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Studio 5

Jubilee Building (top floor)

University of Roehampton


SW15 5PJ

United Kingdom

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Art, Performance & the Sonorous
Study Day including Evening Lecture

‘When I think about the way we use the term ‘study,’ I think we are committed to the idea that study is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under the name of speculative practice. The notion of a rehearsal – being in a kind of workshop, playing in a band, in a jam session, or old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory – there are these various modes of activity. The point of calling it ‘study’ is to mark that the incessant and irreversible intellectuality of these activities is already present.’ Fred Moten in The Undercommons: Fugitivity, Planning and Black Study

From the Oxford English Dictionary

Sonorous (1611)

1) a. Of things: giving out, or capable of giving out, a sound, esp. of a deep, ringing character. b. Of places, etc.: Resounding, roaring, noisy (1729)
2) Of sounds: Having a loud, deep, or resonant character (1668)
3) Of language, diction, etc.: Having a full, rich sound: strong and harmonious (1693)
4) Of persons: Having a full and rich style or voice (1728)

On the 13th of December we are coming together to study the sonorous, which begins as the OED reminds us in giving out, service to the work, gift in circulation and capability. The sonorous moves towards the re-sounding, the noisy, and calls on us to be listeners, full, rich, strong and harmonious practitioners with style.

'Speculative practice’ and ‘Practice-as-research’ often involve inter / trans / co-disciplinary investigation. They demand that we bypass the scarcity model of research which suggests outcomes prematurely. This is too often a model that constricts artists, scholars and researchers in their critical enthusiasms and in their black practices of intelligent excess. Indeed, to sound out interdisciplinarity as Joseph Roach, Fred Moten and Daphne Brooks among others suggest, is not to engage in clunky switching to ‘other’ disciplines, but to pay careful attention to irreducible, unavoidable crossings between spheres of understanding.

Art, Performance & the Sonorous is the second in a series of six intensive study days over two years, hosted by the University of Roehampton and University of the Arts London. The days are designed for creative arts and critical theory candidates at doctoral level, and are open to TECHNE researchers and associates at all TECHNE partnership institutions and other interested PhD researchers within those institutions.

Each intensive day combines seminars, workshops and talks and hosts an international guest theorist or artist. Each day is organised around key concepts in interdisciplinary thought that impact upon the study of art and performance: materiality, the sonorous, mobility, the common, temporality and labour.

This event is funded by TECHNE. Please only book if you are certain to attend. Lunch is included. Please note that places are limited and TECHNE Scholars & Associates will be given priority booking. If you are a doctoral candidate at a partner university but not a TECHNE-funded student, you will be asked for a donation of £5 on the door to cover your lunch. If you would prefer to eat lunch elsewhere, there are numerous other options available on the University of Roehampton campus.

The preparatory reading for this event (five essays) will be emailed to you on registration.



P.A. Skantze: ‘Shake That Thing: Early Modern Liner Notes and the Dark Lady of the Sonic’

Imagine a broadsheet with weekly liner notes on the sound event that was a new Shakespeare play at The Globe. How might listening with an ear pressed to the score of the performance create new understandings of how the play as music orchestrates a way to hear the more that is the story plus the sonic invention? Does the method of abbreviation in spoken lyric prompt the listener to fill in the blank, open the door marked ‘alluded to but not elaborated upon,’ thus creating a give and take of the sonic? Daphne Brooks’ work on black women singers as practitioners invites us to rethink the notion of she who arranges vocally prior to and in the midst of singing. Directing the score of a Shakespeare text with let’s say Aretha Franklin as a model opens the way to marvelous theoretical collisions; to take one example when Enobarbus evokes a ‘gap in nature’ in trying--in liner note writing fashion--to account for the wonder that was Cleopatra, how might a performance arrangement echo Dr Franklin’s deployed gaps, not silence, but sound held apart by the tension of the brilliant practitioner. To speak with intention is to score the language for sound / for sprezzatura in an early modern key.


Workshop on Liner Note Methodologies

Often the process of studying in practice as research at postgraduate level calls for intuitive leaps – ‘the senses as theoreticians’ as Moten quoting Marx tells us—and on this sonorous day we will be playing with paradoxes such as thinking through the ‘liner note’ as a form of practice as research methodology. Liner notes like so much making and writing demand a translation, a transformation: how do you communicate what the record Kind of Blue by Miles Davis does in your ear? The work of liner notes is a work of listening to performed sound and then inventing a form of writing that flips metaphorically, imagistically, raucously and seductively over and over in the air above your writing. So your listener can shift and move, hearing for a moment with you the writer listener, and then listening and hearing differently. Any work with sound, anytime and anywhere, requires linguistic acrobatics without a net: we follow in Ella Finer’s words ‘a method which relies on keeping faith in the absence of fact, of feeling the trace elements of something in the air, on the air, of listening to the materiality of vibrations and hearing imagination as information.’


Interventions: Call and Response

Participants: Mojisola Adebayo, Christopher Heighes, International Western, Timothy Smith, Johanna Linsley

Seven-minute interventions on the sonorous, the black sonic and methodologies. Respondent: Daphne Brooks


Evening Seminar: 'If You Should Lose Me': The Archive, the Critic, the Record Shop and the Blues Woman
Daphne Brooks

This talk examines the problem of iconic blues women who’ve been “lost” to history, Geeshie Wiley and Elvie Thomas, as well as the critics who’ve loved and chased after them. By placing the politics of queer archival studies and black performance theory in conversation with canonical blues historiographies, the talk will explore the aesthetics and cultural resonances of Wiley and Thomas’s rare recordings. It aims as well to trace a black feminist counter-history of record collecting and listening publics in order to tell a different story of blues lives that mattered.


