I believe that the first large assignment dealing with non-traditional and controversial voices was the most revelatory for my growth in the class as well as in the outside world. The assignment, above all other activities, challenged me to really take a deep dive into a topic I had never before considered and never really even noticed in the world around me. Listening to and observing the effects of voices that are not always noticeable in the traditional sense, or analyzing the effects of a controversial voice, is an activity I have never put much attention to. However, the first assignment allowed me to explore something that is present in my everyday life but not always noticeable. This was quite interesting to observe and analyze for the project but has changed the way I view and listen to the things occurring around me. Working through this project gave me a new perspective to carry with me through the rest of my life as a diverse, unique way to approach the voices around me that I do not always pay attention to. It allowed me to grow in an analytic sense but also contributed to my growth and development as a listener, which is why the first assignment was the most helpful and memorable to me.
After reading through and completing the BMW survey, I found it quite interesting how I defined my worlds and the expectations and experiences within them. I described my worlds as “School”, “Home”, “Social”, “Work”, and “Personal”; however, after analyzing these worlds I became cognizant of the overlap which occurs in most of these. Because I now live at school, my home, or safe space, is now linked to my education. In addition, my social life revolves around the people I have met at UCSB and the friends back at my previous home. I find it interesting how there are no clear boundaries for any specific world and instead they more often than not tend to blend together. The expectations of others for me within these worlds also fuses. Both at school, home, and socially I am expected to be intelligent, respectful, and make smart decisions, qualities which I believe actually should be present in any world. This takes me to my expectations of myself and my “Personal” world, a world that is unique since it is not influenced by others. What I mean is that, in my personal world I set my own expectations about how I want to act and perform. These characteristics and desires may not be the same as in other worlds since they are not affected by what other people believe or social expectations and instead only altered by my own opinions. How I talk and present myself within these different worlds is also very different, but stems from desires in my personal world. In my personal world, a desire for myself is to fit in with others and make connections causes me to speak differently depending on the situation, or world, that I am in. At school, I tend to speak in a more intelligent manner to sound educated and well presented while socially I am more colloquial in my talk to fit in and not seem pretentious. Thus, the world I am in influences how my voice is presented, but all of these vocal affectations stem from personal desires in my own world. These personal appreciations and interests have also guided my search for a career. I am a Psychological and Brain Sciences major, and, although I do not know exactly what I want to do, I want a job where I can problem solve and help others. The activities I enjoy doing in my personal world have swayed that decision since I love to solve problems and think critically but I also have a fondness for aiding others. Therefore, I wish to find a job that satisfies these interests that I discovered in my personal world. The survey helped me dig deeper and visualize these aspects of my life and the worlds which they come from.
The clip from Sorry to Bother You piqued my interest due to its comedic discussion on racial stereotypes and identities within voice. The clip related Eidsheim’s discussion in Acoustimatic Question regarding that “vocal choices are based on the vocalizer’s position within the collective rather than arising solely as individual expression.” Eidsheim’s postulation correlates to the movie clip vocal racial profiling since specific races and ethnicities have individual vocal traits and slang which leads to stereotyping. In the movie, the telemarketers are practicing their “white” voices to sound more professional, a typical stereotype of educated white males. In doing so, they are aiming to fit their voices into a definitive category instead of utilizing their own individual traits, a theme relevant in Eidsheim’s work. The telemarketers are thereby sacrificing their own unique vocal identity in hopes of blending with the collective. They wish to alter their voices to fit a generic model since their true voices are given negative connotations within the context of the scene. In effect, their vocal identity is defined as part of a collective rather than individually, relating to Eidsheim’s work on vocal identity and its relationship to culture.
