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Situating Sound: The Space and Time of the Dancehall Session

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Chapter Summary

Situating Sound: The Space and Time of the Dancehall Session This research situates the multiple body of the Jamaica Dancehall “Crowd” (audience) in the intensities of the Sound System Session. This is a heterogeneous “acoustic space,” and discontinuous ritual time, in which sexual expression and orientation, and racial attitudes, diverge from Jamaican norms. This essay proceeds to account for the propagation of this temporality and spatiality in terms of the electromechanical processes of the Sound System “Set” (equipment), that is control, power and transduction. It looks firstly at the Sound Engineers’ sensorimotor engineering technique of compensation for monitoring and manipulating the auditory performance of the Set. Secondly it discusses the sociocultural procedures of the cutting and mixing of the music the Selector plays in the Session. The essay identifies these practices and procedures as the basic elements for many cultural, cybernetic, linguistic, or communication systems. In conclusion, it is suggested that for the Engineers’ and Selectors’ instrumental techniques to be affective and effective they have to be brought into a proportional relationship with the Crowd’s experience. The Crew does this through their embodied experience and expert evaluative judgment – which is considered as an example of analogical, rather than logical, rationality.



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