This event has ended. Visit the official site or create your own event on Sched.
avatar for Nina Sun Eidsheim

Nina Sun Eidsheim

Nina Sun Eidsheim (UCLA Department of Musicology) and has published Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice (Duke UP, 2015) and Measuring Race: the Micropolitics of Listening to Vocal Timbre and Vocality in African-American Popular Music (Duke UP, forthcoming). She has co-edited the Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies and special issue for Postmodern Culture. Eidsheim has received fellowships including from the Mellon Foundation, the Cornell University Society of the Humanities, the UC President’s Office, and ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp.

“Vocaloid Refused, Re-Imagined and Re-Purposed: Analyzing a Vocal Synthesis Phenomena as Style and Technique”
Vocaloid is a vocal synthesis protocol that is used in music software packages that “sings back” any pitch and word combination entered by a user, impersonating a singer with a designated sex, age, and race. “Lola” and “Leon” (2004), the first pair of virtual “singers” designed, were introduced as “generic soul-singing voices.” Both the language describing the software packages and the accompanying imagery were racially charged, reproducing Blackface stereotypes of African American entertainers. But these representations of the Black voice, though still quite legible, have also been challenged. Over the last few years, music producers and online user communities (overlapping considerably with the anime community) have rejected the particular racialized presentation of the vocal synthesis software and imposed their own characters over the voices. After the breakout success of the Vocaloid voice bank and hologram phenomenon, Hatsune Miku (2007), which had made its way from Japan to the U.S. and beyond as a YouTube meme, and had reached a mass audience by performing on the David Letterman show, “Lola” and “Leon” and other Vocaloid voices were unexpectedly taken up by anime fans around the world, re-imagined within a new aesthetic community. Discussing Vocaloid’s many iterations, I present an analytical framework—vocal timbre as style and technique—that offers a way into analyzing, describing, and interacting with vocal timbre without perpetuating naturalized notions of voice. That is, although I am concerned with the cultural-historical formation of one category of vocal timbre, this project responds to the broader concern of accounting adequately for the timbral micropolitics of difference to which the voice is consistently subjected.

“Roundtable: Voicing Girlhood in Popular Music”
Popular music discourse surrounding the voices of girls and girlishness is profoundly contradictory. While girls’ voices are more prominent than ever in popular music culture, the specific sonic character of the young female voice is routinely denied authority. Decades-old clichés of girls as frivolous, silly, and deserving of contempt prevail in mainstream popular image and sound. The speech patterns and vocal timbre that constructed the narcissistic, immature femininity of “Valley Girl” in 1982 are still audibly relevant in the 2014 Chainsmokers song “#Selfie.” Popular criticism of girlish singers from Britney Spears to Ke$ha depicts their voices as annoying or grating, a particularly unwelcome intrusion into the sonic (and social) landscape. At the same time, popular music is widely understood as a particularly important vehicle for allowing girls and women to “speak out” or “make their voices heard.” All-woman bands from Pussy Riot to Beyoncé’s Sugar Mamas use the imagery of the girl group to enact political solidarity and model a feminist sensibility, while the pedagogical discourses of the girls’ rock camp movement, rooted in riot grrrl ideology, encourage girls to use music as a medium for publicly articulating an authentic personal identity.

This 120-minute roundtable will explore the relationship between girlhood and voice—in both its material and metaphorical senses—in popular music. Drawing on their contributions to a new anthology of essays titled Voicing Girlhood in Popular Music: Music, Performance, and Activism, the participants will address a series of themes and organizing questions that unite their work across contexts as diverse as golden-age Hollywood musicals, early 21st century tween pop, and contemporary hip-hop twerking videos. Among the organizing themes, we will interrogate the role of girlishness as a performative resource for adult women, asking what women accomplish through ventriloquizing the girl voice, how aging artists who begin as youthful ingénues modify their singing voices to claim adult authority, and what women’s performances of girlishness might mean for girl audiences. We will also explore the relationship between voice and silence as it pertains to musical girlhoods. How do ideologies such as the notion of rock authenticity and institutional structures such as the monetization of YouTube videos affect marginalized girls’ ability to be heard or to choose to remain silent? Finally, we will examine the co-construction of the literal and the metaphorical voice in popular music, asking how the dominant ways of understanding or producing the sound of the girl shape the social and political identities she can inhabit and make available to her listeners.

Twitter Feed