In-Class Presentations: Dec 15!

Please post your feedback for today’s presenters as a comment below. You should respond to two in-class presentations, and provide at least ONE positive piece of feedback, and ONE constructive piece of critique or suggestion. Please post as soon as possible following the end of class.

11 thoughts on “In-Class Presentations: Dec 15!

  1. Rajdeep – I love the subject matter, focusing on an otherwise underlooked aspect of hip hop (from an ethnomusicological POV), you definitely hit the mark finding a connection between all these different songs, expanding on how these “hip hop eulogies” translate into the context of male bonding and presentations of masculinity It would be cool to see how this sense of male bonding is used in other musical genres, for comparison. i.e. in heavy metal (parking lot culture), pop country (partying “with your bros”, I suppose that could apply to hip hop as well), folk punk (group singalongs, even though they may not be entirely male focused, that same sort of revelry), etc.

    John – I also loved your topic, taking a view into the world of vocal manipulation in music. The Knife seem to be a prime example of that, especially when using this lens of a transgendered or even transhuman(man and machine) viewpoint. I think it’d be worth it to look at other artists that employ vocal (and possibly even performative) manipulation like Imogen Heap and Dan Deacon in more of an electro-pop context, and possibly artists in pop hip-hop, like T-Pain, Tyler the Creator, ASAP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar.

  2. Rajdeep:
    I think the choice to focus on death in hip-hop is a really significant subject. As we have discussed throughout the semester, male hip-hop is usually centered around a projection of masculinity and aggression, yet as you point out, death plays an interesting role in this. As you stated, death in hip-hop reveals a vulnerability as well as route to express masculinity, such as the members of Wu-Tang Clan praising RZA’s brother for standing up against his gunman. I also think the distinction you make between these rapper’s praise for their mothers vs. their friends was really valuable. In your finished product, I think it would be useful to tie in the scholarly works in-between each song example, bringing in outside information and tying it to the analysis of the lyrics. This way, your audience would be able to relate the lyrics of these songs to broader studies of gender and death in music.

    Kevin:
    As I stated in class, I think your composition of these two songs side by side was genius. It was not until your briefing, or the comparison between “masculine” and “feminine” songs that I realized how absurd the music was. What I took away from each song was the level of control each lead instrument had. In the hyper masculine song, the guitar would trail off, overpowering the rest of the instruments and forcing the listeners attention. In the hyper feminine song, each instrument was soft, and less assertive. I really enjoyed how you used the readings to construct these gendered songs, yet also admitted how difficult it is to remove your biased perspective from the composition. All together, listening to the songs right after one another exploited just how gendered the structure of music is, which seemed to be the point of your project! If I could suggest something, it would be to touch on the role of voice in these genres, perhaps relating it to the assertiveness or passiveness of the instruments, and the sense of control these attributes give the voice.

  3. Gemma — I really like your idea of focusing on disembodied voices. The word choice of “inside” and “outside” made me think about the interior and exterior of one’s gender identity: when appearance is absent, what kind of message could the voice convey? And I really like the way you make other’s talking and chatting as the background, making it more close to real-life conditions. I actually don’t know what to suggest — you may reduce the noise made by the microphone?

    Devon — I think the focus of male peacocking is fantastic! I really like your idea to start with discussing about what creates those authentic performances. The youtube video is so interesting! Would you use it as an example to support your argument in the paper? For suggestion, I might be interested about what drives people to still working those authentic performances later. As you said, originally males tend to get dressed-up and do peacocking thing to seduce women. But later, besides seduction of women, do those authentic performances serve other functions?

  4. Rajdeep –
    I think the idea of vulnerability in an otherwise hypermasculine genre of music is a really interesting topic. I think that narratives of death in hip hop culture are often centered around a tragic but unfortunately common occurrence in the ghetto, as the birthplace of rap. I am looking forward to seeing your comparison between these artists’ eulogies for their friends and for their mothers, and the ways in which the messages conveyed. I think it may also be interesting to explore the sounds of these songs, as an additional analysis. When Wu-Tang Clan raps about the death of RZA’s brother, the sound is still very hard and masculine; however, when Kayne West raps about the death of his mother in Only One, the song is softer, more melodic. Does musical composition play a role in your analysis, or will you focus strictly on the lyrics? Does the maintenance of a quick, aggressive sound in Tearz at all hinder the theme of vulnerability that you are exploring?

