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The Voice as Something MoreEssays toward Materiality$
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Martha Feldman and Judith T. Zeitlin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226656397

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226656427.001.0001

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Voice Gap Crack Break

Voice Gap Crack Break

(p.188) 9 Voice Gap Crack Break
The Voice as Something More

Martha Feldman

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores the gulf between vocal practices and vocal theory as condensed in the theoretical problem of the gap. For Lacanians Mladen Dolar and Slavoj Žizek, the gap is a key construct relative to voice, added to Freudian objects of the drive. What sets voice apart from Freud’s objects is that it loops out of a predetermined causal nexus and signifying chain, leaving a void in meaning and language and creating an irreparable gash in desire. Where Lacanians would understand voice as neither tangible nor perceptible or musical, this chapter hears voice as all three by listening to pressure put on the gap by classical and jazz singing voices that make perspicuous and material their own uncanny means of mechanical operation, especially via the “vocal break.” Prominent is Nina Simone, who lived dangerously in racialized spaces where vulnerability and risk are all-important. Looping in and out of signification, practices like hers expose the gap between signification and its lack while counting on listeners to invest in the performer's aleatory risk-taking. The chapter ends by offering a theory of voice that explains how relations between voice and performance, risk and (re)investment, operate with respect to language, musicality, intentionality, and signification.

Keywords:   voice, gap, Mladen Dolar, Jacques Lacan, Nina Simone, vocal break, transactionality, risk, race object voice

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