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From a Whisper to a Scream: The Voice in Music

Posted: September 1st, 2015 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

2016 EMP Pop Conference
April 14-17, 2016, Seattle, Washington

The voice in music goes beyond singing: “The ‘grain’ is the body in the voice as it sings, the hand as it writes, the limb as it performs,” Roland Barthes wrote. Voices insert the self into music, Billie Holiday stopping poet Frank O’Hara’s breath with choices of tempo and timbre, Neil Young transfixing rock fans with his “Old Black” Gibson electric guitar tone, the sentimiento expressed in the sung bolero resonating across the Americas. Finding their voice, performers – on stage and camera, recording in studios – make us identify, naturalize change. But voices embody community too, as in “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the “Black National Anthem” written by (pioneering popular music scholar) James Weldon Johnson, and they are the foundation of protest, the megaphone for social change. A switch in voice, from croon to rasp to rap to Auto-Tune, alters meaning and social statement.

For this year’s EMP Pop Conference, we invite presentations that explore, across all styles and time periods, the role of voice in music. This might include:

  • Vocalization: the technical, theatrical, and technological underpinnings of bringing out the voice in music; creating vocal “characters” and characteristics
  • Vocal Chords: the body in music; sonic materiality; medical and scientific factors
  • Communal Voices: group singing, from choirs and quartets to karaoke; choices of accent and identity
  • Instruments as Voices, Voices as Instruments: talking drums, crying guitars, wailing horns; vocal breathiness, sound but not words, articulate inarticulacy
  • Voces: speech, song and noise outside Eurocentric sound making; how voices carry U.S. pop styles around the globe and forms from beyond the U.S mainstream are woven into that fabric
  • Challenging Voices: naturalized ideals or expectations of race, gender, sexuality disrupted by the androgynous, post-human, transcultural, “freak”
  • Voices of Protest: The noisy voice in politics and as an expression of dissent
  • Writing voices: methodology; finding a voice as a music writer; authorial voice developed in relationship to singing voices
  • Vox Populi: fan and audience voices, reality TV singing competitions, new media platforms, amateur/professional divides, good and bad singing, listening

Proposals are due November 16. Email conference organizer Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama) at [email protected]. Individual proposals for 20 minute presentations should be 300 words, with a 75 word bio. For three person (90 minute) or four person (120 minute) panel proposals, include a one paragraph overview and individual statements of 300 words with 75 word bio. For roundtables, outline the subject in up to 500 words, include a 75 word bio for each panelist, and specify desired panel length. We welcome unorthodox proposals: ask for submission advice. Please include emails for all participants.

The annual EMP Pop Conference, first held in 2002, mixes together ambitious music discourse of every kind, in an attempt to bring academics, critics, musicians, and dedicated fans into a collective conversation. This year’s program committee members are: Christine Bacareza Balance (University of California, Irvine); María Elena Cepeda (Williams College); Jasen Emmons (EMP Museum); Jack Halberstam (University of Southern California); journalist Jewly Hight; Mark Katz (University of North Carolina); Chris Molanphy (Slate), Charles Mudede (The Stranger), Ann Powers (NPR Music); Zandria Robinson (Rhodes College); and Steve Waksman (Smith College). For more, visit the Pop Conference page at www. EMPMuseum.org.

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