Tag Archive | Liana Silva

!!!!!!!, or Blog-o-Versary 7.0

!!!!!!!

** Click here to just cut to the chase and get the new mix already! LOL!**

From the very beginning, the exclamation point has been our thing. Our deeply meaningful, utopically earnest, passionately heartfelt, stubbornly insistent, collectively exposing-our-geeky-love-and-enthusiasm-to-the-world THING. And over the past seven years we have fought for it, demanded it—#sorrynotsorry print copy editors!—and, as is our fondest wish, lived and embodied it for our readers each and every Monday (and the occasional Thursday too).

On the occasion of our seventh Blog-o-versary, we wanted to share the affective vibrations of our ! with y’all, for the deceptively simple reason that we want you to feel !!!!!!!, too.

After seven years of inserting it here, there, and everywhere, we assure you our ! is not merely a visual throwaway or empty hijinks. Neither is it a public punchline to a private joke, a snooty/snotty academic tic, nor a precious hipster eye-roll.  It’s not a “brand.” It was not intended as nostalgic homage to the many ! bands from the aughts or the many !-heavy songs of 1970s and 80s punk (although “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!,” totally). And during these times of solidarity and upheaval, let us be especially LOUD and clear: the exclamation mark in Sounding Out! is not, and has never been, tongue-in-cheek. We really, really mean it!

So what, then, is the “!” in Sounding Out!??

You already know what it is.

It’s a sound.

A Cosmic Exclamation Point (NASA, Chandra, Hubble, Spitzer, 08/11/11), Image from Marshall Space Flight Center Flickrstream

A Cosmic Exclamation Point (NASA, Chandra, Hubble, Spitzer, 08/11/11), Image from Marshall Space Flight Center Flickrstream

It’s a shoulder-shaking shout expressing our desire for ourselves and our writers to be heard, a sound that reaches out and touches, and hears in turn. It’s a sound that viscerally performs our down-ness, our dedication, our willingness to go there (and to stay put and listen). It’s a wail of feedback. a belly laugh. a grito. a hearty WTF. a down low OMG yes OMG (s/o to ATCQ!). a tsk of tongue against teeth. a ribcage-rattling beat. a yessssss with an ‘80s elbow pump.  It’s the sound—heard, known, and sensed—of all those women feeling themselves at Beatles concerts, of thousands of voices rising together in love, power and frustration to tell the world (yet again) that #blacklivesmatter, to #sayhername and #stopkillingus . . .it’s not a specific sound, but yet you know it when you hear it, because it gives you goosebumps.

Our “!” is a—BLAM—mic drop, mixed with the grumble of the roadie who picks it up, fixes it, and passes it on. and, oh!, that anticipatory, skin-pricking static of listening out for who’s got next.

Exclamation Point (Chartreuse) by Richard Artschwager, Image by Flicker User Designmilk

Exclamation Point (Chartreuse) by Richard Artschwager, Image by Flicker User Designmilk

When we decided on the blog’s title back in 2009, the ! in Sounding Out! was never a subject of debate—it just appeared organically as an organic “AHA! of course!”  At the time, the “!” acoustically mirrored of how the editorial collective communicated enthusiastically with each other, and symbolized, sonically and ineffably, how we thought and, more importantly, felt about the mission we laid out for ourselves and the blog, the mission we explore, challenge and renew in the company of our readers each July.  That “!” puts in deeply resonant WORK, with dedication and feeling, just like we do—through words, but beyond, above, around, and below them too, hitting all those affective frequencies we don’t—or can’t—often talk about.  It’s a sound that, like us, merges and keeps changing with history, context, and experience.

Here’s what the “!” has meant, and sounded, in our seventh year:

!!!!!!! Dedication!!!!!!!

#Squadselfie (l-r): SO! interns Dhruv Sehgal, Daniel Santos, Michele Quiles and SO! Ed. in Chief J. Stoever

#Squadselfie (l-r): SO! interns Dhruv Sehgal, Daniel Santos, Michele Quiles and SO! Ed. in Chief J. Stoever

This spring, we completed our indexing project, which has been years in the making, with the dedication and assistance of our three undergraduate interns from the Binghamton University English Department: Daniel Santos, Dhruv Sehgal, and Michele Quiles.  In exchange for mentorship and the opportunity to throw themselves into the inner workings of SO!, these three tirelessly compiled a hotlinked listing of each and every post we have ever published (of which today’s is the 466th!).

