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Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

The Ejamba of North Fairmount Avenue, the Wizard of Menlo Park and the Dialectics of Ensoniment: an Episode in the History of an Acoustic Mask

THIS EVENT IS ARCHIVED
The Ejamba of North Fairmount Avenue, the Wizard of Menlo Park and the Dialectics of Ensoniment: an Episode in the History of an Acoustic Mask
Stephan Palmié (University of Chicago)

Date: 20 March 2013Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 20 March 2013Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Lecture

Series: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies Public Lectures

Abstract

In 1908 a Philadelphia newspaper featured a lengthy report on a storefront church headed by two black Cubans who evidently used Edisonian technology (converging as it was by then with Spiritualist uses of sound projection, telephony and phonography) to project “spirit voices” onto the street. The details of the report leave no doubt that the leaders of this church had drawn inspiration from (or were members of) the male esoteric sodality of Abakuá which, by then formed a vital part of Havana’s harborside social worlds, but had also experienced Atlantic dispersion in the course of Cuba’s wars of independence. Though ultimately speculative, this paper uses this case to discuss Abakuá’s central conception of the disembodied voice of a mystical entity named ecué, and its multiply mediated ritual reproduction and transmission across space and time with the aim to cast new light on (by now largely naturalized) ideologies of auditory modernity. I suggest that once we conceive of contemporary manifestations of ecué as a sonic mask, the choice of Edisonian technologies of phonic transduction on the part of the leaders of the Philadelphia temple – while inconsequential in the long run – might have been a logical one. If so, then I would argue that this may actually tell us quite a bit about the transformations in Western auditory cultures and sonic ideologies heralded by the advent of analog sound technologies at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Ejamba of North Fairmount Avenue, the Wizard of Menlo Park and the Dialectics of Ensoniment

Organiser: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

Contact email: dt37@soas.ac.uk

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