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Sounding Off

Sounding Off: Rhythm, Music, and Identity in West African and Caribbean Francophone Novels

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Sounding Off
    Book Description:

    Intrigued by "texted" sonorities-the rhythms, musics, ordinary noises, and sounds of language in narratives-Julie Huntington examines the soundscapes in contemporary Francophone novels such as Ousmane Sembene's God's Bits of Wood (Senegal), and Patrick Chamoiseau's Solibo Magnificent (Martinique). Through an ethnomusicological perspective, Huntington argues in Sounding Off that the range of sounds -footsteps, heartbeats, drumbeats-represented in West African and Caribbean works provides a rhythmic polyphony that creates spaces for configuring social and cultural identities.Huntington's analysis shows how these writers and others challenge the aesthetic and political conventions that privilege written texts over orality and invite readers-listeners to participate in critical dialogues-to sound off, as it were, in local and global communities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0033-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    The act of silent reading is a curious process consisting of multiple interior openings and exterior closings. As we open our books, open our eyes, and open our minds to enter the imaginative space of the text, we close ourselves off from the people around us and limit our interactions with the space we inhabit. To the eyes of an observer, the silent reader appears generally silent and still. Even so, as the reader’s eyes flit across page after page, the observer may notice changes in the reader’s emotional responses and facial expressions, as a brow furrowed intensely in concentration...

  5. 1 Rhythm and Transcultural Poetics
    (pp. 20-61)

    Rhythm and rhythmic processes underlie everything we do. Resonating from inside of us and all around us, rhythms shape the experiences of our day-to-day lives, both conscious and unconscious. In our bodies, physiological rhythms regulate our heartbeat and respiration. When we are in good health, they keep our organs functioning at an appropriate pace. Planetary rhythms regulate and contextualize our experience of time, of the seasons, of days and nights. While geographical and sociocultural factors influence our perception of time and our performance therein, the rhythms of our languages frame our subjectivities. And then there are the rhythms of music...

  6. 2 Rhythm and Reappropriation in God’s Bits of Wood and The Suns of Independence
    (pp. 62-111)

    Throughout time, music and rhythm have served as important strategies for subverting and reappropriating authority, particularly in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, during which time diverse musical genres—including jazz, punk, rap, and other forms of popular music—have played a role in challenging aesthetic and sociocultural conventions in locations around the world (see Berger and Carrol 2003; Born and Hesmondhalgh 2000; Mattern 1998; Pratt 1990; and Yankah 1997). Serving as points of connection or commonality among diverse peoples, rhythm and music can function as powerful devices that unite people in their struggles against political, economic, and hegemonic authorities. Theodor...

  7. 3 Rhythm, Music, and Identity in L’appel des arènes and Ti Jean L’horizon
    (pp. 112-159)

    As we travel through space and time, rhythm and music provide us with meaningful points of reference and relation. Although we remain physically grounded in a perpetually shifting present time frame, such suggestive sounding phenomena mentally transport us to alternate temporal and spatial contexts. I experience this in my own life on a regular basis. Last Saturday, for example, I was at a bon voyage party for a very dear friend when Craig David’s 2001 single “Walking Away” came on the sound system. Although I was enjoying a very present moment with friends, sharing experiences and creating memories in a...

  8. 4 Music and Mourning in Crossing the Mangrove and Solibo Magnificent
    (pp. 160-216)

    The question of how to identity oneself and to whom is always a tricky one, involving an intricate process of communication on the part of the subject, recognition on the part of the other(s), and plays for positionality among the subject, the other(s), and multiple external agents, factors and circumstances. Questions of identity are further complicated since they tend to involve many separate but overlapping categories including but not limited to geography, nationality, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, age, gender, and cultural and subcultural group affiliations. While this identity problematic operates in every sociocultural context, for the purposes of this chapter,...

  9. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 217-222)

    Rhythms and rhythmic processes underlie everything we do. Physiological, biological, and planetary rhythms regulate the functions of our bodies, other living organisms, and our surrounding environments, while linguistic and cultural rhythms shape our interactions with others as we move through space and time. And then there are the rhythms of music, the rhythms of working, the rhythms of our lives, and the rhythms of the stories of our lives. There are noisy random rhythms, comfortable and uncomfortable rhythms, the familiar rhythms of tradition playing alongside inventive rhythms that no one has ever heard before. It is through rhythm—through our...

  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 223-234)
  11. Index
    (pp. 235-243)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 244-244)