Click here to view the index in all of its scrollable glory!

You can reorganize the list by title, date, or author—whatever suits your needs.  We hope this continues to keep our very worthy back catalog in circulation and that SO! only becomes easier to read, teach and learn from!

And, of course, we extend huge, hearty, and numerous praise-hand emoji thank yous to our trusty Assistant Visual Editor, Will Stabile, to Special Editor Neil Verma, who curated several series for SO! Thursdays this year, and to you, our dedicated writers, readers, retweeters, word-of-mouthers, sticker bearers, and general good vibe givers.  We are here because you are!

!!!!!!!SOUND!!!!!!!!

This year found our podcast series—helmed by Multimedia Editor Aaron Trammell—more experimental and sonic than ever.  While continuing to offer recordings of symposia (here’s one on Dirty Jerz punx), soundwalks (here’s one aural trip through Yoshiwara, Tokyo), and documentaries (here’s one on the New England Soundscape Project), our podcasts have included more installation work, bringing the sound art of folks such as Cecelia Suhr (“From Ancient Soul to Ether”) and David Mollin and Salomé Voegelin (“Languages of Exile”) directly to your inboxes, earbuds, and audiostreams. By way of celebrating our 50th (!!!!!!!) podcast, AT also handled some audiophile beef regarding our so-called “low-fi” aesthetic in his February 2016 post “A Manifesto, or Sounding Out!’s 51st Podcast!!!,” click here to read more about how and why we sound like we do.

!!!!!!!Exploration!!!!!!!

Sounding Out! continued to push the boundaries of the field of sound studies this year, geographically and intellectually.  We continued to amplify artists, scholars, research, and experiences beyond the US borders, this year focusing intensively on Canada (see the bold “Unsettling the World Soundscape Project” series curated by Neil Verma, edited by Randolph Jordan and featuring himself, Vincent Andrisani, and Mitchell Akiyama, ) and focusing more intensively on Asia, particularly Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China-via-Canada (in an excellent post by University of Southern California graduate student Christopher Chien on how format–and so-called “surface noise” record and express diasporic movements) and the pan-Asian performances of transgender sound artist Tara Transitory (Singapore, Vietnam, and Laos, as analyzed in a moving post by Justyna Stasiowska, a PhD student at Jagiellonian University in Poland).  We also began an experimental multi-part series tracing Rui Chaves‘s efforts to develop new, more context-oriented methods to archive Brazilian sound artists that will continue through early next year.

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“Exclamations,” image by Flickr user littlefishyjes

Intellectually, our themed series and forums explored–and pushed beyond–various boundaries in the cultural study of sound– challenging alleged demarcations between sound and “sense” (Karly Lynne-Scott‘s Hysterical Sound), queering distinctions between sound and touch (Airek Beauchamp‘s Sound and Affect), amplifying the sonics of ancient, seemingly-silent texts for contemporary listeners (Dorothy Kim and Christopher Roman‘s Medieval Sound) and challenging distinctions of canny and uncanny in regard to the “voice” (Julie Beth Napolin‘s Sonic Shadows).

Not to be outdone, our individual posts, too pushed the study of sound toward new knowledge, perspectives, politics, and ethics.  In year 7, SO! documented how recording amplifies acts of protest and makes them “multi-sited,”  identified “Afecto Caribeño” across migrations of time, space, and media, remembered the sound of Public Enemy’s afro-future twenty-five years on, broadcasted live from the Radio Preservation Task Force Conference at the Library of Congress, delved into the “slow, loud, and banging” sound Paul Wall pumps out of Houston’s slabs, eulogized the sound of freedom Prince offered his listeners, questioned how “listening fits into reparative justice for the victims of sterilization,” and shouted Sandra Bland’s name, LOUD.

!!!!!!!Expansion!!!!!!!

7.0 brought us our first regular podcaster, Native American (Ojibwe) interdisciplinary video artist and scholar Marcella Ernest (Phd Candidate in American Studies at the University of New Mexico, listen to her exemplary “Finding the Lost Sounds of Kaibah” here) and two new regular writers, Robin James (Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte) and Justin Burton (Assistant Professor of Music at Rider University) both of whom think through the vexing but productive nexus between popular music and sound studies. Justin and Robin engage each other’s work in an ongoing dialogue about music, race, and gender even as they push toward diverse theoretical horizons and musical genres.

