In The Race of Sound Nina Sun Eidsheim traces the ways in which sonic attributes that might seem natural, such as the voice and its qualities, are socially produced. Eidsheim illustrates how listeners measure race through sound and locate racial subjectivities in vocal timbre—the color or tone of a voice. Eidsheim examines singers Marian Anderson, Billie Holiday, and Jimmy Scott as well as the vocal synthesis technology Vocaloid to show how listeners carry a series of assumptions about the nature of the voice and to whom it belongs. Outlining how the voice is linked to ideas of racial essentialism and authenticity, Eidsheim untangles the relationship between race, gender, vocal technique, and timbre while addressing an undertheorized space of racial and ethnic performance. In so doing, she advances our knowledge of the cultural-historical formation of the timbral politics of difference and the ways that comprehending voice remains central to understanding human experience, all the while advocating for a form of listening that would allow us to hear singers in a self-reflexive, denaturalized way.
About the Author
Nina Sun Eidsheim is Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice, also published by Duke University Press.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments xi Introduction. The Acousmatic Question: Who Is This? 1 1. Formal and Informal Pedagogies: Believing in Race, Teaching Race, Hearing Race 39 2. Phantom Genealogy: Sonic Blackness and the American Operatic Timbre 61 3. Familiarity as Strangeness: Jimmy Scott and the Question of Black Timbral Masculinity 91 4. Race as Zeros and Ones: Vocaloid Refused, Reimagined, and Repurposed 115 5. Bifurcated Listening: The Inimitable, Imitated Billie Holiday 151 6. Widening Rings of Being: The Singer as Stylist and Technician 177 Appendix 201 Notes 205 Bibliography 243 Index 259
What People are Saying About This
“Voice is ‘a thick event’ in Nina Sun Eidsheim's pathbreaking study of race and vocality. Her visionary work challenges us to rethink and ultimately disassemble the long-standing, putative metrics for reading identity and the body in sonic cultures. The Race of Sound takes readers on an epistemological journey that boldly challenges us to question what we know about the wondrous vocal instrument. This is the book that scholars in feminist sound studies and black performance studies have been waiting for.”
“In her own magisterial voice, Nina Sun Eidsheim speaks outward from musicology to scholars in a host of cultural studies-oriented fields, doing indispensable work to make nuanced and collaborative discussions possible across borders many have considered impermeable. This brilliant book will be the benchmark for discussions of voice, sound, and race for many years to come.”