Ableism and the Reception of Improvised Soundsinging

Tonelli, C., 11-Dec-2016, In : Music & Politics. X, 2, p. 1-14 14 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Soundsinging is one name for the practice of making music using an idiosyncratic palette of vocal and non-vocal oral techniques. This paper is concerned with the reception of soundsinging and, more specifically, with listeners whose reactions to soundsinging involve attempts to contain the practice. To theorize these reactions, I draw on the work of disability studies scholars and their concept of ableism. Ableists are subjects whose insecurity about their own mortality manifests in a compulsion to eliminate or correct bodies they feel do not represent a speciesideal. I draw on interviews I have conducted with (sound)singers like Paul Dutton, Joane Hétu, and Jaap Blonk, as well as on my own experiences as a soundsinger, to point to the ways in which the behavior and containment strategies of listeners exposed to soundsinging often resemble those experienced by disabled individuals. Both disabled individuals and soundsingers experience ableist speech acts that mark them as animalic, incapable, and lacking instrumentality. Ableism is one manifestation of the construct of modernity, a construct whose structure requires a positioning of some Other as uncivilized or imperfect in order to posit the existence of progress and perfection. Ableists’ investment in certain bodies and voices as signifiers of perfection interferes with their ability to hear soundsinging as anything other than a violation of that ideal. Exposing the existence of ableist listening can help us understand not only what kinds of aesthetic and political processes unfold during soundsinging; perhaps more crucially, it reveals the hidden processes that the ableist's vocal ideal enables and encourages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalMusic & Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11-Dec-2016


  • Reception theory, Sound Studies, Poetry, Improvisation, Voice, JAZZ, MUSIC, ethnomusicology, DISABILITY

Download statistics

No data available

ID: 39030814