!!!!!!! Presence!!!!!!!

12107251_1052572291448221_547284947837984628_n (1)SO! continues to bring you the best, most exciting and incisive work in the field because we GO there–there in this case being conferences, concerts, art openings, receptions and other happenings–and we listen, meeting potential writers and encouraging them to become part of Team SO! and share their work with our readership.  We work hard to merge the amazing technological opportunities for digital communication with the best of “IRL” camaraderie and collegiality, opening up new affective channels that nurture ideas and accountable communities.

This past year, SO! editors repped the blog in person in Toronto, ON (#2015ASA); Washington DC (#rtpf); Riverside, CA (#showprove16); Stony Brook, NY (); Madison, WI; Los Angeles, CA; Irvine, CA; Houston, TX, New York City, NY; Albuquerque, NM, Las Vegas, NV, and Montreal, Quebec. We gave talks, checked out panels, livetweeted, co-sponsored events (hip hop concert by Sammus, anyone? YES PLEASE!), met one-on-one with graduate students, attended caucus meetings, ran for office, worked rooms, gave workshops on digital publishing, and even passed out the last (!) of our yellow-and-red stickers.  In short, we hustled to be present for you and for the work, and we will continue on into year 8!

!!!!!!!Amplification!!!!!!!

Exclamation, Image by Flickr user Shallom Johnson

Exclamation, Image by Flickr user Shallom Johnson

Our ongoing SO! Amplifies series really took off this year, and we took seriously the task of scouring the web to bring you truly innovative praxis in sound.  It’s purpose is twofold: to increase your awareness of cool people and projects engaging sound as an active medium–listen to them! write about them! spread the word!–AND to present insight into how archivists, makers, editors, and curators understand their own work, a sort of “behind the sound” perspective into their work.  This year, we brought you preservation outreach! apps + maps! hashtag projects! podcasts! archives! art exhibits!

But, wait! There’s more!

The “notes” on our Facebook page is *still the best place to hear about calls for art, calls for posts, and upcoming conferences, shows, and volumes in sound studies. “Like” us here and please continue to keep us in the loop regarding new projects. We love to signal boost!

!!!!!!! Highlight Reel!!!!!!!

See what’s new with SO! authors and community members this year (courtesy of managing editor Liana Silva). Congratulations everyone (and keep those cards, letters, and pitches coming!).

  •  In the last year Robin James has been working on a book manuscript called The Sonic Episteme: Acoustic Resonance & Post-Identity Biopolitics. It argues many “neo-” and “post-” theories, like neoliberal political economy or new materialist posthumanism, double down on the “audiovisual litany” and use the shift from visual to sonic epistemologies to mark their supposed overcoming of modernity’s limitations. When she’s not franticly finishing that book, she’s been giving talks and interviews about her book Resilience & Melancholy, and written a lot for SO! James is already thinking about her next book project, which uses radio station WOXY/97x “The Future of Rock n Roll” to think about what the “future” of rock n roll sounded like in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, right before it slipped into a seemingly vicious cycle of retromania.
  • Gretchen Jude presented earlier this year a paper on Vocaloids at the EMP Conference in Seattle (http://www.empmuseum.org/programs-plus-education/programs/pop-conference.aspx).  Her submission to the !!!!!!! mixtape reflects this line of research.  Next March, she will be presenting a paper in Tokyo on female vocality in early 20th century Japanese popular song (at the first International Musicology Congress in Asia).  The music she’ll talk about in this second paper also appeared in her Sounding Out! soundwalk post. Her dissertation research will be supported by a UC Davis Bilinski Dissertation Year Fellowship in 2016-17.
  • This year Carlo Patrão produced and debuted four documentaries about Sound and Listening for the Portuguese national radio station Antena 2 RTP, covering the themes of bioacoustics, archaeoacoustics, sonic violence, endangered soundscapes and sonification of cosmic data. Also, he participated in WFMU’s expanded radio stream Optimized!, programmed by Vicki Bennet/People Like Us. You can find out more about his radio work here: zeppelinruc.wordpress.com
  • Daniel Santos recently graduated from SUNY Binghamton with highest honors after completing his thesis on the relationship between BU students and Triple Cities residents. Next week he starts a position as an associate teacher with Success Academy Charter School.
  • For more information about Assistant Visual Editor Will Stabile, please visit your local library. You’ll learn about his burgeoning work in the field of comedy, and if you ask they might let you look at the microfiche.
  • Liana Silva will be taking her presence to the public classroom this fall, as she becomes a high school English teacher in her new home, Houston TX. #htownvicious She continues to research Jean Grae’s music for an upcoming chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Studies. And of course she wouldn’t leave SO!, so you can still find her here at the blog, where she’s currently editing the series DH and Listening.
  • Jennifer Stoever‘s book, The Sonic Color line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening will be published this November by New York University Press (preorder available here).  She also has chapters forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Hip Hop Studies (on the importance of black women and Latina record collectors to hip hop) and in the Provoke! volume on digital sound studies (Duke UP), co-authored with Liana Silva and Aaron Trammell, a tell-all exposing exactly how much fun we all have working our asses off on this blog.

