound, and the Cinematic Scream”

Chunfeng Lin, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, URBANA-CHAMPAGNE, “The Sound Identity of the Early Chinese Sound Films: Symbolism as Skin, Realism as Body, and Politics as Soul”

James Osborne, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, “Weaving a Sonic Dream: Voice, Sound, Music, and Meaning in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia””

Neil Lerner, DAVIDSON COLLEGE, “Investigating the Origins of Video Game Music Style, 1977-1983: The Early Cinema Hypothesis”

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S11: Historicising Stars

Kyle Barnett, BELLARMINE UNIVERSITY, “Stars on the Stereo: Variations on Phonographic Celebrity”

Amanda McQueen, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, MADISON, “”All They’re Good for Is to Make Money”: The Industrial Significance of Elvis Presley Musicals in 1960s Hollywood”

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S14: Agency in Media Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Empowerment

This is a workshop in which Elisabeth Soep of Youth Radio will be participating

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S15: Playing with the Interface

Lauren Cramer, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, “Race at the Interface: Rendering Blackness on WorldStarHipHop.com”

Kiri Miller, BROWN UNIVERSITY, “Gaming Gender in “Dance Central””

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S16: Questions of Realism

Antonio Iannotta, UNIVERSITY OF SALERNO, “A Sound Laboratory for the Modern: Sound in Italian Cinema from Neorealism to the 60s”

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Session T 1:00-2:45 p.m.

T5: Translation-Adaptation-Nation

Gerald Sim, FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY, “Cacophonies of Affection: Postcolonial Soundscapes”

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T7: Histories of Technologies

Dimitrios Pavlounis, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, “Audio Surveillance Goes to the Movies : William J. Burns, the Detective Dictograph, and the Idea of Sound Recording, 1910-1920”

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T17: Revisoning Black Time and Space through the Afrofuturist Moving Image

Kevin Ball, WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY, “The Incendiary Intergalactic: Sun Ra in Space Is the Place”

"Bumbershoot ad, 1974" by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives, CC BY 2.0

“Bumbershoot ad, 1974” by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives, CC BY 2.0

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