Daphne A. Brooks is Professor of African American Studies, Theater Studies, American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. She is the author of two books: Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Durham, NC: Duke UP), winner of The Errol Hill Award for Outstanding Scholarship on African American Performance from ASTR, and Jeff Buckley’s Grace (New York: Continuum, 2005). Brooks is currently working on a three-volume study of black women and popular music culture entitled Subterranean Blues: Black Women Sound Modernity. The first volume in the trilogy, Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Archive, the Critic, and Black Women’s Sound Cultures is forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

Brooks has authored numerous articles on race, gender, performance and popular music culture, such as “Sister, Can You Line It Out?: Zora Neale Hurston & the Sound of Angular Black Womanhood” in Amerikastudien / American Studies, “‘Puzzling the Intervals’: Blind Tom and the Poetics of the Sonic Slave Narrative” in The Oxford Handbook of the African American Slave Narrative, “Nina Simone’s Triple Play” in Callaloo and “‘All That You Can’t Leave Behind’: Surrogation & Black Female Soul Singing in the Age of Catastrophe” in Meridians. Brooks is also the author of the liner notes for The Complete Tammi Terrell (Universal A&R, 2010) and Take a Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia (Sony, 2011), each of which has won the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for outstanding music writing. In January 2017, Brooks served as the chief curator of Blackstar Rising & The Purple Reign: Celebrating the Legacies of David Bowie and Prince, a four-day international conference and concert event held at Yale University.

P. A. Skantze, Reader in Performance Practices at Roehampton University, directs theatre in Europe and the UK. She has written theory in pentameter, essays on the practice of spectating as well as on gender, race and sound investigating what interventions performance can make to change the world in which we live. She is the author of Stillness in Motion on the Seventeenth Century Stage (Routledge 2003) and Itinerant Spectator / Itinerant Spectacle (punctum 2013). With her performance group Four Second Decay she has explored ‘Audible Montages,’ directed Anne Carson’s ‘Antigonick,’ peripatetically performed Orfeo and Eurydice ‘How to Save Someone You Can’t See’ and ‘Redistricting Hell’ through Greece. New work includes new forms of textual projection and playfulness in opera [Falstaff National Theatre of Croatia May 2018]. Currently she is working on a production of her musical ‘Stacks’ in which her heroine with the help of the New York Public Library saves the City from becoming two-dimensional.

Mojisola Adebayo is a performer, playwright, producer and director. She has been making theatre for 25 years, working internationally from Antarctica to Zimbabwe. Her own plays include Moj of the Antarctic: An African Odyssey, Muhammad Ali and Me, 48 Minutes for Palestine, Desert Boy, The Listeners, I Stand Corrected, The Interrogation of Sandra Bland and STARS. Publications include Mojisola Adebayo: Plays One Oberon), 48 Minutes for Palestine (Methuen), The Interrogation of Sandra Bland (Oberon) the co-written Theatre for Development Handbook (Pan) and several academic publications. Mojisola Adebayo: Plays Two (Oberon) is out in January 2019. STARS opens in Autumn 2020. She is currently writing Wind / Rush for the National Theatre (Connections) 2020. Mojisola was recently appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. She is an Associate Artist with Pan Arts and lectures at Queen Mary, University of London.

Johanna Linsley is an artist, writer and producer. Her work is iterative, research-based and focused on performance. It often results in projects with multiple versions or outcomes. Current interests include documentation, procedure, listening (especially eavesdropping), queer domesticity, collaboration, and formations of the public. An interest in the speculative and fantastical underlies this work. Johanna is part of the London-based live art team I’m With You, which investigates queerness, domesticity, private life and public space. She is also a founding partner of UnionDocs, a centre for documentary art in Brooklyn, New York. Johanna is a researcher on the Wellcome Trust-funded project ‘Challenging Archives’ at the Theatre Collection Live Art Archives at the University of Bristol. She received a PhD in performance studies from Queen Mary, University of London, and also studied at Smith College.

The International Western – & Company is a performance collective currently based in London who have been working together since 2012, making installation and performance work about what we describe as the technosocial mechanisms of contemporary living – by this, we mean that our work strives to makes visible, inhabitable and concretely perceivable the infrastructural fabric that determines the manner in which we live our lives. Our work to date has used means and modes of communication in the physical sense (telephone lines, light cables, amplification and torch-signaling systems) and in the conceptual sense (alphabets and symbolic codes as well as broader forms of encodings, such as naturalism or abstraction). We are currently working on a performance for the Whitechapel Gallery and Theatrum Mundi (October 2018).

Timothy Smith is a PhD candidate at University of the Arts London. His practice-led research attends to sound, memory, affect, voice and embodied listening practices in relation to audiovisual artwork. His narrative short films have been shown at more than 70 international film festivals; winning awards in Milan, Calgary, Oslo and Warsaw. More recently, his experimental audiovisual work has screened in London at the BFI London Film Festival, BFI Flare and Fringe! Queer Film Fest; and internationally in Rotterdam and Barcelona. His film A Queering of Memory: Parts 1 & 2 was shortlisted for the 2017 AHRC Research in Film Awards.

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Studio 5

Jubilee Building (top floor)

University of Roehampton


SW15 5PJ

United Kingdom

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