Jennifer Stoever is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sounding Out! She is also Associate Professor of English at Binghamton University.

Click here for Sounding Out!‘s Blog-O-Versary “!!!!!!!” mix 7.0 with track listing.


REWIND!
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If you liked this post, you may also dig:

Sounding Out! Podcast #56: !!!!!!!

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CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD: !!!!!!! Mix

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!!!!!!!

Beyoncé, “Formation”—Regina N. Bradley & André Carrington
Mitski, “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars”—Liana Silva & Chris Chien
Desi Arnaz, “Babalu”—Reina Prado
Celia Cruz, “La Vida es un Carnaval”—Dolores Inés Casillas
Audra Mae, “Jebidiah Moonshine’s Friday Night Shack Party”—Will Stabile
Skrillex And Diplo, “Febreze” (Feat. 2 Chainz)—Robin James
Desiigner, “Panda” (LUCA LUSH remix)—Justin Burton
David Bowie, “I’m Afraid of Americans”—Primus Luta
Jlin, “Black Diamond”—Mitchell Akiyama
Selena Gomez, “Hands to Myself”—Emma Leigh Waldron
1st Generation, “Remain Cool”—Natalia Linares
The Raincoats,  “In Love”—Josh Shepperd
Lithuania, “Kill the Thing You Love”—Frank Bridges
Alma Cogan, “In the Middle of the House”—Cynthia Wang
The Books, “I Didn’t Know That”—Carlo Patrão
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, “Candy Candy”—Gretchen Ju
Saki Kabata, “Lonely Rolling Star”—Aaron Trammell
Mega Ran, “Infinite Lives” (Feat. D&D Sluggers)—Jennifer Stoever

The Top Ten Sounding Out! Posts of 2015!

