CLAUDIA COSTA PEDERSON
In Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear (2010), Steve Goodman notes that “between the politics of noise and the politics of silence”, is yet another way of listening, a “politics of frequency”. This tonality, which to some does not sound like politics, plays with “sonic processes and technologies of power” to “steer them elsewhere, exploiting unintended consequences of investments in control”. It seeks to create a vibrational nexus agentivizing transductions, or transformations of “deeply ingrained ambiences of fear or dread into other collective dispositions”.
As a collaborative project, Sonic Plots extends similar concerns to electronic music, environments, and gender identities in the U.S. and Cuba. The compositions for the project remix in part a previous collaboration between N. Adriana Knouf, Jenny Johnson, and Diana Dabby, entitled “THE ALIEN (Dear Interlocutor)”, performed at the Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College (USA) on November 10, 2018. Broadly, the alien figure in these works references both the outside of aural encounters, because of the continued exclusion of queer and women’s voices in music, as well as projects queer imaginings about the possibilities of contact across barriers. Sonic Plots further permutates “The Alien” as a sample in Cuban feminist hip-pop.
Transported into Cuba, “The Alien” takes another title, Sonic Plots, but its focus remains constant: amplifying the ongoing dialogue between experimental music and gender positions that reject and challenge binary worldviews, while also highlighting the role of sound in creating alternative spaces welcoming of nonconforming + fearless rhythms, bodies, and movements in the world. Sonic Plots moves within the nexus oscillating between determinism and anticipation. Come, come, there will be dancing.
SONIC PLOTS IN !!!ART SECTION
Sonic Plots develops in a moment where there is a turning point in the relationship between Cuba and the United States, and sound has a central role in the discussion. The two countries became closer after years of tension in 2014 during the Obama administration, but policies have been partially rolled back under President Donald J. Trump. On top of this, in 2016 American diplomats that used to work at the embassy of the United States in Havana reported health issues associated with damages in the inner-ear. A preliminary investigation termed the phenomena as “sonic attacks”, a name that was soon all over the Internet. However, a team of NASA scientists and FBI investigators, in collaboration with the Cuban government, were unable to find the cause of the damages. This lead to several hypotheses promoted by some of the most prestigious news media in the world. These hypotheses included plots that were closer to science fiction than to reality, from a supposedly orchestrated attack by Russian technicians using some unknown technology, to the damaging effect of the combination of Cuban architecture with a specific type of Caribbean cricket.
Although the Internet is today in Cuba a reality, its high cost and the lack of speed limit its functionality. Under these circumstances, a variety of alternatives has emerged that take advantage of human offline interaction to distribute digital information. Music has been one of the areas most influenced by these practices since it depends, both in terms of production and delivery, on mass distribution that can offer the possibility of popularizing the songs.
Sonic Plots uses this context as a starting point to develop a project where two different political and cultural contexts collaborate and restructure their sonic imaginary. At the same time, Sonic Plots explores the informal infrastructure of production and distribution of musical works in Cuba. The project takes part in all the stages of the informal chain of Cuban musical production: creation, production, and distribution of the works.