The beach is a geological formation alongside a body of water, typically an area for recreation, tourism, and admirable scenery. However, the true beauty of the beach transcends the presupposed; the beach presents a unique collective of voices that unite the natural and human worlds. The beach features distinct natural voices which are displayed through the non-traditional vocality of the waves, wind, and resident animals. Humans add their own diverse voices including conversation and chatter as well as mediated voices such as music and phone calls. However diverse the spectrum of voices, the beach is able to unite the present voices, thereby showcasing their individual and collective values. The beach achieves this by virtue of its tranquil atmosphere, which allows the relaxed music and casual talk to mesh with the equally serene waves and environment. Thus, in a sense, the beach creates a dialogue between natural and human voices. Multivocality at the beach is important because it establishes a relationship between the two worlds: humans can appreciate the beauty of nature and add to the collective of voices. The communication of these voices allows the beach to gain an aura of relaxation and happiness. The atmosphere constructed by voices combined with the physical scenery provides the beach with the significance it holds in our culture today.
February 16, 2020 at Sunrise (6:30 a.m.), The cliffs overlooking Sands Beach and
February 16, 2020 at Sunset (5:45 p.m.), The cliffs overlooking Sands Beach
Immediately upon arriving at the cliffs overlooking the beach I was astounded by the amount of people who also wished to watch the sun set over Sands Beach. The sheer amount of people led me to experience many auditory stimuli which enhanced my overall understanding of the area. The initial voices which I heard were those of people whom my partner and I walked past. Although transient, I could recognize the conversational manner and calmness of the voices. Given that I too was walking and talking it was difficult to focus my attention on sounds not in my immediate scope. It felt as if the voices were hazy and almost evaporating into the air as soon as I fixated elsewhere; however, I concluded that it was the fault of me as a listener since I was unable to supply undivided and active attention. After sitting down on the beach I was truly able to notice and absorb all the kinds of voices being conveyed around me. The voices were communicating conversation; dinner plans and daily adventures were all topics conveyed with a general sense of happiness and tranquility. Amidst the many conversations of other groups at the beach, the muddled, more neutral voices were difficult to fully attune to. I was able to recognize the extremes: high-pitched voices, low-pitched voices, and voices with individual affectations such as a booming laugh or sickly cough. When I committed all of my focus as a listener I was able to utilize my selective attention to choose the voices I wished to discover or those I desired to block out. This also allowed me to hear non-human voices such as the barks of dogs and the chirps of birds, which came as surprises amongst the largely human voices.
There were many more non-traditional voices I could comprehend but I experienced them differently each time I visited the beach. At sunrise, there were relatively few people around which gave me the opportunity to concentrate on the voices I somewhat neglected at sunset. Early in the morning the beach was teeming with natural voices begging to be heard. The waves crashing along the beach, the wind rustling the trees, the ground crunching beneath my feet all yielded a more holistic perspective of the collective voice of the beach. To me, these natural voices communicate a desire to be heard yet do so in a very resilient, strong way. Although I was able to detect many of these voices at sunset, they were nowhere near as prominent since they had to compete with the human voices. This phenomenon provided me with a sense of vocal privilege. Human voices, no matter how calm, were given a special status at sunset since they were more prominent and easier to attend to at sunrise. However, in the absence of humans at sunrise, nature’s many voices were able to fully thrive. That being said, even at sunset, I was still able to comprehend the natural voices, which I believe speaks to the persistence and longevity of nature.
Due to the beach’s outdoor setting, I was only able to discover one type of mediated voice with various different forms. Music. Almost every grouping of people were playing their own music through speakers in order to set the mood for their sunset excursions. The mediated voices were thus being used to communicate the vibes which people attempted to advertise. Nonetheless, I experienced all of the music to fuse together since the calm songs paralleled the serene collective of the beach. In fact, the mediated voices helped add to the overall collection of voices by extending the relaxed atmosphere with different forms of voice. The only resemblance of live and performed voices was a student playing a didgeridoo. Although he was projecting for others around him the music was not quite analogous to a typical performance since it did not really stand out. Instead, the didgeridoo also lent itself to the collective voice of the beach, blending with the encompassing voices.
