Loading…
KL

Kyessa L. Moore

Kyessa L. Moore is a Ph.D student in the English Literature Department at Princeton University. Her interests include: African American/Black Literature, critical theory, film studies, cultural studies (i.e. the historicized production of race and gender, visual studies, sensory studies, haptic theory), and Futurama.

 

Abstract:

"(Sub)Spacialized Urban Sound, Expressive Communion and Identificatory Dislocations"

In the collection of short films titled Subway Stories(1997), New York City is presented as a transportation system – a promiscuous intermingling of drastically different people in states of destabilized temporality, irregular movements, involuntary motion – hence extreme disorientation. In selecting this subterranean framework, the filmmakers produce works which organically challenge elements of the expected continuity and stability of communicative (inter) actions, including: power dynamics, gender roles, non-verbal cues, temporal continuity, and inherent linguistic meaning.

Within writer/director Julie Dash’s contribution, Sax Cantor Riff, these challenges are presented through ambiguous narrative form and privileging of synesthetic sonic framing; all further enveloped by the impromptu mourning cry of a Black woman. Dash uses the space of the subway platform to make possible her dismantling of emotive, ethnic/racial, religious, and gendered identificatory strictures, tied to common negative tropes, by focusing on the significance and preoccupation with the significance of sound.

The sonic utterances of a Black woman in mourning are dislocated from their historically delineated moorings and rendered concomitant with, and syncretical to, a Hasidic Jewish man’s lament, a saxophone’s trill, the sounds of trains, the crackle of subway detritus, and people’s chatter. In other words, I argue that the Black woman’s voice, (re)positioned as part and parcel for experiential life for the various ethnic and gendered people, marks Dash’s film as a profound example of the power of embodied, sound/sonically oriented film-making, that draws on the multivocal density of urban life, to (re)frame social relationships; ultimately imbuing her characters with a generously expanded representational complexity.