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Durham University


Geography, Music, Space

Emily Falconer (Sociology, University of Westminster) - In Harmony or Out of Tune? Affective and Emotional Geographies of All-Male Choirs

14:00-15:40 - Session III: Performance spaces: hearing, playing, feeling

‘Affective moments’ are crucial to understanding social bonding (and conflict) and are intrinsically related to collective singing (the highly charged atmosphere of many bodies singing at a football match or during a political protest). This paper critically investigates the affective space of the all-male choir to see what being ‘in harmony’ or ‘out of tune’ means for men who embody these spaces.The growing popularity of choir singing reflects a desire to use collective voices in harmonic expression, yet transforming the way in which we use our voices has a much greater impact on social relations and then the social health benefits suggest.

Using a case study of all male choirs in London, this paper situates the ‘power of voice’ within wider socio-political contexts and gendered theory. The voice can be coaxed, trained, manipulated, allowed and even encouraged to be ‘natural’ and authentic, raised or softened to be ‘in harmony’ with others, or remain ‘out of tune’ and not fit in. The paper further challenges the idea of harmony inherent in group singing, and explores the dangers of such solidarity for those who are ‘out of tune’ and unable to harmonise with others in society.