A Tuesday evening workshop on podcasting and digital music-making, held in Luce Hall, opened with a quote from poet and activist Marc Bamuthi Joseph: “Joy is a human right.”
The event, titled “The Sounds of Digital Joy: Black Women’s Sonic Space Making Online,” focused on podcasting and digital music as opportunities for interventions in culture and society. Co-led by Moya Bailey, a postdoctoral scholar of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Digital Humanities at Northeastern University, and Jalylah Burrell GRD ’16, a doctoral candidate in the American and African American Studies departments, the workshop constituted the second installment of a two-part program, “Digital Non-Neutrality Series: Decolonizing and Queering DH [Digital Humanities] Tools and Practices,” co-organized by T.L. Cowan and Marijeta Bozovic, two professors affiliated with Yale’s recently established Digital Humanities Lab. In her introduction to the workshop, Cowan mentioned that the lab presents an opportunity to “de-center” the discipline of digital humanities at Yale, ensuring that it does not reproduce existing issues in academia that may persist in other fields. Throughout the discussion, Bailey and Burrell stressed ways in which the podcast and digital music production can exist as variations on the “de-centering” strategies Cowan highlighted, simultaneously discussing how podcasting can serve as another mode of academic inquiry.
“It is a theoretical practice in its own right,” Bailey explained. “We can do something through podcasting that we can’t in other forms like scholarly papers.”
“The Sounds of Digital Joy” opened with a discussion, led by Bailey and Burrell, on the predicament facing some listeners of popular hip-hop: finding a balance between enjoying the music while still taking issue with a song’s misogynistic lyrics. More broadly, the speakers examined “the frustration circulating within the digital community” regarding the representation of Black life in popular hashtags.
During the workshop, Burrell talked about the way in which her past experiences as a DJ in Hong Kong and New York City inform her current work as a scholar and digital arts practitioner. Music, she explained, “is a vehicle for skill, reportage and storytelling.” She also presented several of her mixtapes, which trace the development of Black feminism through the inclusion of voices such as Sonia Sanchez, a scholar and historian whom Burrell described as a “lost voice in academia,” and musician Laura Lee’s “Women’s Love Rights,” which she noted was “an explicitly feminist” album, in her estimation.
Similarly, Bailey discussed the podcast as “a collaborative medium” that furthers the notion that “conversation is where things get worked out.” She presented excerpts from her and Burrell’s podcasts, “The Prescription” and “Love in Public,” to demonstrate examples of recordings that dealt with issues such as the presentation of the Black “South” in the recent Beyoncé single, “Formation,” in a conversational mode. The workshop leaders also gave participants practical advice for recording effective podcasts, reminding them that one must be willing to modulate his or her everyday conversation habits to accommodate the demands of the podcast as a “performative” medium.
“You should avoid talking over the other person in your exchanges and conversations,” Burrell said. “It’s a performance.”
The series was sponsored by the Yale DHLab, with support from a variety of other programs and departments.