Musical performances on the bass guitar, able to be felt bodily beyond the ear, connect into the many layers of affect that music excites; but they are particularly potent as a means of communicating embodied masculinity for one young man with a hearing disability. Masculinity as a social code enacted within practices of the everyday involves both the affect and the effect of difference. The bass guitar, the instrument which drives a band's sound and rhythm, is part of the performativity of masculinity within popular music – visually, and at the level of sound, as auricular materiality – an embodied sensation where the ‘feel’ of sound through the body constitutes a language in which ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ modes of masculinity become appropriated and defined.
Displays of musical prowess on the bass guitar open a space for becoming ‘unfixed’ from the identity and abject status of the hearing-disabled Other. This ‘Othering’ occurs primarily in everyday spoken encounters where difficulties with hearing and speech limit opportunities for occupying a viable masculine positioning. By contrast, the capacity to ‘fit’ the sensory and sensual prompts that trigger recognition of masculinity within popular music enables the re-assembling of an embodied masculine identity for a hearing-disabled young man. Masculinity and disability are rendered reversible and exchangeable – performative productions that are excessive and transgressive, contingent on the sensory perceptions of self and others.
This emphasis on embodied communicative practice through the play of bass guitar provides an important counterweight to representational forms of embodied gendered subjectivity that continue to predominate in some modes of disability and gender theorising. It constitutes a forceful assertion of how everyday embodied interactions are irrevocably coupled with mobile and transient masculine and disabled aesthetic identifications.