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Nina Mashurova

Nina Mashurova is a writer and editor, covering music, arts, and culture with a special attention to queerness, cyborgs, and politics. They are a contributing editor to Global Voices and Freemuse, covering global censorship in arts and music, and have previously worked as the associate editor at Impose Magazine. They are a co-director of programming at the Silent Barn and a co-founder of the Gender is Over (If You Want It) project.

“I Sing the Body Rejected: Precarious Identities, Precarious Vocal Styles”
For decades, lavender linguistics scholars have asked whether there is such a thing as a “gay voice,” pointing to markers such as vowel duration and pitch. Yvon Bonenfant has since speculated whether there are queer vocal timbres that emanate from and resonate with queer bodies. Queer listening, though, does not only pick up on other queer bodies, but also takes into queer canon a variety of voices, often marked by other types of embodied precarity. Through examining the shared characteristics of these voices, I ask whether precarity itself has a recognizable vocal quality.

How does a voice sound when the body it emanates from falls outside the protection of the state? What is the sound of internalized oppression when it is externalized through song? How are voices shaped by moments of shared cultural trauma?

By examining the voices of queer musicians working in the wake of the AIDS crisis, and Black musicians making music during heightened moments of racialized violence, I look at voices conscious of their own corporeal vulnerability. The signature tremble found in the work of queer artists such as Jamie Stewart, Owen Pallett, and CocoRosie can also be found in the work of Black women such as Tracy Chapman and Nina Simone, women writing about self-harm such as Kittie and EMA, and Black queer artists such as Mykki Blanco and M. Lamar. As technology evolves, vocal performances of destruction are compounded by distortion and feedback, as with Pharmakon and Cities Aviv.

Queer performances of precarity do not always sound perfectly similar to each other, much less to those of gendered precarity, class precarity, or racialized precarity. Nonetheless, by exploring vocal signifiers of precarity we can read those performances as documents of societal dysphoria and identify moments of aesthetic solidarity across precarious communities.

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