The ‘Vocalic Body’ of Screamin’ J

This one is truly an act of possession. The spirit of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins not only inhabits, it infests the body of the lipsyncher, ‘jimmyslo’.

For Steven Connor, voice is space but can also be construed as body, and vice versa. He calls this the ‘Vocalic Body’ and explains:

‘Voices are produced by bodies: but can also themselves produce bodies. The vocalic body is the idea — which can take the form of dream, fantasy, ideal, theological doctrine or hallucination — of a surrogate or secondary body, a projection of a new way of having or being a body, formed and sustained out of the autonomous operations of the voice.’ [Connor, Steven, Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 35]

In the so-called ‘age of mechanical reproduction’, even the voices of the dead are capable of forming a new body, a body unimagined by the voice’s originator and formerly unimaginable.

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3 Comments on “The ‘Vocalic Body’ of Screamin’ J”

  1. Ned says:

    Very interesting. The concept reminds me of the “weirding module,” a sonic weapon from the film (not novel) of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” It’s a gun the user speaks certain words into; the word becomes a blast that disables an opponent because “Some thoughts have a certain sound, that being the equivalent to a form. Through sound and motion, you will be able to paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs.” Eventually the characters learn that they get the biggest bang by uttering the hero’s name into the thing…

    • Fredasterical says:

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve never seen Dune. Is it worth a go? Is it the meaning of the word or the sound of the word or both that dictates the form of the blast?

      • Ned says:

        Oh, my no, don’t see it, it’s just terrible. Although Sting is in it, mostly naked some of the time. And the soundtrack is by — get this — Toto. Yes, the ’80s pop band Toto.

        Apparently the weapon’s design was based on sound being the important factor… But then, meaning seemed to matter… Since the source of the sound was always a human voice, it can be argued that the emotional weight of a word to the speaker affected the mechanics of the sound in a way that affected the power of the weapon. Spirit meets science. You shoot better when you mean what you say.


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