All posts tagged: sound studies

Black Studies in the Digital Crawlspace

By Darren Mueller Featured image: I won’t be quiet so you can be comfortable, Washington DC, August 2020, Copyright Erica Jae. Let our rejoicing riseHigh as the listening skies,Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.—James Weldon Johnson, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”1 Listen to pianist Jaki Byard. About seven minutes into Charles Mingus’s lengthy 1964 performance of “Fables of Faubus,” Byard’s solo emerges out of the slowly decelerating ensemble. He jumps from the dramatic to the playful to the playfully dramatic through quotation, interweaving a number of quick ascending scales between melodic fragments of “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Dannie Richmond’s snare drum echoes Byard’s revolutionary invocation (7:30). Rather than the expected resolution to “Yankee Doodle,” Byard instead seamlessly transitions into “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Despite his hymn-like recitation, he dwells in restlessness. A few virtuosic flourishes travel into the highest range of his instrument (7:55) as if echoing the first stanza of James Weldon Johnson’s poem: “Let our rejoicing rise / High as the listening skies.” Eventually, Byard transitions back into a halting, even …

A Brief Story of the Amplified Nation

In this post, I will sketch the roles of sound reproduction technology within Indonesian cultural history in its process of “becoming” a nation.1 However, this is not an attempt to give all-embracing historical details. It is meant to be a short story of audible Indonesian cultural life. Loudspeakers and microphones are the central figures in this story. In Western tradition, sound has long been an object of anxiety. In order to envision an ideal state, controlling sounds is probably the main object of Plato’s anxiety.2 In Greek mythology, luring sounds of the sirens, inspiring voices of the muses, and unwanted reflected calls of Echo are the subjects of cultural imagination. In a biblical story, the powerful and earth-wrecking voice of God speaks to Moses. Meanwhile, in Islamic eschatology, the blowing trumpets of the Archangel Israfeel are believed to end the world. In Indonesian tradition, cursing words coming from a mother’s mouth have some powerful effects on her children. According to an oral legend from Sumatera Island, a boy, named Malin Kundang, turns into a stone …