    Susie –
    I am very excited to see the final version of your documentary on groupies! I think your topic is incredibly interesting, and the question of whether certain portrayals of women is empowering them or subjecting them to the patriarchy is one that will always be important evaluate. I really appreciate the fact that you chose to include a wide range of examples, both from the media and from your own creative and imitative exploration. I think these clips work to illustrate a sort of interview aspect of your piece without specifically incorporating the question and response process. I am interested in seeing you compare the “fangirl” and “groupie” archetypes and perhaps examining the different stereotypes (if any) highlighted by each.

  5. Such great presentations today, everybody!

    Rajdeep, your list of hip-hop songs confronting death is comprehensive and offers several different angles through which you can attack the masculinity-through-sensitivity that you detailed in class. How might a Wutang Clan eulogy compare to Kanye West’s ode to his mother? I think here you could make an interesting point on the thematic evolution of hiphop and of masculinity in hiphop. Do modern rappers like Kanye and Kendrick touch on their “sensitive” side in ways that Pac, Nas and Rza don’t necessarily explore. You should also look at the intent behind each verse: Kendrick’s “u” considers the death of his friend in tandem with his own inaction and perceived lack of consideration, and so, in this way, criticizes himself just as much as he remembers his “homey.” I’m curious to see how you might observe the function of the other verses, from old to new, in your final project.

  6. John, your highly theoretical analysis of the voice intrigues me, and I would love to read some of the sources that you are looking. For my own project, Maria directed me to Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto,” which I think you could apply to your own project if you consider the computer manipulated voice as robotic. She writes: “cyborg imagery can suggest a way out of the maze of dualisms in which we have explained our bodies and our tools to ourselves” — though her approach deals primarily with discourses on feminism, I can see her ideas being applied equally well to the queer minority.

    Are you only dealing with queer musical artists? If not, you should look at studio manipulation in pop music. Can we see the misogynistic and hetero-normative lyrics of T-Pain, for example, as being queered by auto-tune? And do more subtle manipulations of the voice through auto-tune (as a pitch corrective effect not intended to be perceived as artificial) constitute a queering of the voice? Where would you draw the line? Or more generally, is gender and sexuality constructed simply through the recording process and choices of EQ that are applied to a voice.

  7. Gemma, I thought your sound piece was beautiful and explored the “embodied voice” and disembodied voice” in a really interesting way. I thought the heart beat in the background, really created a bodily element to the sound piece that made it seem like an extension of the self and made me reflect on my own vocality. I thought your repetition of the words “inside” and “outside” was really powerful and furthered the dynamic between the projections of masculine and feminine voices. At the end of piece, I thought you created a beautiful fluidity of masculine and feminine coming together.

    In adding to the scholarly aspects in your artist statement there is a really great book called “Embodied Voices: Representing Female Vocality in Western Culture” by Leslie C. Dunn that you should check out in addition to Sheila L. Cavanagh book “Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality and the Hygienic Imagination. In the book Cavanagh discusses the vocal acoustics of the feminine voice must be seen in a place of the visible body. She makes the argument that an embodied voice is feminine whereas a disembodied voice, authoritative and territorial is masculine. Sounds heard out of sync and out of alignment with the body trouble feminine gender identifications.

    Devon,

    I have always been fascinated with “peacocking” in music performances and the sense of an amplified sense of self on stage. The video in class you showed of the Orwell’s and Mario Cuomo throwing himself in eroticized gestures on the floor immediately reminded me of Iggy Pop’s performance’s in which he lashes himself with the microphone stand, take off his shirt and rowels around on the ground. Both the Orwell’s and Iggy pop both seem to exhibit sexual and self-reflexive fervor in their peacocking liv performances. I don’t know if you’ve checked this out yet but there is an interview with the Orwell’s on their performance on Letterman. http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/08/the-orwells-the-best-of-whats-next.html. Also, I think it would be interesting to explore the female aspects of “peacocking” as well in music performances. How it differentiates from the masculine-style of peacocking.

  8. Kevin – I was very impressed with your project that you presented today. You are a very talented musician! I also think that the idea was not only incredibly creative, and relevant to class, but also highly insightful. Once the two recordings were played side by side, it was made how incredibly silly masculine vs feminine within explicitly music really is. And how severe that difference is. Perhaps in your artist’s statement you could say something about why you think that is, or discuss how you feel about masculine vs. feminine music. I also think dealing with music explicitly and not performance, voice, or lyrics was a very fascinating choice.

