Book Review of:
‘THE RACE OF SOUND’
by NINA SUN EIDSHEIM
(DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS)
ISBN 9-780822-368687. Softback. 268pp
Can Blue Men Sing The Whites? The issue of authenticity is one that’s teased music clear across the twentieth century, and beyond. To what extent is the human voice a product of race, gender and ethnicity? Has white Eurocentric male music been engaged in a century-long war of cultural appropriation? Or, in our increasingly homogenised world, are economic divisions greater signifiers than racial identity? There’s a fascinating thesis to be written here. Unfortunately – subtitled ‘Listening, Timbre And Vocality In African American Music’, this ain’t it. Nina Sun Eidsheim seems more intent on emphasising her own academic credentials, with mass footnotes and appendix, rather than being accessible… or even comprehensible. ‘The logic that seems to be underpinning the acousmatic question in certain rare instances holds that the visual representation does not match a response to the acousmatic question.’ Show of hands please, agree or disagree? In ‘the Question of Black Timbral Masculinity’ she analyses the ‘neutered’ music of ambiguously-gendered jazzer Jimmy Scott, then she’s good on ‘The Inimitable, Imitated Billie Holiday’, while quoting Angela Davis. ‘The collective projection of the naturalized idea of’ LadyDay casts spells, where these threads most intricately entwine. Can drag tribute act Joey Arias channel those emotional roots through a different set of social traumas? With photos, graphs, and a quagmire of verbosity, Eidsheim more obscures than illuminates these fascinating issues.
‘RNR Vol.2 Issue.80 March-April’
(UK – March 2020)