Listening to Listening: A Response to Nina Sun Eidsheim’s The Race of Sound


  • Ellie M. Hisama


Nina Sun Eidsheim’s The Race of Sound boldly proposes that we should listen to listening. In her words, “in carrying out an analysis that is conscious of the fact that any voice is part of the collective voice, and that listening contributes to shaping that voice, we must listen to how we listen” (57). This volume will fundamentally alter music studies—musicology, ethnomusicology, and music theory—as well as studies of voice, opera, dramaturgy, race, gender, and sexuality. It turns our attention away from what singers purportedly are, as gleaned through their vocalizations, and persuasively argues that we should not aim to produce an instrument that is more beautifully in tune with our inner selves. It instead asks us to think unflinchingly about how vocal timbres are enculturated and produced from entrainment—to recognize that the voices we hear are, in fact, created in the act of listening. Two areas Eidsheim addresses, the figure of sound and phantom genealogy, have been particularly suggestive for my own thinking about the ways that oppressive identifications about voice—structures of race, gender, and sexuality— haunt our teaching, writing, and listening.





Symposium on The Race of Sound, by Nina Sun Eidsheim