Microphone
The holidays are here and to celebrate Sounding Out! has compiled a list of 2015’s top ten most popular posts (according to views). So, cozy up to that monitor, queue up that epic album you’ve been meaning to listen to, and take a second to revisit some of our best memories this year.
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Vincent Andrisani
To conceive of Havana in sound is to think not of the material spaces of the city, but rather, across them. From inside the home, residents participate in conversations taking place in the streets, while those in the streets often call for the attention of their friends or family indoors. Through windows, open doors, and porticoes, residents engage in interpersonal exchanges that bring neighbourhood communities to life. To listen across these spaces is to listen trans-liminally from the threshold through which sounds must pass as they animate the vibrant social life of the city. Such an act is made most apparent by the voices of vendedores ambulantes, or, mobile street vendors. “¡El buen paquete de galleta!” (“The good packs of cookies!”), “¡Se compran y se vendan libros!” (“I’m buying and selling books!”), and most famously, “¡Mani! ¡Mani!”(“Peanuts! Peanuts!”) are some of the pregones—the musical cries—heard through the streets and into the home. . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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LMS loud
Liana Silva
I was 22 years old when someone called me deaf. I was finishing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. After four years of living in San Juan, I still hadn’t gotten used to the class and race microaggressions I encountered regularly because I was a brown girl who grew up in the country and was going to school in the urban capital, el área metropolitana. These microaggressions were usually assumptions about who I was based on how I talked: I called pots a certain way, I referred to nickels in another way, and I couldn’t keep my voice down–all indications, according to my “urban” friends, that I grew up in the country. But being called “deaf” was a new one. . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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andré carrington
Twenty-five years after Do the Right Thing was nominated but overlooked for Best Picture, Spike Lee is about to receive an Academy Award. At the beginning of that modern classic, Rosie Perez danced into our collective imaginations to the sounds of Public Enemy. Branford Marsalis’s saxophone squealing, bass guitar revving up, she sprung into action in front of a row of Bed-Stuy brownstones. Voices stutter to life: “Get—get—get—get down,” says one singer, before another entreats, “Come on and get down,” punctuated by James Brown’s grunt, letting us know we’re in for some hard work. In unison, Chuck D and Flavor Flav place us in time: “Nineteen eighty-nine! The number, another summer…” The track’s structure, barely held in place by the guitar riff and a snare, accommodates Marsalis’s saxophone playing continuously during the chorus, but intermittent scratches and split-second samples make up the plurality of the sounds. The two rappers’ words take back the foreground in each verse, and their cooperative and repetitive style reinforces the song’s message during the chorus, when they trade calls and responses of “Fight the power!” . . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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Robin James
Dove and Twitter’s #SpeakBeautiful tries to market its brand by getting Twitter users to rally behind the hashtag. The idea is to encourage women to talk about their bodies and other women’s bodies only in positive terms–and to encourage interaction on Twitter. But why is tweeting, which is entirely text-based, called “speaking”? And what does it mean to speak beautifully, since beauty is usually an issue of body image? In other words, why give this campaign that specific name? . . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
Tara-Transitory-3-web
Justyna Stasiowska
The shivering on your skin gradually builds like a soft electric shock that presses you down to the floor. The whole experience feels like an earthquake, with vibrations pricking through bone into organs. The affective tonality of the performance puts the body in a state of alarm, where listening turns into self-observation. Your perception is immersed in sensing the materiality of a room filled with other bodies, all attuning to the low frequencies resonating with the architecture of space, trying to maintain equilibrium. You refocus away from the artist to yourself and the rest of the audience, realizing the depth of your feelings of total connection. . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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Mitchell Akiyama
In October of 1973, two young sound recordists embarked on an ambitious field trip across Canada, traversing over 7000 kilometers to commit the national soundscape to tape. From St. John’s, Newfoundland to the harbor of Vancouver, British Columbia, Bruce Davis and Peter Huse pointed their microphones at the things they felt best exemplified their vast country. . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/lomax/item/2007660276/ Alan Lomax (left) and youngster on board boat, during Bahamas recording expedition

Mark Davidson
In 1987, two years after the three hundredth anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s birth, musicologist Susan McClary published a now-classic article titled “The Blasphemy of Talking Politics during the Bach Year,” in which she reflected on her experiences at a number of Bach events in 1985. Using Theodor Adorno’s 1950 essay “Bach Defended against His Devotees” (written on the two-hundredth anniversary of the composer’s death) as a jumping-off point, McClary defied Bach scholars who viewed the German Baroque master’s music as sacrosanct and unimpeachable, and performed a brazen deconstruction of Bach’s most revered works: the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 and Cantata No. 140 (“Wachet Auf”). For McClary, the turn was critical: “we must confront Bach and the canon and resituate him in such a way as to acknowledge his prominence in musical and non-musical culture while not falling victim to it ( 60)”. . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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True revolutionaries are Guided by Love
Maria P. Chaves Daza
In October 1991 at the University of Arizona fall reading series, Gloria Anzaldúa read several poems and short stories–work now held at the UT-Austin Collection. Recently, I sat in my living room listening to the recording, feeling the buzz of her presence, the audible excitement in the Modern Languages Auditorium that Gloria Anzaldúa is about to speak. After some welcoming statements and a poem by Rita Magdaleno, inspired by Magdaleno’s reading of Borderlands, Anzaldúa takes the stage. . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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"ateliers claus - 140522 - monophonic - Radio Femmes Fatales" by Flickr user fabonthemoon, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Christine Ehrick
Several years ago, while aboard a commercial airline awaiting take off, I heard the expected sound of a voice emerging from the cockpit, transmitted via the plane’s P.A. system. The voice gave passengers the usual greeting and general information about weather conditions, flight time, etc. What was unusual, and caught the otherwise distracted passengers’ attention, was the fact that the voice speaking was female. People looked up from their magazines and devices not because of the “message” but because of the “medium”: a voice that deviated from the standard soundscape of commercial aviation, a field comprised mostly of men. . . .  [CLICK TO READ MORE]
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white noise
Gustavus Stadler
What does an ever-nearer, ever-louder police siren sound like in an urban neighborhood, depending on the listener’s racial identity? Rescue or invasion? Impending succor or potential violence? These dichotomies are perhaps overly neat, divorced as they are from context. Nonetheless, contemplating them offers one charged example of how race shapes listening—and hence, some would say, sound itself—in American cities and all over the world. Indeed, in the past year, what Jennifer Stoever calls the “sonic color line” has become newly audible to many white Americans with the attention the #blacklivesmatter movement has drawn to police violence perpetrated routinely against people of color. . . . [CLICK TO READ MORE]

Featured image by bostik_ @Flickr CC BY-NC-ND.

