November 5 — La Marr Bruce

Interlude in Madtime: Madness, Black Music, and Metaphysical Syncopation

Proceeding from a meditation on the music and lifeworlds of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden (b. 1877) and hip hop heroine Lauryn Hill (b. 1975)—two African-American musical iconoclasts widely mythologized as “crazy”—this presentation forwards a tentative notion of “madtime.” As I theorize it, madtime is calibrated to psychosocial alterity and concurrent with rhythms and energies of “madness”: the slow time of depression; the quick time of mania; the backward-forward, zigzagging, spiraling time of melancholia; and, via Foucault, the infinite now of schizophrenia. A critical supplement to theories and praxes of “colored people’s time” and “queer time,” madtime contravenes the linear, unidirectional, teleological trajectory of normative Western time and historiography. This presentation imagines an encounter—a jam session, as it were—between Bolden and Hill and yields a phenomenological account of black music, madness, and metaphysical syncopation.

La Marr Jurelle Bruce earned his Ph.D. (2013) in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University. His budding book project, “‘Inversions of the World’: Black Art Goes Mad,” considers a cohort of twentieth- and twenty-first-century African-American artists who have instrumentalized “madness” for radical art-making, self-making, and world-making. Proposing a theory of madness that addresses its floating signification—and engages its phenomenological, clinical, sociocultural, and political dimensions—he confronts “the mad” in the work of writers Amiri Baraka, Adrienne Kennedy, Gayl Jones, and Ntozake Shange; jazz musicians Buddy Bolden and Charles Mingus; comedians Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle; legal theorist Patricia J. Williams; and hip hop musician Lauryn Hill.


October 29, 2013 — Amy Hughes

Embodying Atatürk: Public Performances of Nationalism in Modern Turkey

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, once declared, “There are two Mustafa Kemals. One is the flesh-and-blood Mustafa Kemal who now stands before you and who will pass away. The second is you, all of you here who will go to the far corners of our land to spread the ideals that must be defended with your lives if necessary.” In this talk, Amy E. Hughes explores how echoes of this declaration persist in Turkey today by examining some of the scripted actions that citizens perform as part of an enduring cultural mandate to celebrate Atatürk’s legacy. When Turks embody the “second Kemal” in daily life, Atatürk’s various reforms—instituted in the early twentieth century to secularize and “modernize” Turkey—are invoked, memorialized, and sustained. Recent attempts by the religious right to deconventionalize or eliminate these traditions signal the crucial and sometimes controversial role that performance continues to play in Turkish culture.


October 22, 2013 — Patricia Hardwick

The Body Becoming: Transformative Performance in Malaysian Mak Yong

Mak yong is a Malay dance drama found in southern Thailand, northern Malaysia, and the Riau Islands of Indonesia.  The form of mak yong, currently performed in the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan, requires its practitioners to be storytellers, actors, singers, dancers, musicians, and in the context of ritual performances, healers. Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, or PAS, the Islamic party that controls the Kelantanese state government, issued a ban on mak yong as a form of entertainment in 1991, yet performances of mak yong incorporated into main ‘teri healing rituals continues in present day Kelantan.

Scholars of ritual and healing performances emphasize the emergent quality of performance as essential to the physical, emotional, and temporal transformations that often take place during these events. While music, dance, and the vocalized recitation of prayers are aspects of ritual that are externally observable, other aspects of transformative performances are internal to a patient or practitioner.  An investigation of the embodied experience of a performer provides a unique perspective on simultaneous internal and external performance and the phenomenology of transformation that often takes place during ritual and healing performances.

Drawing upon interviews with performers, Hardwick’s talk will explore first-hand accounts of the embodied experiences of individual Kelantanese mak yong practitioners during their performances of the opening song and dance of a mak yong performance. I will also investigate how fetal gestation and birth are intertwined with a traditional Kelantanese philosophy of the body, and how individual performers engage these concepts while undergoing a process of transformation during their performances.


Joseph Roach named 2013 ATHE Oscar Brockett Outstanding Teacher

Congratulations to Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theater and English and Principle Investigator of IPSY, who was recently named the recipient of the 2013 Oscar Brockett Outstanding Teacher Award by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE). This award “honors a college-level faculty member whose superiority as a teacher of theatre is recognized by students and colleagues,” and among other qualities is “known for supporting multiculturalism and diversity in theatre and/or education.”

