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Welcome to TaPRA 2019 at the University of Exeter!

Michael Bachmann

“Listening across Media and the Transnational Politics of Sound ‘Work’”
Produced in 2009 for German public broadcaster BR, the sound piece Work—a collaboration between author Thomas Meinecke and musician Move D—consists almost entirely of an electronic music soundtrack. Despite being classified as a radio play (and commissioned by what used to be the broadcaster’s drama department), Work does not feature any dramatic action in the conventional sense. Instead, it opens with a series of lengthy quotes drawn from the work of Judith Butler and Carol Cooper before segueing into the seemingly never-ending electronic music part, interspersed only by sound bites from participants of the New York house music scene.

Through a close reading of Work, this paper investigates different modes of listening from a transnational as well as from an intermedial perspective. In particular, it analyses what I will call the formal politics of displacement enacted by Work. As I will argue, the radio play produces a series of displacements that are connected to modes of listening: First, from corporeal listening and dancing (as the practice of clubbing) to a ‘disembodied’ type of listening (as the practice of radio). Second, from ‘documentary listening’ to interviews with drag queens, dancers and DJs, to affective listening, as their sound bites are sampled and repeated. Third, the listening to the semantic shift from work (as signifier for an Anglo-Protestant work ethic) to ‘work’ (as signifier for self-determined, often queer sexualities). Fourth, the transnational displacement from listening within the context of late 1980s New York club culture to the German media landscape.

Dr Michael Bachmann is Senior Lecturer and Head of Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow. He is the author of Der abwesende Zeuge, a monograph on authorising strategies in Holocaust representation (Francke 2010). Michael is currently finishing his second book, on dramaturgies of interiority since the eighteenth century (forthcoming from Metzler, 2019). Much of Michael’s research focuses on the relationship of theatre to other art forms and institutions, including museums, legal discourse, and radio. Recent publications include ‘Ambivalent Pasts: Colonial History and the Theatricalities of Ethnographic Display’ (Theatre Journal 69:3).