Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques, and Ways of Knowing
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The reggae sound system has exerted a major influence on music and popular culture. Out on the streets of inner city Kingston, Jamaica, every night, sound systems stage dancehall sessions for the crowd to share the immediate, intensive and immersive visceral pleasures of sonic dominance. Sonic Bodies concentrates on the skilled performance of the crewmembers responsible for this signature sound of Jamaican music: the audio engineers designing, building and fine-tuning the hugely powerful sets of equipment; the selectors choosing the music tracks to play; and MCs(DJs) on the mic hyping up the crowd. Julian Henriques proposes that these dancehall vibes are taken literally as the periodic motion of vibrations. He offers an analysis of how a sound system operates - at auditory, corporeal and sociocultural frequencies. Sonic Bodies formulates a fascinating critique of visual dominance and the dualities inherent in ideas of image, text or discourse. This innovative book questions the assumptions that reason resides only in a disembodied mind, that communication is an exchange of information, and that meaning is only ever representation.
together, as is typical of practice, mixing and mingling, segueing from one sequence to another, monitoring and manipulating analogue variation. Right action requires such a synthesis to triangulate right time with right place. This has to be distinguished from the separation of differences required of logical analysis. The crew’s performance is a mixing as much as a cutting; it aggregates rather than disaggregates, as is exemplified in the selector “juggling” and other mixing techniques. Such a
biology, the discipline was concerned with the morphological structures of plants and animals. D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form (1917) and Theodore Cook’s The Curves of Life (1914) are two classic texts. In his study of possibly the most fundamental yet illusive of patterns, Symmetry, Hermann Weyl (1952) applied this approach to inorganic and architectural forms. More recently architect Christopher Alexander (2004) has developed the influential conception of pattern language. In addition,
the parts with the whole. This relationship between three elements, it is suggested here, is key to the crew’s evaluations, continually in demand to adjust their technique as they monitor their ongoing sound system performance. With the sonic logos, meaning is expressed in a three-fold process where listener and listened-to are triangulated in the process of listening. As well as the dyad of viewer and viewed, there is the third process or technique of viewing, to use a visual example. There is a
dichotomies and absence of meaning in the analysis, are precisely what the triadic propagation model endeavours to challenge (as discussed in the final chapter). By contrast, with the periodic movement of techniques, the triad includes what would be considered as “subjective,” “internal” and evaluative considerations, as well as mechanical and “objective” ones. In this way, the propagation model orients and sets the tone for the investigation of the skills and techniques of audio engineer,
destroys the integrity of the whole, by breaking it down into its parts: The camera that presents the performance of the film actor to the public need not respect the performance as an integral whole. Guided by the cameraman, the camera continually changes its position with respect to the performance. The sequence of positional views which the editor composes from the material supplied him constitutes the completed film.7 Benjamin contrasts this distinctively modernist technique with those of