Analysis and Conclusions
The most revelatory aspect I observed at the beach was the interplay between human and natural, non-traditional voices. At sunrise, the noise of the waves crashing along the beach and the wind rustling the trees remained unhindered. At sunset, these natural voices were available but were deprioritized to human conversation and music. Thus, the relative privilege of individual voices were contingent on the time they were experienced; however, nature’s voice was constantly displayed, a representation of the enduring presence of nature. The non-traditional voices were underprivileged with the company of humans since we as listeners are less inclined to discern the subtleties of natural voices. In our everyday lives, we become acclimated to attend to human voices; therefore, we tend to de-prioritize the non-traditional voices which remain largely unfamiliar. At sunset, the presence of human voices overwhelmed those of nature since humans are more apt at concentrating on customary voices. Despite the prioritization of anthropologic voices at sunset, the power disparity I identified was heavily in favor of nature. The voice is “described as if it existed–could be heard–apart from the sounds that it does make, apart from what we do hear (Frith).” The nontraditional voices of nature exist apart from their sound; the waves and the wind possess an underlying nonverbal power which can be experienced in the absence of noise. The raw, elemental power of these natural aspects was chronic and capable of being perceived despite the time which I visited the beach. Therefore, the non-traditional voices were emblematic of nature’s permanence: despite human intervention, the power of nature continues to persist and thrive. Although nature’s voice did not always hold auditory prominence, it never ceased to convey a sense of power and authority on the beach.
The composite vocal identity at the beach was compelling: every voice, auditory and nonverbal, united to form a prevailing sense of tranquility. The soothing waves rolling, the calm, enveloping music, and the gentle conversations were consolidated into one, collective voice. Frith posits “the voice as something that has a relationship,” (Frith) implying the connection between different forms of vocality. The voices I observed at the beach are similar in that they all emanated a calm quality, thereby reinforcing the overall unison of the beach. No voice was too rowdy, the winds were soft, and the waves blended into the background despite the time they were experienced. The multivocality of the beach is defined as serene and relaxing as a result of the uniformity in the sounds. The beach represents Eidsheim’s postulation that voices are “a composite manifestation of our understanding of sound at a given moment in time and place” (Eidsheim). Eidsheim’s idea describes the multivocality of the beach since the beach’s collective identity is a result of the assemblage of individual voices and how we comprehend their effects. The calm, tranquil response we experience from the voices heard at the beach leads us to associate the beach with relaxation. This allows a beach culture to be formed as a result of voices, exemplifying the ability of voice to construct a common identity. Thus, utilizing voice as culture further develops the collective of voices present at the beach.
The mediated voice of music augmented the collective vocal identity by communicating a digital story through a different vocal form. At the beach, every group of people was listening to their own music, displaying a form of mediation which juxtaposed the mostly natural voices of the beach. Mediation was defined by Couldry as the “dialectical process in which institutionalized media of communication are involved in the general circulation of symbols in social life” (Couldry). Music serving as a mediated voice thereby allows its listeners to bond over a shared experience. Social life at the beach was connected to music in that people utilized songs as a means of creating a relationship with others. The music connected the listeners at the beach through this communicative power, but also related to the collective vocal identity of the beach itself. As described by Couldry, “digital storytelling represents a novel distribution of a scarce resource — the ability to represent the world around us” (Couldry). The calm music paralleled the relaxed nature of the beach and thus further blended with the collective voice. People played this specific music to emanate a sense of being laid-back, thereby applying music as a form of digital storytelling. In putting out mellow vibes, they were able to complement the calm setting of the beach and join the collective identity using music as a mediated voice.
During my two visits to the beach, I was able to observe the interplay between natural and human voices on a level I have never conceived of before. I was able to recognize very specific sounds, emotions, and even non-traditional voices as well as notice how these separate, distinct parts lended themselves to the collective vocal identity of the beach. I construed this collection of voices as being serene, peaceful, and almost reverent as a result of the vocal synergy between people and the environment. Observers, myself included, were awestruck by the beautiful, audiovisual scenery, and our appreciation of nature was displayed through our vocal and physical expression.
Couldry, Nick. “Mediatization or Mediation? Alternative Understandings of the Emergent
Space of Digital Storytelling.” New Media & Society, vol. 10, no. 3, 2008, pp.
Eidsheim, Nina Sun. Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice. Duke
University Press, 2015.
