Call for contributions
Voice and Identity – Touches, Textures, Timbres: A Symposium
Where and When:
Saturday 28 January, 10 am to 3.30 pm. University of Winchester, Winchester SO22 4NR, in room St Alphege 301. Train connection from Waterloo 1 hour, direct, with frequent services. The room is a 15 minute walk from the station.
Cost: Free, with lunch provided.
Confirmed morning presenters (see bios at bottom of call):
- Yvon Bonenfant (University of Winchester) (convenor) – on the relationship between voice-styling, hairstyling, and the tactile register
- Regina N. Bradley (Armstrong State University, Georgia) – on theorizing sound as sites of southern black women storytelling in America
- Freya Jarman (University of Liverpool) – on lost sounds and the sound of loss
- Roberta Mock (Plymouth University) – on the historic voice of the Jewish American woman in comedy
- Jennifer Stoever (State University of New York at Binghamton) – on the historic racialization of the voice and listening in a US context
- Konstantinos Thomaidis (University of Exeter) – on how voice and identity are interrogated in forensic contexts
Call for contributions
We ask for 5, 10 or 15 minute responses to the following stimuli:
- From your theoretical and practical viewpoints, what aspects, qualities, performances, or manifestations of vocalisation might constitute markers of the kinds of identity we might say are derived from recent-historical notions of identity politics – for positive or for negative? In other words, what aspects of vocal sound beyond pitch and accent might cause that sound to be ‘racialised’, ‘homosexualised’, ‘gendered’, ‘classed’, otherwise ‘ethnicised’, or otherwise ‘queered’? Are these ‘real’, sonic phenomena embedded within voices, or are they constructions we ‘think’ we hear?
- How might these mechanisms of the attribution of qualities of identity to voices work?
- What are the consequences of these mechanisms, from your scholarly or professional perspective?
- If, as asserts Stephen Connor via his notion of the ‘vocalic body’, we attribute (fantasized, visual, tactile) bodies to voices, what are the implications of your views in light of how bodies contact one another via vocalisation? How do these dynamics seem to function in your personal experience, or in your sphere of analysis, or both?
Voices have power. Who gets listened to matters. Moving beyond the preoccupation with voice as metaphor, we are interested in unpicking the Foucauldian rules that seem to govern the production and perception of identity in vocal sound, beyond – or perhaps beneath – language and accent (if such dissociation is even possible).
Our panel thus bring together scholars from musicology, theatre and performance studies, literary and cultural studies, practice-research, and sound studies to explore the below provocations and open up discussion. In line with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Voice Studies’ ambitions, we invite contributions from across the creative arts, humanities, hard sciences and health sciences.
The voice resists analysis, as Adriana Cavarero (2005) passionately asserts. How we hear individuals through their voicing, and how we determine what person, or kinds of people, we think we are hearing is still relatively little understood. Even from a neurological perspective, as Kreiman and Sidtis (2011) point out, the mechanisms that underpin acts of hearing voice and identifying speakers have been much less studied than the mechanisms underpinning vision. How we hear each other is neglected. What’s more, to build on Stephen Connor’s (2000) assertions, the voice is simultaneously ‘alive’ and ‘dead’, in that it is (usually) produced by living bodies, yet once it moves away from us, it but a phenomenon of physics: it becomes fields of vibration, separated from biological life, while evoking that very life in our imaginations.
Given that this vocal sound is a vibrational phenomenon, we might assert that the vibratory quality of the voice literally touches us (Eidsheim 2015). So, when we voice, we emit fields of vibration that come into contact with, and ‘stir up’, other bodies. If that is the case, in a world where identity categories and their intersectionality are always at play, what might it mean to be touched by identities (perceived to be) embedded in vocal sound? Eidsheim (2011) asserts that in the case of opera singer Marian Anderson, the perception of race in her voice was, and is, a construction of the listener; indeed, in the little psycholinguistic study that has been done on the perception of race in speech in America, people cannot reliably ‘hear’ African-Americanness without hearing verbal accent (in Kreiman and Sidtis 2011), even though there appears to be a widespread cultural belief that there is such a thing as a sounding, biologically-based, ‘Black’ voice. At the same time, both Bonenfant and Jarman have made different arguments about how we might hear (Jarman 2011) or feel (Bonenfant 2010) queerness in voices. What we think we hear, what we hear, what we feel, and what we think we feel are all dance together within the perception of vocal identity.
