CFP – “Black and Queer, Music on Screen”
liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies 6, no. 2, Fall 2022
Co-edited by Jekara Govan, James Tobias (Sync: Stylistics of Hieroglyphic Time), Stefan Torralba, and Calvin Warren (Ontological Terror: Blackness, Nihilism, Emancipation)
This special issue of liquid blackness: journal of aesthetics and black studies proposes to work on Black Queer expression in audiovisual musics cutting across histories of the avant-garde, popular audiovisuality, and frameworks both transnational and critically transhistorical. The goal of the issue is to set up the framework for a survey of Black and Queer musicality in audiovisual media so as to suggest “non-contemporaneous” dialogues between and across historical registers and media platforms, so that the critical expressive power of non-conforming persons of color become a given rather than an alibi, an absence, or a projection.
From early sound cinema to the present, queer or gender non-conforming black artists have voiced a complex series of claims, propositions, demands, and desires, from the introduction of sound to the cinematic screen to the introduction of social media video in networked digital cultures. Black feminist and queer scholarship has often engaged with the meanings and powers expressed in these works, or in musical artists indebted to them or referencing them, from Angela Davis’ reading of transformations of historical memory in Smith’s St. Louis Blues (Blues Legacies and Black Feminisms), to Lindon Barrett’s study of Billie Holiday (Blackness and Value), to Saidiya Hartman’s discussion of errancy in relation to woman-identified women singers in the early years of recording (Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments), and Daphne Brooks’ recent reading of black women’s use of arrangement, sonic curation, and blackness as technology (Liner Notes for the Revolution) in articulating a politics of being and becoming. Working through postcolonial, decolonial, diasporic, and critical ethnic studies’ critical innovations, we may productively identify discontinuities in terms of technical medium and mode of distribution, from film short, to soundie, to Hollywood musical set piece, to film promotional clips, music television clips, and music video made for social media. At the same time, we will also observe the ways in which concepts like Sharpe’s “wake work,” “fugitivity” in Moten’s critical aesthetics, “opacity” in Fleetwood, Browne, or Musser, “boiz” or non-normative sex-gender identities in Harris, the expressive technics of “queer OS” in Keeling, or “ontological terror” in Warren – only a few of potentially generative formulations appearing in recent Black Study - may help gloss the gestures, meanings, and forces at work in black queer voice in technical mediation. How may we read the histories and futures of audiovisual musicality in these terms, given the dynamic work of artists over the last decade ranging from, say, Zebra Katz to Janelle Monae, Odd Future et. al., Mykki Blanco, Moses Sumney - and many more, too numerous to list here?
Black and Queer, Music on Screen seeks to redress a grave limitation in current scholarship. Typically, attention to medium and historical specificities in studies of onscreen musicality have so prioritized the form/medium problem in cinema, video, or digital media studies, such that attention to “film,” “video,” or “digital” formats pre-empts the observation of continuities or conversations across historical periods or transitioning media. One result is that even as black and sex-gender non-confirming subjects are “rediscovered” in “early sound film,” black and sex-gender non-confirming innovations in later moments and in the contemporary moment are cordoned off from one another, safely consigned to some futural fate of what will be a belated rediscovery, or held apart as “alternatives” to the dominant rather than continuing a long-standing historical critique.
While the disciplinary preoccupations of cinema and media studies with regard to medium specificity and period have made it unlikely that concerns and problems expressed in the technical mediation of Black Queer voice as musical expression to surface as primary problems in cinema and media studies, nevertheless, some of the most affecting and influential works of artist cinema – Julien’s Looking for Langston, for example – have clearly problematized and made substance of these aesthetic and political histories, as well as their deferral in the culture industries and in the academy alike. This special issue calls for critical work centering both historical and recent upsurges in the aesthetic and critical powers of Black and Queer musical expression on screen. What happens when we understand, as Bey (2020) has argued, “the history of blackness as a history of disruption,” so that disrupting racializations along with sex-gender non-conformance become productive of the labor animating audiovisual music’s meaning and effects?
Finally, we ask, what does the sound, voice, or gesture of radical ethical demand feel like when it hits the poetics and aesthetics of the musical screen? What revolutions, in other words, in retrospect and in theory, can we understand to have in fact been sung, danced, and thus enjoined once we align the relevant critical frameworks and exemplars, so that the limits and obstacles to a larger historical and theoretical understanding of expressive queer black gesture are removed?
- Black queer practices of exceeding and disabling technology in the form of musical, audiovisual technics
- Archival recovery, fictive archiving, and critical fabulation of the archive through voice, sound, music, and musical audiovisuality
- Hemispheric and triangular kinships of Black queer media as musical counter-positions within the Americas
- Productivities and problematics of Black queer practices enabling “queer of color” expression
- The politics of citation, reference, and allusion in Black queer musical media practices
- Transmedia musical imaginaries, ethics, and aesthetics
- Surprising transnational circuits of visual imageries and performance practices, that is, audiovisual treatments of the Black Atlantic or the Black Pacific
- Musicality, voice, and sound informing counterintuitive or counterhegemonic readings of popular Back queer media
- Digitality, diaspora, musicality
- Soul as reason: re-thinking the place of affect as paralinguistic rhetoric of critique, community, or desire
- “Dirty” computing, musical freakdom, and the gestural paragrammatics of collective self-fashioning
- Musicality and remembrance as transformation of collective memory, in Black musical film more generally, in addition to Blues women’s recordings.
- Afro-Historicisms, Afro-Futurisms, or Afro-Pessimisms on the musical screen
- Shouts and whispers on screen: historical claims and rhetorics in Black audiovision
- Cool, hot, noise: style on the musical screen
- Analytics of track, mix, and edit on screen as homologies of self-fashioning and collective movement
- Ad hoc surrealisms, absurdisms, anti-realisms: musicality as fugitivity
- Generational non-contemporaneity: Black voice carrying over and beyond period and across medium
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