    Susie – I really enjoyed what I did see of your movie. It really is informative in the sexual nature that goes along with being a groupie. There is that underlying belief that groupies are all women that sleep with the band. And even if that is true, what does that mean in the context of music and gender? Your project seems to be answering those questions. The movie was made well and used a good amount of different clips that were critical to the main idea. I liked that there were interviews with your friends, with stars, and different clips of movies. I think it would be interesting to maybe talk about super fans that are teens/young girls who are into boy bands and such, because there is not really a sexual conversation in regards to those young girls. I’m excited to see the rest of your movie.

  9. Kevin- I think your project is going to be truly incredible as you literally have mastered the art of how to make a generically feminine/masculine song. I think how you created sound without lyrics really captures the art of how often we only go for what the artist is saying. Perhaps you could do a comparison between a hyper masculine artists musical focus and a hyper feminine’s focus in order to touch upon modern culture and the impact of that.

    Devon- I think peacocking is a really interesting concept and your video hit the nail on the head as to what exactly/ how easy it is to perform through peacocking. I think what you did particularly well was explored the notion of costume and how that is the first aspect of what is seen. Perhaps, moving forward you could see if any female performers do similar peacock type performances.

    1. Rajdeep, I’ve been re-examining Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts.” If you haven’t considered discussing this track, I think it would be really fruitful. Not only is it about death, it’s about suicide and sexual guilt, providing a way to read his relationship to death as it pertains directly to hyper-masculine sexuality. It’s not a eulogy, of course, but maybe this would be useful for you anyway. I was just thinking about this track, which is so striking in the context of his body of work.

      Susie, by the way, if it’s at all possible to win at dance, your dance piece won. You’re amazing at parsing gender through non-verbal media and I’m blown away by how well you do it. That goes for this video collage, too. It reveals this narrative wherein female sexual desire is seen as perverse or over the top. I know a couple of women my age who have gotten hit on by Tiesto in Manhattan clubs, which is a weird, creepy coincidence. Male musicians expect women to be eager to sleep with them, and that colors the way they view female fans it seems.

  10. Gemma,

    The embodied voice is kind of my idee fixe right now because of the Cusick article, so I was really interested to see how your project would develop after hearing about it in our small group workshops! There is an intriguing mix of bodies, and bodiless tone, in your piece, which I really enjoyed. I mentioned in class how fitting it was that the man attempting to match the tone had to slide up to it, immediately identifying him as masculine. I realize it’s pretty far along in completion week at this point, but it might be interesting to see what happens if you recorded people attempting to sing tones that our society would hope they would have distanced themselves from– for example, a man might have once been able to sing the A above middle C and now doesn’t consider himself capable of it? And to consider the implications of that, and how it resonates with Cusick and Butler’s assertion that even sex is performed; that men have willingly retrained themselves in the practices of Speech to conform to certain prescribed notions of gender? (Or to consider falsetto, maybe, for certain successful men? Maybe look into the Jeff Buckley article?)

    Also, thinking about Inside/Outside, I think a lot of the dialogue pertaining to concepts of boundaries of the body and voice is just as interested in the bodies of listeners as it is interested in the bodies of the singers producing the tone themselves. (Ie Peraino suggesting that– and I can’t remember exactly what she’s referring to here, I think the relationship between a castrati and the man infatuated with him– two men can be engaged in lesbian sex through singing, because voice emerges from the orifice of the throat into the orifice of the ear.) I’m not sure how you’d incorporate this into your project, maybe a call-and-response, or a listener verbally responding to the sounds they’re hearing.

    John,

    To be totally honest, you name dropped a number of concepts that I don’t know– but that I really wish I did! So as someone who hasn’t read “Cruising Utopia,” I’m wondering about the implications of using the word utopia as a vehicle to explore queerness. A utopia is inherently imaginary; there’s a recognition that it’s an impossibility. So if queerness is somehow tied into the idea of the future, and a utopia is inherently imagined– does that suggest that something about queerness is inherently limited, or impossible? (Limited by dominant heteronormative structures, I guess?) Or is that reductionist, or besides the point? Is the strength of this analogue in the longing, and the generative, imaginative aspects of a utopia?

    And so this sense of futurity is the link you’re making to transhumanism? That suggests another limitation, a limitation of the human body… Damn I’m sorry I really wish I knew the material you were working with. I hope this helps at all… At least I have a book to add to my reading list…

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