Frith, Simon. Performing Rites: on the Value of Popular Music. Harvard University Press,
What advantages or gains can I identify from working out this project with another individual(s)
I believe the biggest benefit of experiencing this project with another individual is the extra, unique perspective available throughout the process. Everyone has their own singular way of viewing the project and problem solving which they typically do not stray away from. Therefore, I found it quite beneficial to gain the perspective of a peer because it allowed me to recognize and understand things that I would not have comprehended if it were just I searching for voices. My partner was able to show me non-traditional voices that I initially failed to uncover and vice versa. In addition, once we discovered all the voices that we could, my partner offered a unique means of interpreting the voices and relating them to the context of the project. For example, she touched on the disparities between traditional and non-traditional voices depending on the time which we visited the beach and how these disparities could influence the course of our writing. Thus, I found it extremely useful to work on this project with another individual since I was able to incorporate their viewpoints into my own understanding and analysis.
11 February 2020
Although many people cannot see past the frequent beer, boot, and truck references, country music provides a unique means of storytelling. Listening to “Text Me Texas” by Chris Young the first time, I was initially dissuaded with the southern references and country twang. However, the more I listened to Chris Young’s vocal elements and lyrics, the further I was able to appreciate the storytelling quality of the song. The stereotypically backroads country song revealed a love story told in a somber, expressive tone when listened to with an unbiased and receptive ear. The lyrics themselves tell a story of a man yearning for love but unfortunately not having his affection reciprocated. The tangible qualities of the song paint the picture of a difficult romance but it is the tonality and expression of his voice that complete the story. The melancholy nature of Chris Young’s voice combined with the chord progression expresses a quality of sad, unfulfilled lust. Although the lyrics are sad, it is the expressive quality of his voice which truly conveys his message to the audience. Adding somber vocal qualities personalizes the story, allowing for its content and emotion to resonate on a deeper level with listeners. Therefore, country music travels past the seemingly negative stereotypes, providing a unique, personal story through its vocal qualities and lyricism.
The formation of a classically trained opera virtuoso goes far beneath the apparent surface: it takes talent, dedication, and extreme work ethic in order to master the craft. Classical vocalists are some of the most talented individuals on the planet as they are able to harness the power of the voice in ways most could not begin to fathom. In addition, opera singers are some of the most determined professionals, spending countless hours refining, improving, and developing their voice and their soul. This seemingly antiquated practice is interesting as a result of the unique relationship that opera singers cultivate with their voices. Although training is rigorous for the classical singer, the outcome is spectacular: the ability to invoke power and emotion to an audience through the human voice.
My knowledge about the culture of opera singing was accumulated through two separate episodes: an informed talk with a classical vocalist as well as a simulated lesson and performance by a singer. In my first encounter with opera singing, I focused a lot on listening to tangible qualities such as the words and experiences that the vocalist was speaking of. My listening was quite representative of the vocal features of opera in that I paid attention to what was said by the singer. However, in the second lecture I abandoned the frame of reference of the quote on quote “traditional” listener. Instead, I felt the emotion transmitted by the opera singer and listened to the non-distinct qualities such as the tone, power, emotional invocation of her voice. This switched perspective I took allowed me to grasp the non-verbal aspect of classical singing: the individuality and soul behind the voice.
