Thursday, March 16, 2006


But that's not what I went to the bookstore for. I stopped down there to purchase a copy of Weheliye's Phonographies (a late arrival, absent from the shelves when the semester started). It's assigned for Afrofuturism in two weeks, and as I've been trying to maximize break for getting a jump on the end-o-sem workpile, I read through the library's copy of the book, finishing it last night. But it's good enough to own. In fact, if the "DJing is writing, writing is DJing" plug in Miller's Rhythm Science resonated for you, Weheliye has an entire chapter on the mix (c. 3). His opening chapters (the Intro and c. 1) also have a few good pieces on the record's function as an inscribed sonic medium. There's much here to elaborate up the uncanny ties between writing and phonography, to extend them, etc. The second chapter, "I am, I be," links sound to identity, working across issues of opacity and "sonic conjuring" to categories and constellations of the subject (also echoes W.'s article on black subjectivity, the optic/phonic and posthumanism in Social Text). The third chapter: DuBois and the mix. c. 4: sound's construction of space, read through Ellison's "Living with Music," and Darnell Martin's I Like It Like That. And c. 5 reads the circulation of the diasporic motif in songs by The Fugees, Advanced Chemistry, and Tricky and Martina. The "Outro" has a bit to say about about his methods and also, drawing on Massumi briefly, makes a case for affirmative methods: "'techniques which embrace their own inventiveness and are not afraid to own up to the fact that they add (if so meagerly) to reality'" (208). Chapters 4 and 5 stand out from the others as places where Weheliye gives readings; his approach in those chapters is somewhat less theoretical than in the others, aligning with more literary studies or cultural studies re-presentations of sources. And yet, I expect to return to c. 4 for his arguments about "sounding space/spacing sound" and the issues of space remade by music, noise. For a more careful review, read this.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at March 16, 2006 12:00 PM to Reading Notes

So... Phonographies will be a fruitful read? Great. I'm currently reading Mark Anthony Neal's The New Black Man and he gives a few shout outs to Weheliye. Since you've given the book a nice endorsement I'll boost it a little higher on my list of readings.

Hope all is well. See you in Chicago.

Posted by: Tamika at March 16, 2006 4:10 PM

Yeah, I found it really engaging, especially early on. The later chapters are a bit long (every paragraph, a page), and much of what's in them describes the texts he analyzes (the movie, the short story, the song or performer, etc.). But I found it to be theoretically rich and kind of fun. Weheliye uses a lot of catchy turns of phrase; it's a smart book. The intro and first chapter read to me like a strong expansion of some of parallels and breaks between text and sound, between the textual and the sonic.

Posted by: Derek at March 16, 2006 4:37 PM