Section 8 Activity

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 Collective Voice of the Beach

Preface

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. 

Observational Information

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. 

Works Cited 

Couldry, Nick. “Mediatization or Mediation? Alternative Understandings of the Emergent 

Space of Digital Storytelling.” New Media & Society, vol. 10, no. 3, 2008, pp.

373–391., doi:10.1177/1461444808089414.

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,

1998.

Assignment 2 Reflection

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. 

Storytelling in Country Music

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. 

Ethnography of Opera

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.