I believe that the most valuable takeaway from my experiences with the opera singers was gaining a holistic knowledge of the culture and ability of the classical singer. I was able to hear them sing and I was given the opportunity to understand what goes into making such powerful voices. Words that stuck out to me were from the opera teacher who spoke of how half of voice is a component of “soul” and how classical vocalists are a conduit of emotion. In this sense, the singer is able to instill compelling emotions to an audience through the use of their voice, a phenomenon that strongly relates to the themes of our class. Furthermore, I learned that although voice is a physical entity, its ability to become a conduit of emotion is dependent on soul: the nonverbal, yet engrained component of voice. I also gained a perspective on the scrupulous nature of opera singing, and the dedication required to progress as a vocalist. In addition to refining their tones, qualities, and notes, singers must cultivate their soul by translating operas from Latin, Italian, etc., in order to understand the emotion and embrace it within themselves. This element of opera was foreign to me, but I now comprehend its importance and how determined a vocalist must be to complete this work. In effect, this allows the opera to train their soul in accordance with their voice. A deeper study into the operas is very rewarding and necessary since the singer must perform it to an audience who more often than not does not understand the language of the songs. The singer is thus additionally tasked with using their voice to convey language, emotion, and story to an audience. The importance of voice is thereby revealed by this responsibility of the singer. A vocalist’s tool to captivate an audience and overcome them with emotion, not to mention be successful, is their voice; therefore, it must be protected at all costs and treated carefully. This was touched on in the first lecture when the singer spoke of dealing with colds and other problems that might compromise your voice. We all take for granted the importance of our voice’s health since our existence typically does not depend on it. However, the vocalists illuminated the significance of protecting our voices at all costs. Voice is a means of power, emotion, and expression and should be treated as such, a powerful lesson I learned from the classical vocalists.
The study of voice within classical singing expanded my knowledge of opera singing as well as reaffirmed the power which our voices hold. The singers proved that voices are a medium of emotion, strength, and communication and thus possess great value. The only challenge I encountered through these lessons was attempting to shift my perspective from listening to feeling and absorbing. This allowed me to experience the emotion and soul of the singers rather than strictly the palpable qualities of their voices. Moreover, this granted me the ability to understand and experience voice as not just a verbal ordeal but instead as a channel of expression and emotion.
After completing Assignment 1, I realized that I sometimes struggle with creativity in my writing. The prompt was very loose and exploratory, forcing me to think critically yet abstractly about the topic at hand. There was such a wide breadth of topics to choose to speak about that it was difficult to narrow down something that truly resonated with me. In addition, once I finally decided on a topic, I did not know where to begin analyzing or writing as a result of the loose, interpretive prompt. I had to sit down and explore what the topic meant to me before I could begin the writing process, instead of merely just responded to a set question. Therefore, the assignment exposed how challenging thinking outside of the box is for me while brainstorming for a writing project.
Comedy as a form of entertainment developed in the age of the Ancient Greeks and was first defined by Aristotle as an imitation of those worse than the average (Hoy). Comedy has evolved since antiquity, but remains as the use of humor to captivate and cheer an audience. Integral to comedy’s success is vocality: how a comedian implements their voice in order to storytell and instill an audience with laughter. The comedic voice is a collection of individual, unique comedians who contribute their experiences and thoughts about the world around them in an amusing fashion. However, many comedians receive backlash for targeting sensitive topics as the basis for their jokes. In this context, voices are given a negative connotation but the reality is quite the opposite. Comedians utilize their influential voices to bring light to taboo topics which are not typically acceptable to speak about in today’s political climate. Thus, the comedic voice is important since it represents a challenge to moral righteousness in pursuit of an unfettered space to discuss previously illicit issues.
The comedic voice’s role as a social vice is first seen in the works of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor; comedians that had a provocative style, pushing the boundaries of social morality. The voices of Bruce and Pryor are impassioned, aggravating, yet incisive, qualities that can intimidate an audience member. The irate material quality of their voices and derogatory subject matter can incite negative first impressions. This phenomenon occurs since “whenever we speak, our voices convey information about us as individuals” (Karpf). The unsuspecting listener may observe the angry qualities of these voices and immediately dismay the comedian as controversial or distasteful. However, with more examination and exposure to the voice the true importance and influence of the comedian is revealed.
Voice is revelatory of our identities, an actuality that comedians rely on in order to distinguish themselves within the the collective comedic voice. Richard Pryor built a reputation for a salacious and politically-incorrect style of comedy, targeting the police, social injustice, whites, and much more as topics for his jokes. However, under the surface, this controversial style was a way to shed light on the problems plaguing society of the time through the use of his expressive voice. Voice is not just a conduit for language, it is “our personal and social glue, helping to create bonds between individuals and groups” (Kreiman and Sidtis). Comedians target sensitive topics in order to resonate with audience members who may have undergone similar experiences and are unable to voice their opinions and feelings. Since the beginning of its history, comedy’s purpose has been “to hold a mirror up to society to reflect its follies and vices” (Hoy). Therefore, comedy provides a platform for an individual to speak upon taboo topics in society which otherwise remain unscathed. Thus, although comedic voices may display a vulgar facade, they are in fact a medium to connect an audience and call into question delicate social ideals.
