Sound Rhetoric and the Body


Photo by Flickr user r. nial bradshaw

Stone, Jonathan. “Listening to the Sonic Archive: Rhetoric, Representation, and Race in the Lomax Prison Recordings.”Enculturation 19 (2015). Web.

In this article, Stone uses recorded voice, decenter rhetorical historiography, and ethics of multimodal listening to study the archived music of African American prisoners. His analysis demonstrates how sonic rhetoric “decenters traditional approaches to and understandings of cultural history and historiography” and complicates racial formation and conceptions racial otherness. Stone analyzes these recordings’ for three types of agencies: personal , communal, and political, and then explains how these voices and the representation of subjects and objects work together. Specifically, Stone compares the recordings of African American prisoners singing with their representation in the lyrics and sheet music of those songs compiled by European American cultural researchers. The sheet music and lyrics can make a myth of history, downplaying and caricaturing the African American experience to European American listeners. Stone finds that the symbolism songs can represent may cover or illuminate the individuality of the performers for the sake of upholding or inspiring institutional agency. The music recorded reinforced racial paradigms for European Americans while limiting the life tropes of African Americans in the South.

  • How might sonic archival research methods analyze music that is absent? In other words, we do not have the original recordings but we do have the lyrics and notations of those songs.
  • How might sonic rhetorical study inform notions and practices of cultural appropriation (Macklemore, Iggy Azalea are examples)

Bratta, Phil. “Rhetoric and Event: The Embodiment of Lived Events.” Enculturation 19 (2015). Web.

Bratta discusses the lived events of the One Million Bones New Orleans Installation–a project that brought Americans’ awareness to international genocide through non-digital body performance. Bratta calls lived events the impromptu use of the body in community performances to inspire “political and social art/protest.” Bratta seeks to enrich rhetorical theory’s conception of the body and rhetoric’s place in public spaces by creating a “criteria for lived events.” He proposes three tentative criteria: public performance art, topological space, and collective action. Public performance art includes spontaneous participation by spectators of the event–they join in the creation of the art installation, an action outside the intentions of the OMB. Topological space, unlike Cartesian space, has no defined borders or coordinates; the body moves through physical and digital spaces without thought. The perception of sound lead to participation. Collective action conceives of the body as part of a democratic process as well as a rhetorical move; bodies work together with no end goal or objective in mind.

  • How do lived events occur on the Internet?
  • Bratta implies that collective action is contained although he says collective action doesn’t have a set end goal. How does his rhetorical theory and/or criteria change when the lived event gets out of control? Is that a possibility?

Published by aabyrd

I'm the instructor for WCATY's Media Studies in a Digital Age course for Summer 2015.

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