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Media, Sound, and Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean

Media, Sound, and Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean

Alejandra Bronfman
Andrew Grant Wood
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    Media, Sound, and Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean
    Book Description:

    Outside of music, the importance of sound and listening have been greatly overlooked in Latin American history. Visual media has dominated cultural studies, affording an incomplete record of the modern era. This edited volume presents an original analysis of the role of sound in Latin American and Caribbean societies, from the late nineteenth century to the present. The contributors examine the importance of sound in the purveyance of power, gender roles, race, community, religion, and populism. They also demonstrate how sound is essential to the formation of citizenship and nationalism.Sonic media, and radio in particular, have become primary tools for contesting political issues. In that vein, the contributors view the control of radio transmission and those who manipulate its content for political gain. Conversely, they show how, in neoliberal climates, radio programs have exposed corruption and provided a voice for activism.The essays address sonic production in a variety of media: radio; Internet; digital recordings; phonographs; speeches; carnival performances; fireworks festivals, and the reinterpretation of sound in literature. They examine the bodily experience of sound, and its importance to memory coding and identity formation.This volume looks to sonic media as an essential vehicle for transmitting ideologies, imagined communities, and culture. As the contributors discern, modern technology has made sound ubiquitous, and its study is therefore crucial to understanding the flow of information and influence in Latin America and globally.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7795-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION: Media, Sound, and Culture
    (pp. ix-xviii)
    Alejandra Bronfman and Andrew Grant Wood

    Is the world for seeing and believing, as Elvis Presley once put it, or for hearing, as Jacques Attali’s provocative statement alleges? Of course, a narrow choice between seeing and hearing is unnecessary, since our prevailing epistemological paradigm allows for a wide range of sensory information in determining what we think we know. Nevertheless, for most people, vision has enjoyed a privileged status in Western civilization since the Renaissance, if not before. In turn, this prejudice has relegated the other senses—including hearing—to a marginal role in our philosophical and literary pursuits.

    This book contends, however, that soundscapes, music,...

  2. Part I. Embodied Sounds and the Sounds of Memory

    • 1 Recovering Voices: The Popular Music Ear in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Brazil
      (pp. 3-17)
      Fernando de Sousa Rocha

      Since its very beginning, recording has been closely related to writing. From a representation of sounds with marks or written letters, the term phonograph easily came to represent an imaginary machine that could record sounds and, later, Thomas Edison’s invention. The slippage in meaning is based on a fundamental common trait; in both cases, an inscription produces a reusable object. That such a production should define recording techniques is of the utmost importance because it alters the manner in which we listen. In markedly oral cultures, the act of listening is necessarily tied to the moment of sound production and...

    • 2 Radio Transvestism and the Gendered Soundscape in Buenos Aires, 1930s–1940s
      (pp. 18-34)
      Christine Ehrick

      In early 1932, a small item appeared in Argentina’s first popular radio magazineAntena. Carrying the headline “A woman singing what is meant for a man is ugly, but a man acting like a little woman is intolerable,” the article was the opening shot in a campaign against what we might call transgendered performance on the Argentine airwaves.¹ This item is also a departure point for an exploration of debates and struggles over gender and vocality during the golden age of Argentine broadcasting. By breaching the boundaries of public and private and separating the voice from any immediate visual referent,...

  3. Part II. The Media of Politics

    • 3 How to Do Things with Waves: United States Radio and Latin America in the Times of the Good Neighbor
      (pp. 37-54)
      Gisela Cramer

      In their pioneering studyThe Psychology of Radio, Gordon W. Allport and Hadley Cantril venture that radio had profound effects on audiences: radio encouraged people to “think and feel alike.” “More than any other medium of communication,” they suggest, radio “is capable of forming a crowd mind among individuals who are physically separated from one another.”¹ Few historians and media analysts today would follow the stimulus-response model that informed the research approach of the two psychologists, nor would they subscribe to the conceptualizations employed, but what has continued to be of central interest to communications scholars and historians alike is...

    • 4 Weapons of the Geek: Romantic Narratives, Sonic Technologies, and Tinkerers in 1930s Santiago, Cuba
      (pp. 55-70)
      Alejandra Bronfman

      In 1923, a columnist in Santiago de Cuba’sLa Independenciaapplauded the achievements of a sound medium, the telegraph, noting that “with its magic touch it has eliminated the isolation and loneliness in the middle of the sea and in deserted places.” With emphasis on the isolation felt in a small city, especially in an island nation, the author relished the ways an array of sonic technologies created new roles and capacities for sound. The column also noted the progression from telegraph to telephone, culminating with the latest invention, radiotelephony, which broadcast radio programs through telephone wires. This, the author...

    • 5 Music, Media Spectacle, and the Idea of Democracy: The Case of DJ Kermit’s “Góber”
      (pp. 71-84)
      Alejandro L. Madrid

      On February 14, 2006, the Mexican newspaperLa Jornadaand W Radio published and broadcast a telephone conversation between Mario Marín, the governor of the state of Puebla, and Kamel Nacif, an influential Pueblabased businessman linked to international child pornography and prostitution networks. The recording confirmed the complicity of the governor in kidnapping and trying to imprison Lydia Cacho, a journalist who a few months earlier had made public Nacif’s pedophilia connections in her bookLos demonios del Edén.¹ The conversation, charged with profanity and crude misogynist language, was played ad nauseam on television and radio over the next couple...

  4. Part III. The Sonics of Public Spaces

    • 6 Alba: Musical Temporality in the Carnival of Oruro, Bolivia
      (pp. 87-102)
      Gonzalo Araoz

      The city of Oruro lies on the edge of an extensive steppe, at the foot of ten successive hills, in the northern part of the department of the same name, which is located in the highlands of western Bolivia. The city was founded on November 6, 1606, with the name Villa Real de San Felipe de Austria de Oruro.¹ The mineral richness of the hills and mountains drew the attention of Spanish conquerors searching for silver during the seventeenth century; by the late nineteenth century, the city of Oruro became, thanks to its strategic location, the most important mining and...

    • 7 Such a Noise! Fireworks and the Soundscapes of Two Veracruz Festivals
      (pp. 103-121)
      Andrew Grant Wood

      After moving from Montreal to Kalamazoo, Michigan, my family and I heartily embraced the use of firecrackers in the late 1960s and early 1970s as we anticipated the U.S. national Fourth of July holiday. The process began each year during Easter vacation jaunts to Florida, with short stopovers at roadside stands in Georgia that sold a wide variety of pyrotechnics. Planning for the summer celebration, we eagerly stocked up on Black Cat brand firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, flying saucers, and smoke bombs. When the July holiday finally arrived, youthful afternoons were spent circulating through the neighborhood, gleefully detonating noisy...

  5. Postscript. Sound Representation: Nation, Translation, Memory
    (pp. 122-126)
    Michele Hilmes

    There is a space between the essential ephemerality of a sonic utterance and the process through which it is preserved and transmitted to others that has been taken up under the name ofsound studies,an emergent category of scholarship to which this volume generously contributes and expands. We often think of an utterance as composed solely of vocalized words, but words form only a part of the types of utterances considered by scholars of sound. Much in the domain of sound eschews words altogether in favor of that special category we classify as music, or the wider range of...