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Disabling the avant-garde: Listening to Berberian and Lucier

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Abstract

Avant-garde electronic music purports to be abstract rather than representational. We are supposed to care only about sound qua sound, but what if the body is fundamentally audible in the musical work? Furthermore, what if the audible body is disabled? This essay pursues several close listenings of the avant-garde electronic works Visage (1961) and I Am Sitting in a Room (1969). Both pieces feature stuttering voices that are highly mediated by technology. Sounding out disabilities from traumatic to mundane, the works promote an aural staring encounter, asking listeners to grapple with the discomfort that they may hear.
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Keywords: disability; dysfluency; embodiment; staring; stutter; trauma; voice

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2019

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  • JIVS provides a forum for scholarly and practice-based engagement with voice as a phenomenon of communication and performance, and a methodology or metaphor for analysis. This peer-reviewed journal draws on an interdisciplinary series of lenses, including cultural studies, critical theory, performance studies, inter-culturalism, linguistics, visual culture, musicology, architecture and somatics.
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