Soundsinging and Social (In)Justice

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    In his Beyond Words, Steven Connor defines "phonophobia" as "revulsion at the imperfect voice" (24). Starting with brief comments on behaviours this revulsion has given rise to and the symbolic imaginary from which it emerges, this paper will move into an examination of singers who have opted to sing in ways that embrace vocal sounds others have framed as imperfect. The singers I will focus on work predominantly in the field of improvised music and can be tied to a tradition that I associate with the term "soundsinging." My concern will be not only these singers' general embrace of such sounds, but also their more explicit efforts to collaborate with and perform solidarity with individuals with vocal disabilities as well as with singers whose untrained voices don't convey the qualities that get constructed as vocal "perfection."

    My examples will begin with a discussion of the work of Phil Minton and Maggie Nicols, who have both been creating inclusive spaces for vocal exploration for over thirty years. I will discuss their methodologies for choral improvisation and emphasize their work with developmentally different and socially marginalized individuals and groups. I will then address recent choral improvisation projects led by vocalists DB Boyko and Thomas Johannsen. Boyko's Express Your Voice choir is an improvising choir for senior citizens in Vancouver, British Columbia. Johannsen's Genetic Choir is a group of vocal improvisers who have collaborated recently both with senior citizens living in group homes and with Tamara van Scheppingen, an aphasic vocalist with whom they realized Cathalijne Smulders' work Circle. An examination of the relationship between phonophobia and ableism will frame these case studies and I will argue that the ways we use our voice and place value on voices have social justice implications and can help us work against dehumanizing forms of Othering.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2017
    EventPersona Voce Identità (Person, Voice, Identity): Voci e Suoni di dentro e di fuori (Voices and Sounds from Inside and Outside) - Padova State Music Conservatorium, State University of Padova, Padua, Italy
    Duration: 12-Oct-201714-Oct-2017


    ConferencePersona Voce Identità (Person, Voice, Identity)


    • VOICE

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