Didn’t make the cut


When you write an application for research funding you have to stick to a crazily short word limit (4000 characters to describe a three years research project with 6 people involved! Go figure). So some things just don’t fit. The project proposal just prepared with Julian, Bart Ash, Roshini and Sukant is about sound – sonic diaspora – and was sent off today (phew! – a day before the deadline). Sound is critical, resonant, evocative and too often unheard in academic research (in favour of much looking at visual and textual stuff). The mix includes research on pritate radio, slavery, hip hop opposition and sonourous youth rebellion, among other things. Here tho’ is a part of the preambolic ‘research context’ that did not make the final cut.

Elvis Costello said that writing about music was like dancing about architecture. Paul Gilroy (1994) mapped the conviviality of black musical transnationalism though material ephemera carried in records and tunes over myriad Atlantic crossings. Kodwo Eshun (1998) evoked the critical spatial and alternative public sphere of soul, disco and hip-hop though a ficto-analytical writing that was not easily assimilated to scholarly convention. We think we need to make the category error of thinking diaspora and movement though the affective, emotive and creative dimensionality of sound. To record the ways diaspora, identity and migration are spoken, sung and musicked as they reverberate beyond their material culture trace, as they are articulated in a difficult, often unremarked (subaltern – Spivak 1999) voice and to write and report on the fraught but productive dissonances that come into play as creative expression is codified in scholarship (Koepping 2002).

Some critics (1999, 2004) of Dis-Orienting Rhythms (1996) demanded greater attention to the music in studies of music and politics (TCS 2000, Postcolonial Studies 1998), and we recall that Andrew Goodwin argued that commentators on music-television focussed upon image and had become deaf to ideas (1992). In this context, we take the emergence of a new scholarship of affect and emotion as an opportunity to hear a different story of diaspora and migration in the sounds, music and autobiography of metropolitan, cosmopolitan, multicultural conviviality and critique.
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pic is of Paul Robeson’s visit to sing for the workers at Sydney Opera House in 1960, from Sharkfeed.