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

Misophonia: Toward a Taxonomy of AnnoyanceCarlo Patrão

Sounding Out! Podcast #38: Radio Frequencies, Radio Forms, LIVE — Monteith McCollum and Jennifer Stoever

Mediated Sexuality in ASMR Videos — Emma Leigh Waldron

Deaf Latin@ Performance: Listening with the Third Ear

Olin-Tonatiuh-and-Cristal-Gonzalez-in-Tamales-De-Puerco.-Photo-by-Ed-Krieger.

World Listening Month3This is the fourth and final post in Sounding Out!’s 4th annual July forum on listening in observation of World Listening Day on July 18th, 2015.  World Listening Day is a time to think about the impacts we have on our auditory environments and, in turn, their effects on us.  For Sounding Out! World Listening Day necessitates discussions of the politics of listening and listening, and, as Trevor Boffone prescribes, a much wider and more corporeal understanding of the practice that goes beyond an emphasis on the ear and even on sound itself.   –Editor-in-Chief JS

As Kent, a Deaf man, stands on stage in Tamales de Puerco, signing his story of struggling and growing up in a hearing family, the only aural sounds in the theater come from the audience: the sounds of crying. Performed in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language (ASL), Tamales offers a glimpse into the seldom seen realities of life as a single mother to a Deaf child as it intersects with Latinidad. The play presents the story of Norma, a young mother who confronts her abusive husband and challenges a country that rejects and oppresses her as an undocumented immigrant. She overcomes the hardships of being Latina, undocumented, and having a Deaf child (Mauricio) without any support from her husband, her mother, and local and state institutions. Ultimately, Norma must negotiate cultural citizenship and notions of belonging to the Deaf Latin@ community so that her son can have more opportunities. The play uses—and calls attention to—silence as an essential building block in the process of constructing, remixing, and performing the complexities of Latin@ identity.

Third Ear Image 2 - TdP - Norma and Tana

Listening to the silences in Latin@ theatre performance offers crucial insight into how the Latin@ population and Latinidad fit into the fabric of the United States in the 21st Century, as Marci R. McMahon notes in “Soundscapes of Narco Silence.” In Tamales, the staging of Deafness creates a particular kind of silence that promotes new listening strategies. What I find most compelling is how Deafness on stage–and the particular silences Deafness can create–opens up a space for what Steph Ceraso calls multimodal listening,” listening as a full-bodied event not solely linked to the ears, but rather connected to “bodies, affects, behaviors, design, space, and aesthetics.” Calling attention to the body as it does, the silences in the play give weight to Kent’s story and affects the viewer beyond the limits of voiced acting by encouraging spectators to concentrate on the actors’ physical emotions and how actors’ bodies work to transmit messages without verbal cues. I argue Tamales promotes multimodal listening by forcing spectators to use their “Third Ear”—a mode of listening across domains of silence, sound, and the moving body—as a device to understand a seemingly silent world.

To do this, I engage with the playscript and recordings of the 2013 production of Mercedes Floresislas’s Tamales de Puerco at CASA 0101 Theater under Edward Padilla’s direction. While Floresislas’s script raised many complex issues surrounding the Deaf Latin@ community, Padilla’s staging focused on the intersections of Deafness and Latinidad by foregrounding the use of silence in the production. [Note: I use the capitalized versions of Deaf and Deafness. A standard dictionary definition of “deaf” represents one who is partially or unable to hear (deaf and hearing impaired are essentially interchangeable). Deaf with a capital D, however, refers to the community that self-identifies as belonging to the Deaf culture. Deafness, therefore, is a sign of health and prognosis of well-being among sign language dependent hearing-impaired people. Likewise, hearing versus Hearing represents a similar biological/cultural binary.]