The comedic voice constructs a culture; initial attempts to lambaste moral righteousness have paved the way for future comedians to tackle contemporary ills of society. The comedic audacity of Bruce, Pryor, and equivalents gave rise to brilliant comedic voices of women and people of color. The sexual candor of early comedians coupled with the women’s liberation movement allowed modern female comedians such as Amy Schumer and Sarah Silverman to speak freely about their bodies and sexuality (Cohen). Societal boundaries once in place were obliterated by comedy’s frank nature, giving women the platform to use their voices to call into question gender discrepancies in society. This multi-generational and multi-vocal authenticity has helped to normalize issues that were once considered taboo. Dave Chapelle, Jordan Peele, W. Kamau Bell, and other black comedians were able to follow the lead of Pryor and use their influential voices to further discussions on race, social injustice, and masculinity (Cohen). Orality in comedy is thereby meant to place societal issues on a pedestal, opening a humorous dialogue to diminish their condemning status.
Comedians will always utilize their voice to dispute topics considered out of bounds for moral society. In calling out what society deems as prohibited, comedians use vocality to create a collective bonded together by humor and shared experiences. However, the comedian’s role goes far beyond laughter. Inflammatory humor is a vehicle of tackling societal constraints by unrestricting dialogue, exposing hypocrisy, and empowering those without a voice. The comedic voice epitomizes the notion that our voices are revelatory of our identity, thereby providing us individuality and the power to impact the world around us.
Cohen, Sascha. “How the Marginalized Invented Politically Incorrect Comedy: Essay.”
Zócalo Public Square, 2 Oct. 2017, www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2016/09/19/marginalized-invented-offensive-comedy/ideas/nexus/.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Richard Pryor.” Encyclopædia Britannica,
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 Dec. 2019,
Hoy, Cyrus Henry. “Sentimental Comedy of the 17th and 18th Centuries.” Encyclopædia
Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 11 Apr. 2014,
Karpf, Anne. The Human Voice: How This Extraordinary Instrument Reveals Essential Clues
About Who We Are. Bloomsbury Pub. Plc., 2006.
Kreiman, Jody, and Diana Sidtis. Foundations of Voice Studies: an Interdisciplinary Approach
to Voice Production and Perception. Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
Voice is a commodity all humans possess. Whether strictly vocal or physically expressive, we communicate emotions, ideas, and individuality to others through our voices. Broadcasting unique experiences through orality is a tool mastered by comedians in the perfection of their craft. Comedians rely on their voice as material insofar as voices become a means of relating personal ideas and experiences with an audience in a humorous fashion. Therefore, comedians are masters of voice, utilizing their vocality in order to entertain and instruct.
Comedians require a distinctive, refined voice in order to command their audience. The reception and outcome of a joke is dependent on its delivery, meaning that vocality is extremely important to comedians. During routines, comedians must employ intonation, timbre, enunciation, punctuation, and many other vocal skills in order to deliver a joke. Vocal timbre can be used to set emotion or intensity, punctuation can be used to stress specific words, and unique intonation can be used to add flare and individuality. In combination, these vocal strategies can determine whether or not a joke receives a laugh. A comedian’s mastery of their vocal elements is essential to establishing personal style and entertaining an audience.
Comedians require proficiency in the physical traits of voice; however, their influence and ability to entertain is also the result of the storying power of voice. Comedians apply humor to their own experiences and then relate them to an audience, exemplifying the power of storying. The process of personal storytelling is an intimate event, thereby drawing in an audience and connecting them with the comedian. Voice is therefore essential for comedians to accomplish their main goal of establishing a relationship with their audience. Hence, a comedian’s voice is a vessel for material used to entertain, connect, and inform listeners.