Shape of the day:
The morning session, from 10-12.30, will be made up of presentations from the six invited panellists, with integrated discussion, followed further facilitated discussion. Each panellist will be responding to the stimuli questions above, with reference to their specialist fields and interest. The presentations will be more speculative than usual, and panellists may elect to be interviewed rather than present formal papers. Attendees may be sent short (don’t worry! We’ll keep it under control!) excerpts of preparatory reading, listening or viewing to allow for us to all have common ground before the discussion begins.
The afternoon session is open to attendees to present their own responses to the questions above, and will run from 1.30-3 pm, followed by a 30 minute discussion. Not all attendees are required to develop a presentation.
To propose a presentation:
Develop a 200-300 word abstract in response to the questions in the call, and send it to Yvon Bonenfant, convenor of the symposium, at the below address. Specify whether your presentation will be 5, 10 or 15 minutes long, and of what it will consist (live speech, sound files, song, silent speech, mediated speech, etc.) Your presentation may be performative, allowing for you to enrich your presentation with your own (or someone else’s) vocality. To keep to time, however, we will not be providing amplification. If you wish to bring your own voice manipulation system, be it corporeal or digitally mediated, you are welcome to do so. You may also prepare a sound file in advance and have it played in lieu of presentation, or both.
To propose attendance without presentation:
Let us know in about 100 words why this symposium matters to you. PhD students who want to attend without presenting will still be eligible for £40 subsidies on a first-come, first-served basis.
Travel assistance for PhD students:
We are attributing five £40 travel subsidies to interested PhD students across disciplines. If you are presenting as a PhD student, please mark that you are seeking the subsidy on your submission.
Attendance will be strictly limited to 30 persons in total, including morning panellists, to ensure discussion can take place.
The symposium will serve as a starting point for the development of peer-reviewed articles for a themed volume of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies.
Please propose by 15 December. Depending on the number and foreseen duration of presentations, some may take place on line rather than at the symposium. You will receive a response to your proposal before 23 December. If you need a response earlier for funding purposes, contact us.
Any media (PowerPoint presentations, video, audio files, etc.) must be ready by 15 January. It will be pre-loaded to our presentation system to save time.
Send your proposal or other queries to:
Short bios of confirmed contributors:
Yvon Bonenfant is Professor of Artistic Process, Voice and Extended Practices at the University of Winchester. He is interested in what the voice can do when it does not do what it usually does: from this, he makes work and writes. He recently co-founded Tract and Touch – www.tractandtouch.com.
Regina N. Bradley is Assistant Professor of African American Literature at Armstrong State University in Savannah, Ga. Her research interests include post-Civil Rights African American Literature, Hip Hop, and the Contemporary Black American South. She can be reached at www.redclayscholar.com.
Freya Jarman is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Liverpool. She writes across a range of musical genres through a critical lens heavily informed by queer theory, and is currently working on a wide-ranging gendered history of singing high notes.
Roberta Mock is Professor of Performance Studies and Director of the Graduate School at Plymouth University. Her theoretical, historical and practical research tends to focus on gender, sexuality and the body in performance, with a particular focus on women in stand up and live art.
Jennifer Stoever is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York at Binghamton where she teaches courses on 19th and 20th century African American literature, popular music, and sound studies. She is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog and author of The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening (NYU Press, 2016).
Konstantinos Thomaidis is Lecturer in Drama/Theatre/Performance at the University of Exeter. He is joint founder of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, and joint editor of both the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies . With Ben Macpherson, he co-edited Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience (Routledge 2015).
Centre for Interdisciplinary Voice Studies; University of Winchester; Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, and the institutions of our confirmed speakers.