In Hearing Difference: The Third Ear in Experimental, Deaf, and Multicultural Theater, one of the few studies to devote critical attention to Deaf theater as it relates to multicultural experience and identity, Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren introduces the “Third Ear,” a useful term that facilitates focusing one’s attention on the performative forms of expression. Blending sensory, spatial, and visual elements generates a Third Ear that acts as a “Deaf-gain,” a hybrid mode of hearing and coming to know the world. When specific senses are lost, the mind becomes dynamic in such a way that continues to allow affected individuals to actively engage with their surroundings, with their community. Deaf people, therefore, do not lack a vital sense, but rather they gain a new sense—one typically inaccessible to hearing individuals– that enables them to successfully navigate their surroundings. Kochhar-Lindgren’s work focuses attention on the “sense” of performance and the different movements that work together to form speech sensed by the “Third Ear.” For audience members, learning to perceive the mixing of forms together as communication is fundamental to understanding the messages presented on stage; inevitably, the Third Ear promotes auditory silence yet it establishes that a lack of sound does not necessarily correspond with a lack of understanding. By removing all sound, silence gains power.

Third Ear Image 1 - TdP Poster Art (1)

The evocation of the Third Ear separates Tamales from the majority of Latin@ theater productions grounded in aural languages such as English, Spanish, and Spanglish. Deafness is seldom represented onstage in any type of theater, aside from revivals of William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker and Mark Medoff’s Children of a Lesser God, more contemporary works such as Suzan Zeder’s Ware Trilogy and Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park, and the work of Deaf West Theatre in Hollywood, whose most recent production, Spring Awakening received rave reviews and will move Broadway in September 2015. The work of Deaf West has been of particular interest to Sound Studies scholars for its unique contributions to the American Theatre. In Cara Cardinale’s 2012 SO! post, she discusses Deaf West’s production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire in which the roles were reversed. The production’s interpreters were for the hearing audience and, thus, sign language took center stage. Yet, all of these more well-known works focus on Anglo experiences, neglecting the specific intersectional challenges that Deaf people of color face such as limited access to state-funded resources such as counseling services, educational inequality and the achievement gap, not to mention that the majority of Deaf Latin@s do not have parents who can sign with them (re: effectively communicate).

The Third Ear, as evoked in Tamales, seems especially suited for representing Latin@ Deafness onstage and evoking a concomitant visceral understanding in audiences. Floresislas’s writing and Padilla’s direction work together to strategically allow audience members to develop a Third Ear at key moments in the play, enabling them to fill silences they might have otherwise perceived as gaps. Entering Tamales’ silent world not only compels hearing audiences to recognize their supposed privilege, but pushes toward a deeper understanding of the relativity of hearing-as-privilege. In a Deaf world, hearing is not a privilege, but rather one of many ways to come to know the world. In this regard, Tamales reiterates Liana Silva’s argument that “deafness complicates what it means to listen” by calling attention to the many non-auditory signals that are vital to the act.

2B63E42B-FE77-6FF9-25FDAD4EE2D67726In addition, Tamales deliberately fosters moments of uncomfortable silences that are one of the production’s strengths. For example, silence plays a key role in an early scene in which Norma decides to leave her abusive husband, Reynaldo. In this violent episode–either by a deafening blow or disassociation–everything in her world goes silent. While Reynaldo yells at her and throws things around the house, his voice fades out. However, as Norma sits in silence, she becomes better able to navigate her abusive marriage. Norma hears the silence. Her hypervigilance increases her ability to identify potential threat(s) and, ultimately, she takes her son and flees from the situation. While Norma taps into her Third Ear on stage, the audience also enters a silent world in which they must seek alternative methods to actively engage with the production. By “losing” their hearing along with Norma, the audience must pay a different kind of attention to her to gain an understanding of the scene.

