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Race is a visual phenomenon, the ability to see “difference.” At least that is what conventional wisdom has lead us to believe. Yet, The Sonic Color Line argues that American ideologies of white supremacy are just as dependent on what we hear—voices, musical taste, volume—as they are on skin color or hair texture. Reinforcing compelling new ideas about the relationship between race and sound with meticulous historical research, Jennifer Lynn Stoever helps us to better understand how sound and listening not only register the racial politics of our world, but actively produce them. Through analysis of the historical traces of sounds of African American performers, Stoever reveals a host of racialized aural representations operating at the level of the unseen—the sonic color line—and exposes the racialized listening practices she figures as “the listening ear.” Using an innovative multimedia archive spanning 100 years of American history (1845-1945) and several artistic genres—the slave narrative, opera, the novel, so-called “dialect stories,” folk and blues, early sound cinema, and radio drama—The Sonic Color Line explores how black thinkers conceived the cultural politics of listening at work during slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. By amplifying Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, Charles Chesnutt, The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ann Petry, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Lena Horne as agents and theorists of sound, Stoever provides a new perspective on key canonical works in African American literary history. In the process, she radically revises the established historiography of sound studies. The Sonic Color Line sounds out how Americans have created, heard, and resisted “race,” so that we may hear our contemporary world differently.
Phonographies explores the numerous links and relays between twentieth-century black cultural production and sound technologies from the phonograph to the Walkman. Highlighting how black authors, filmmakers, and musicians have actively engaged with recorded sound in their work, Alexander G. Weheliye contends that the interplay between sound technologies and black music and speech enabled the emergence of modern black culture, of what he terms “sonic Afro-modernity.” He shows that by separating music and speech from their human sources, sound-recording technologies beginning with the phonograph generated new modes of thinking, being, and becoming. Black artists used these new possibilities to revamp key notions of modernity—among these, ideas of subjectivity, temporality, and community. Phonographies is a powerful argument that sound technologies are integral to black culture, which is, in turn, fundamental to Western modernity. Weheliye surveys literature, film, and music to focus on engagements with recorded sound. He offers substantial new readings of canonical texts by W. E. B. Du Bois and Ralph Ellison, establishing dialogues between these writers and popular music and film ranging from Louis Armstrong’s voice to DJ mixing techniques to Darnell Martin’s 1994 movie I Like It Like That. Looking at how questions of diasporic belonging are articulated in contemporary black musical practices, Weheliye analyzes three contemporary Afro-diasporic musical acts: the Haitian and African American rap group the Fugees, the Afro- and Italian-German rap collective Advanced Chemistry, and black British artist Tricky and his partner Martina. Phonographies imagines the African diaspora as a virtual sounding space, one that is marked, in the twentieth century and twenty-first, by the circulation of culture via technological reproductions—records and tapes, dubbing and mixing, and more.
Race, sex, and gender.
“With Audiotopia, Kun emerges as a pre-eminent analyst, interpreter, and theorist of inter-ethnic dialogue in US music, literature, and visual art. This book is a guide to how scholarship will look in the future—the first fully realized product of a new generation of scholars thrown forth by tumultuous social ferment and eager to talk about the world that they see emerging around them.”—George Lipsitz, author of Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture "The range and depth of Audiotopia is thrilling. It's not only that Josh Kun knows so much-it's that he knows what to make of what he knows."—Greil Marcus, author of Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century "The way Josh Kun writes about what he hears, the way he unravels word, sound, and power is breathtaking, provocative, and original. A bold, expansive, and lyrical book, Audiotopia is a record of crossings, textures, tangents, and ideas you will want to play again and again."—Jeff Chang, author of Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
DIVAn account of the Black Rock Coalition, which began in New York in 1985, and its relation to the results of civil rights era integration, and to the larger questions of racialization in the music industry, and American society./div
In Culture on the Margins, Jon Cruz recounts the "discovery" of black music by white elites in the nineteenth century, boldly revealing how the episode shaped modern approaches to studying racial and ethnic cultures. Slave owners had long heard black song making as meaningless "noise." Abolitionists began to attribute social and political meaning to the music, inspired, as many were, by Frederick Douglass's invitation to hear slaves' songs as testimonies to their inner, subjective worlds. This interpretive shift--which Cruz calls "ethnosympathy"--marks the beginning of a mainstream American interest in the country's cultural margins. In tracing the emergence of a new interpretive framework for black music, Cruz shows how the concept of "cultural authenticity" is constantly redefined by critics for a variety of purposes--from easing anxieties arising from contested social relations to furthering debates about modern ethics and egalitarianism. In focusing on the spiritual aspect of black music, abolitionists, for example, pivoted toward an idealized religious singing subject at the expense of absorbing the more socially and politically elaborate issues presented in the slave narratives and other black writings. By the end of the century, Cruz maintains, modern social science also annexed much of this cultural turn. The result was a fully modern tension-ridden interest in culture on the racial margins of American society that has long had the effect of divorcing black culture from politics.
“How quickly we forget! Not so many decades ago, we were all listening to Vaughn Meader’s First Family album, Steve Martin on LP, or Columbia’s I Can Hear It Now. Alas, spoken word records, like so many aspects of phonography, have been relegated to garage sales and footnotes. Finally, thanks to Jacob Smith’s Spoken Word, this important form of entertainment and culture is receiving the attention it so richly deserves.” —Rick Altman, author of Silent Film Sound “Jacob Smith’s engaging study of spoken word LPs is as revelatory as it is welcome. No other book has so thoroughly explored a phenomenon that was unique to the 1950s and 1960s, when LPs were the only widely available medium that allowed consumers to enjoy repeated exposure to recorded material. —Krin Gabbard, author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture "Smith's work contains historical material that few scholars have studied and many people have never even heard of. ... The grouping of these unique case studies results in new connections to and between various performance styles, materials, and industries." —Susan Murray, author of Hitch Your Antenna to the Stars

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