Nominators’ Citation: “For those of us nominating him here, and for the legions more whom Joe has taught—he has forever marked us. We quote him in our syllabi, steal his ideas for our own classes, invoke him in our writing, dedicate our own work to him, and enjoy our ongoing correspondence. In short, he has changed each one of us, and the way we think about performance and the academy—but also ourselves and our worlds. He has made us better world citizens, and our gratitude is immense. We recognize him for his contributions to our field, and now, especially, to higher education. Joseph Roach the tremendous scholar is to us our Joe, and we nominate him with great warmth and enthusiasm for ATHE’s Outstanding Teacher of Theatre in Higher Education.”

October 15 — Emily Coates and Sarah Demers

Physics and Dance  

Emily Coates is a dancer, writer, choreographer, lecturer, and director of the dance curriculum in Theater Studies at Yale, while Sarah Demers is a particle physicist and assistant professor of Physics at Yale. Together, the two will deliver a dialogic presentation entitled “Physics and Dance.” Concerning their PSWG talk, they write   What does a true dialogue between dance and physics look like?  In our presentation, we will traverse macro and subatomic rules of motion, placing these into conversation with choreographic aesthetics that range from George Balanchine’s reinvention of the pirouette to the Higgs boson discovery.   Emily and Sarah’s current projects include “Discovering the Higgs through Physics, Dance, and Photography,” undertaken with funding from the Greater New Haven Arts Council’s REINTEGRATE initiative. They co-teach PHYS 115/THST 115, “The Physics of Dance,” and are in the process of co-authoring an interdisciplinary course book on physics and dance, forthcoming from Yale University Press.

* * Please note the room change for our October 15 meeting. We will meet in Room 116 of the Whitney Humanities Center, at 53 Wall Street, from 1pm to 2pm. * *

October 9, 2013 – Richard Prum “Bird Song and Aesthetics”

Yale’s* Sound Studies Colloquium* continues this semester on the second Wednesday of each month. Please join us next *Wednesday, October 9*, as we feature *Richard Prum*, William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology
and Head Curator of Vertebrate Zoology at the Peabody Museum of Natural History. We meet in the Whitney Humanities Center, room B04 at 4:30pm. Prof. Prum will present the following talk:

*Bird Song and Aesthetics*
Bird songs form a diverse component of the sound-scape of most biological communities on the planet, and humans greatly admire this diversity. However, this diversity of song has evolved largely because bird songs are attractive to the birds themselves. Darwin originally proposed an aesthetic theory?sexual selection by mate choice?to explain the evolution of bird song and other ornamental traits. Darwin’s aesthetic view has been abandoned in favor of an adaptive model in which all ornaments are indicators of mate quality. In my research, I have described previously unknown bird songs, investigated the anatomy of the unique vocal organ of birds?the syrinx?and studied the physical mechanisms and evolution of non-vocal “feather songs.” In the talk, I will present diverse examples of bird songs and discuss avian acoustic culture through song learning. Lastly, I will introduce an aesthetic philosophy that attempts to unify the study of aesthetics across human and animals (from Mockingbirds to Mozart,
Warblers to Warhol, and Dunnocks to Duchamp). The goal is a non-reductive, ‘post-human’ analytical framework for aesthetics that will expand our understanding of what makes human aesthetic phenomema so extraordinary.

Prof. Prum offers an article as optional background for next Wednesday’s talk. Please contact joseph.clarke at or lynda.paul at for a copy of the article


To subscribe to or unsubscribe from the sound studies email list, please visit or write to
joseph.clarke at or lynda.paul at

October 3-5, 2013 – The Most Beautiful Thing in the World at Yale Cabaret

The Most Beautiful Thing in the World

Conceived and directed by Gabe Levey
October 3-5

One of the world’s most renowned motivational speakers is coming to the Yale Cabaret for three nights only. Come and discover the power of the YOUniverse! Part self-help seminar, part clown show, The Most Beautiful Thing in the World will open your mind, explode your heart, and change your life in 60 minutes, tops.

See for more information