Along with recognizing certain hearing privileges, listening with the Third Ear both connects and separates the audience. For instance, in the scene in which Norma attends an AA meeting for Deaf people, Padilla’s direction activates the Third Ear by removing sound from the stage. In the original playscript, Floresislas wanted Kent’s monologue to include a voice-over, but during rehearsals, Padilla saw the potential to foreground the silence in this scene (and throughout the piece, as well); his direction transformed the staging from an aural scene to a silent one. Listening with the Third Ear enables the audience to blend sensory and visual hearing in order to understand the emotional depth of the action transpiring on stage. As Kent stands in silence, signing his story about the difficulties of connecting with his hearing father, many in the audience were audibly moved. During Kent’s monologue, the actor remained silent while supertitles revealed his speech:

Yesterday, my father had a heart attack and I got called to his bedside at the hospital. I had not seen him for almost 15 years! I had never had a conversation with my father; yes, he was hearing and I was his only deaf child. (…) I always believed by dad hated me; nothing I did was ever good enough. He was always watching me and looking angry for everything I ever did or asked. I actually wished he’d ignore me like the rest of the family! (15)

Third Ear Image 3 - TdP - Kent (Dickie Hearts)

Particularly gripping, this scene acts as a crucial building block in the necessity of creating opportunities for her son that drives Norma’s story forward, not to mention that it calls attention to the fact that reading isn’t necessarily a silent act. Kent’s story reveals much to a hearing audience who may be unfamiliar with the Deaf Latin@ community. Kent’s experience is typical of Deaf Latin@s, only 20% of whom have parents that can sign. It compels an understanding of the reasons why Norma learns ASL and pushes for a better life for her son. She does not want him to be in the same position that Kent finds himself in. And, she does not want to have the regret of having never learned to communicate with him. Kent continues:

Yesterday, he looked frail; he was paralyzed on one side. When he saw me, he moved his hand like this (brushes his left hand up the center of his chest then points at). At first, I didn’t understand what he was doing. But when he did it again, I understood. He said, “I’m proud of you.” Then he signed “I love you.” (…) My niece told me he had been learning ASL for the last 3 months because he wanted to tell me how sorry he was for not being able to talk to me. My dad didn’t hate me; he hated himself for not being able to talk to me! (…) But yesterday, I also had my first and last conversation with my dad he signed for me! That…makes me feel very proud! (15-16)

As Kent stands in silence, his emotional journey is given life through his hands and body. Interestingly, the silences enacted onstage by Tamales actually create sound, amplifying the sobbing that emanates from the audience in both its auditory and visual manifestations. The way in which silence allows the audiences’ sonic reactions to become part of the play itself suggests that how—and why–the audience responds may actually be more important than the performance itself. How much are the sobs about the heartbreaking nature of Kent’s story and how much of it is recognizing one’s own privileges? How much of it is the audience connecting with the story? How much of it is about seeing themselves represented? And how does silence amplify “listening” to Kent’s story?

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While not exhaustive, my reading of Tamales widens the conversation about the intricacies of Deaf Latin@ performance. The 2013 production of Tamales best hints at the possibilities of Latin@ performance in Boyle Heights and how community-based theater companies such as CASA 0101 can work to provide more access to Deaf people, thus forging both an inclusive community and theater company. More plays featuring Deaf characters, incorporating Deaf actors, and Deaf dramatists are needed, something Floresislas is already exploring. Still, much research remains as to how Deaf Latinidad is heard and how this identity fits into a performance framework. Through multimodal listening, Tamales urges spectators to leave the theater considering how they may or may not alter their actions to better benefit underprivileged and underrepresented communities such as the Latin@ Deaf community. Quite frankly, Tamales opens the “eyes and ears” of audiences. Now is the time to listen to Deaf Latinidad. What will we choose to hear in the silence?

Still Images from Tamales de Puerco, permission courtesy of CASA 0101 Theatre. Featured Image: Olin Tonatiuh and Cristal Gonzalez in “Tamales De Puerco.” Photo by Ed Krieger.

Trevor Boffone is a Houston-based scholar, educator, dramaturge, and producer. He is a co-founder of Amaranto Productions and a member of the Latina/o Theatre Commons Steering Committee. Trevor is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston where he holds a Graduate Certificate in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. His dissertation, Performing Eastside Latinidad: Josefina López and Theater for Social Change in Boyle Heights, is a study of theater and performance in East Los Angeles, focusing primarily on Josefina López’s role as a playwright, mentor, and community leader. He has published and presented original research on Chicana Feminist Teatro, the body in performance, Deaf Latinidad, Queer Latinidad, as well as the theater of Adelina Anthony, Nilo Cruz, Virginia Grise, Josefina López, Cherríe Moraga, Monica Palacios, and Carmen Peláez. Trevor recently served as a Research Fellow at LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections at the University of Texas at Austin for his project Bridging Women in Mexican-American Theater from Villalongín to Tafolla (1848-2014).

 

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