(T)racing Mother Listening: W.E.B. Du Bois & Sigmund Freud

Part two of a three-part series on Du Bois, sound, and psychoanalysis.

Sounding Out!

Inspired by the recent Black Perspectives “W.E.B. Du Bois @ 150” Online Forum, SO!’s “W.E.B. Du Bois at 150” amplifies the commemoration of the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Du Bois’s birth in 2018 by examining his all-too-often and all-too-long unacknowledged role in developing, furthering, challenging, and shaping what we now know as “sound studies.”

It has been an abundant decade-plus (!!!) since Alexander Weheliye’s Phonographies “link[ed] the formal structure of W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk to the contemporary mixing practices of DJs” (13) and we want to know how folks have thought about and listened with Du Bois in their work in the intervening years.  How does Du Bois as DJ remix both the historiography and the contemporary praxis of sound studies? How does attention to Du Bois’s theories of race and sound encourage us to challenge the ways in which white supremacy has historically shaped American institutions, sensory…

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“Narrative Acoustics” : November 14 at Penn

“If there is a space of thinking, either real or virtual, then within it there must also be sound, for all sound seeks its expression as vibration in the medium of space,” writes Bill Viola. We think of narrative as being with “space”  and, while we understand literature as being with a poetics and rhetoric, we do not ask after its acoustics. What, then, is narrative acoustics? In a triple gesture, it is the making of narrative space by sound, the virtual hearing of sounds in narrative and intertextual space, and the narrative of sonic change. This talk takes us through some of the acoustical-narrative spaces of Flaubert, James, Faulkner, Ellison, and Hitchcock.

At 5:15pm in Lerner Center 102, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Music, Graduate Student Colloquium Series

Conradian Crosscurrents : Creativity and Critique : Fordham University June 1-3

I am excited to be speaking at this event on Friday June 2 on the media crosscurrents panel. My paper, titled “Music’s Unseen Body,” locates in Heart of Darkness the erotic echoes of Conrad’s experiences of listening to opera and the phonograph. In the sound space of the novel, I find resonances with W.E.B. Du Bois’ contemporary writings of opera, as well as a fore-echo of the American reception of Conrad by queer composer Henry Cowell.

To register for the conference, follow this link:


Scenes of Subjection: Women’s Voices Narrating Black Death

In this essay, I ask what it means to listen to women narrate the spectacle of black death. Thank you to Sounding Out! for providing a capacious forum.

Sounding Out!

This past summer 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Warsaw and delivered an unplanned statement on the brutal police shooting deaths of two black men that had just occurred within one day of each other, Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana. Obama was speaking from afar on the structural relationship between two events that should trouble “all of us Americans.” Obama spoke pointedly to the fact of “racial disparity” in police shootings and in the justice system more broadly.

Since November 2016, it has felt as though a space of sanctioned public discourse—still in the making since Reconstruction—has once again become smaller and, in a manner of speaking, unhearing. Quite simply, Obama’s statement meant that identification could not compass the ground of an imagined community. A white listener could not say, as with gun violence in general, “he speaks of someone who could have been me…

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The Politics of The Musical Situation: A Response to Marina Rosenfeld

The Politics of the Musical Situation: A Response to Marina Rosenfeld

From continent Issue 5.3 / 2016 “Acoustic Infrastructures

April 8-9: Techniques of the Listener

I’m pleased to participate in “Techniques of the Listener,” convened by the Yale Sound Studies Working Group. We hope to write a collective essay on the proceedings.

About Techniques of the Listener

Techniques of the Listener” is a two day working group on audile techniques, supported by a Humanity/Humanities grant from Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center.

Our goal is to collectively examine, develop, and refine the notion of “audile techniques” from both practical and theoretical angles. The sessions are not public; rather they are designed to maximize conversation, exchange, and collective thinking.

We hope to approach the idea of audile technique both intensively and extensively. Intensively, we want to look at particular instances. By ranging across the disciplines, we hope to see how different cultural-historical situations are articulated and altered through the application of audile techniques. Each participant will present a short narrative of an audile technique, contemporary or historical, in hopes of building a small “sample set” of cases. By considering these cases we aim to study audile techniques both individually and comparatively. We hope to broaden and refine our understanding of what kinds of practices should be included under the heading of an audile technique.

Extensively, we seek to better understand the nature of audile techniques generally. Can we make inroads on developing a theory of audile techniques? Are current theories of audile techniques sufficient for illuminating and generalizing over individual cases? How do techniques, at once, organize and respond to the relays, successions, and recursive loops of auditory aspects of human experience?  Bringing the two approaches together, we seek to clarify the structure and nature of technique, while also remaining sensitive to the specific ways audile techniques are integrated with audio technologies and other sensory techniques.

After our two day meeting, we will make public the outcome and implications of the conversations.


J.D. Connor (Yale, Art History and Film Studies)
Ben Glaser (Yale, English)
Brian Kane (Yale, Music)