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Textured Voices and the Performance of Ethical Life in the Case of the Laff Box (1966)


Textured voices include both voices heard as interpolated into a musical texture and voices heard as having their own textured character, whether as a ‘voice’ with a ‘timbre’ or as a ‘collective voice’ with a ‘composite timbre’ made up of many voices, each textured itself. They have often been heard as performances of ethical life. Comparisons between these performances can be misleading because the contingencies characterizing the textured voice for a listener who listens in a particular way can make each performance irreducible. A pair of articles and cartoons in TV Guide from the summer of 1966 depict the making of a textured laugh track as a contradictory activity. Yet they seem to resolve contradictions into surface conflicts between individuated parties. Listening for textured voices in this case was itself a political activity because it was productive of more than one distinct form of ethical life.

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Twentieth-Century Music
  • ISSN: 1478-5722
  • EISSN: 1478-5730
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