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Ian Biddle

Ian Biddle is a cultural theorist and musicologist, working on a range of topics in music and sound-related areas. His work ranges from the cultural history of music and masculinity, theorizing music's intervention in communities and subjectivities, sound, soundscapes and urban experience, and the politics of noise. He has interests in memory studies, sound studies, Italian workerist and autonomist theory, psychoanalysis, and theoretical approaches to ‘affective’ states. He is co-founder and coordinating editor (with Richard Middleton and Nanette de Jong) of the journal Radical Musicology. Recent publications include Music, Masculinity and the Claims of History (Ashgate, 2011); Sound, Music Affect (Continuum, 2012); and Music and Identity Politics (Ashgate, 2012).

“Voice, Listening, and the Slow History of Aging in Popular Music”
This paper explores how the notion of what I term ‘slow’ history might be thought in relation to representations of the voice and aging in popular culture, especially in European and North American popular song. Drawing in particular on recent theorizations of affect and listening (Kassabian, Biddle, and Thompson) and aging (Elliott, Blaikie, Katz), the paper seeks to interrogate the notion that aging as a culturally-informed and yet biologically material phenomenon might belong, along with other peri-cultural phenomena like listening, the voice (and other ‘subterranean’ phenomena such as noise) to a set of quasi-objects or assemblages that challenge and disrupt some of our key theoretical technologies for thinking the ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ domains. 

Centering its analysis of three instances of what Elliott (2015) terms the ‘late voice’ in popular song (Pastora Pavón, Bing Crosby, Grace Jones), the paper seeks to explore some of the ways in which these artists negotiated the transition to later-life vocalizing and how, in particular, they went about re-ordering the relation among voice, song, persona and public. These re-orderings, I will argue, constitute remarkably mutable surface phenomena that connect with a deep and complex space below the cultural and social domains. Drawing implicitly also on recent critiques of culture-centered analysis—especially from Negri, Varilio, Latour, and Flüsser—and object-oriented ontology, the paper is thus an attempt to rethink the historiography of song and aging by querying the assumptions on which ‘quick’ (or locally-focused, ethnographically-informed) histories of song are built.

“Voice, Age, Gender”
This panel explores relationships between voice, age, and gender in popular music and its attendant discourse. Subjects covered include sound recording, Auto-Tune, slow history, and youthful, angelic, and aging vocal grains. Musical subjects covered include Aretha Franklin, Pastora Pavón, Bing Crosby, Grace Jones, Taylor Swift, and choirboys singing Christmas songs.


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