Curated Panel

Excavating Sound: Shaping a Performance / Sound Studies Forum

Curated by Megan Johnson and Moynan King


(from the original call for papers)

Sound is an integral aspect of theatre and performance, a major component of performative expression, and a way of constructing and knowing oneself in the world. Sound travels through many of the analytical frames that constitute the limits of performance studies. This panel aims to purposefully consider the work of sound within the multi-disciplinary frame of performance studies. By excavating the nuanced variations of sound (voice; speech; noise), alongside the many intrinsic properties of sound production (resonance; vibration; volume; sonority; timbre; pitch), and the potential environments of sound reception (architecture; technology; bodies) how might we uncover new connecting threads across these disciplines?

Jonathan Sterne’s call for the cultivation and facilitation of sonic imaginations summons an “interdisciplinary ferment” that “takes sound as its analytical point of departure and arrival” (2). Foregrounding “what sound does in the human world, and what humans do in the sonic world” within the humanities – and within theatre and performance studies specifically – has the potential to incite or reinvigorate ways of thinking and doing performance and performance research (2). It is our assertion that highlighting the points of connection between the fields of sound and performance/dance/drama/theatre serves to enrich the analytical potential in any and all of these fields. Rather than breaking down disciplinary divides this panel seeks to draw attention to the potential of sound as a method and/or frame within the multi-disciplinary field of performance broadly conceived.

This conference session will be a hybrid panel and reading group (with short paper presentations or provocations informed in part by collective readings) in order to instigate a forum for a shared lexicon of integrated sound and performance studies approaches. The panel will consist of six or more short thematic presentations followed by a substantial moderated discussion inspired by the ideas that emerge from the overall thrust of the presentations.

We welcome submission from a diverse range of scholars and practitioners who are eager to explore how their scholarly and/or artistic work might fit within, alongside, or around sound and performance/dance/drama/theatre studies.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Phenomenological explorations of sound and sound as a bodily practice including the corporeality of sound, and sound in everyday life.
  • Explorations of the performative contexts of sound, and sound as a method of intervening in performance studies generally.
  • The politics of sound and silence.
  • The way sound defines or distinguishes bodies/beings in the construction of identity, subjectivity, and power.
  • The shifting character of sound and sound production across context, genre, and reception.
Selected participants will be expected to engage in the reading of select texts (determined by the group) in the months leading up to the conference in order to establish a shared vocabulary and facilitate a lively discussion.

Work Cited

Sterne, Jonathan. “Sonic Imaginations,” The Sound Studies Reader. London; New York: Routledge, 2012: 1- 17.