Archaelogy of the Voice

Ever since MIT4 last week, I’ve been exploring a recent epiphany to do with the sonic characteristics, and not only the visual ‘construction’ of digital stories In this article from 1997, performance theorist and archaeologist Mike Pearson reflects on some of the issues raised by the Centre for Performance Research, Aberystwyth’s (then) recent conference on ‘An Archaeology of the Voice’. Archeology + Performance Studies – cool:

First, we might consider the voice as itself an artifact, manufactured through social practice. Its utterance is its raw material but as with a stone tool it is worked by hammering, splitting, trimming, polishing; as with a pot it is thrown, glazed, decorated, embellished, fired; as with a metal axe it is smelted, cast, moulded, alloyed. The processes of its fabrication are social, cultural, personal, artistic. It attains the deep patina of usage. Yet it is susceptible to wear, corrosion, mutation, decay; it displays marks of time and experience.

2 thoughts to “Archaelogy of the Voice”

  1. The training of opera singers is a good example of the social production of the voice. I attended a really interesting talk about this recently by an opera singer. She described how the voice, in opera training, is disembodied. Training is the process of making it a thing unto itself. One takes care of the voice, as a product, to be preserved and moulded over time. Alot of time. She was saying that opera training typically involves a minimum of 10 years before the voice can be considered ‘professional’.

  2. Thanks, Justine. That’s interesting, becuse in flute playing the same years and years are spent trying to merge body and machine, so that the flute sound emerges (as naturally, as organically) *as* the voice of the flautist. But I have had the experience of an opera singer complaining about air con on the tour bus on the grounds: “it’s not because it bothers me, it’s The Voice”

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