Panel: Sounding Out Genders
The voice is an extremely immediate mode of transmission, directly from one body to another. When we hear another voice we recognize instantly (albeit subconsciously) how the sound is being produced. We read a series of physical cues, or more succinctly, we “sense” them, receiving the information through the body even before the brain. Is this kind of recognition translated throught he various modes of technological mediation that we are subjected to daily such as radio, telephones, or anything amplified through a microphone? Or has it become an insignificant social convention relegated to a past era, making us, as a society, sonically desensitized?
There are at least two significant trends in contemporary culture that address the issue of vocal transmission (immediate or mediated). One is that of disassociation from the body. The “cyborg” has been implanted into the vernacular. The theorists speak of the body as if it were an endangered species in need of preservation. Ethical questions in fields ranging from genetic
engineering to synthetic reconstruction to cosmetic surgery revolve around the genus of the body. The concept of “manpower” as in manual or physical labour has become almost obsolete
since industrial automation, and the testing of our physical tolerances and extremes has been limited to a secondary role in our society, that of leisure or sport. Gender has never been so
ambiguous (transformational surgery evoked), and race and age are becoming less determining features of the individual. The second trend is that of the fading of geographical or physical space in the contemporary psyche. A twelve year old spending hours each day netsurfing knows little of geographic restrictions. Nor does he or she sense any distinguishing qualities
between one place or another. The experience of globetrotting takes place on acomputer screen with sensory cues being restricted almost completely to the visual. We are all “virtually”
- Kathy Kennedy (Canada) is a composer of electroacoustic music with voice. She has a background as a classical singer and is artistic director of the women’s performance group Choeur Maha . She teaches at Concordia University (Montreal) and writes freelance specializing in the subject of voice and its mediation by electronic technology.
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