Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques and Ways of Knowing

The reggae sound system has exerted a major influence on music, popular culture – and with Sonic Bodies – the idea that sound itself could provide a conceptual framework and research tool. Every night Dancehall sessions stage a visceral, immersive and immensely pleasurable experience of sonic dominance for the participating crowd – out on the streets of inner city Kingston, Jamaica. Sonic Bodies concentrates on the skilled performance of the three crewmembers responsible for this auditory signature of Jamaican music: the audio engineers designing, building and fine-tuning the hugely powerful “set” of equipment; the selectors choosing the music tracks played; and MCs (DJs) on the mic hyping up the crowd.

Sonic Bodies proposes that these dancehall “vibes” are taken literally as the periodic movement of vibrations. These provide the basis for an analysis of how a sound system operates – not only at auditory, but also at corporeal and sociocultural frequencies. Sonic Bodies establishes the basis for a vibrational cultural studies, as distinct from a cultural study of vibrations. It formulates a fascinating auditory critique of visual dominance and the dualities inherent in ideas of image, text or discourse.


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