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JIAS Webinar: Sound and Social Movements

Presented by Dr Victor Peterson

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Date(s) - 8 Apr 2021
11:00 am - 1:00 pm

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Changes in modes of expression map changes in the socio-political structures to which they respond. If the articulation of movements is not spontaneous, how can the tactics developed within music model those in the movements to which it became the soundtrack? This project analyzes the formation of an archive built from what has been called a kernel phrase within the musical lexicon of a global Black cultural endowment. In it, songs archive the mood of a time and place, encoding that worldview in such a way that, when decoded in another context in a manner relevant to those conditions, motivates social movements. “Call-and-response” as poetic computation traces this kernel’s structuring of musical expression, revealing how improvisation models state change.

Although music and movements in relation to Blackness’s subjectivity has been studied in many disciplines, dynamics of dominance and subordination in that archive have often overdetermined those efforts. Strict relations between dominant and subordinate make it such that Black music and movements are, at worst, seen as purely reactionary, with little rigor or intellect behind them or, at best, random. Conceiving of improvisatory practice within the scope of the latter and positing movements as reactionary in the former severely limit studies on this subject. This project archives relations of subordination and dominance modeled by the relations between individuals’ and groups’ modes of expression indicating those constituting our current state of affairs. Poetic computation considers composition as an operation that encodes worldviews as models for how one orients themselves in future contexts, projecting them to a domain in which that mood is decoded in a manner relevant to those conditions. In sum, musically encoded sentiments decoded in future contexts provide a model for state transformation, a connection between sound and social movements.


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