This Wednesday, January 23rd, please join Sound and Society in welcoming:

 Yiren Zheng (PhD Candidate, East Asian Languages and Civilizations)
who will present a draft of her article-in-progress,
“The Cunning Tongue: Listening Awry with a 
17th-Century Chinese Acousmatic Voice”
Wednesday, January 23rd
(10-minute delayed start time)
Logan Center, Room 801

Writes Yiren, “This essay examines a mechanism that I call the “acousmatic mirror” at play in 17th-century Chinese literary portrayals of kouji (translated as “vocal virtuosity”), an imitative skill. A kouji performance features an invisible performer’s virtuosic use of his/her own voice to animate a wide range of animal, human and environmental sounds that sometimes develop into narratives. By observing how these 17th-century Chinese accounts of kouji enrich the existing discourse on the acousmatic in sound studies, voice studies and media studies (e.g. Michel Chion, Brian Kane, Mladen Dolar), this essay asks: What are the new acoustic and conceptual possibilities that an acousmatic voice embodies?

This essay comes from the first chapter of my dissertation, and it will be submitted to a special issue of the comparative literature/cultural studies journal Parallax. My dissertation examines a couple of strange sounds (including kouji, bird speech and laughter) that resist or distort linguistic forms of expression and communication and reflects on the problem of speech in 17th-century Chinese literature.”

Click to download the paper here. (Please do not cite or circulate).

Special thanks to David Wilson (Music) for serving as Yiren’s respondent. Refreshments will be served!

Please do not hesitate to contact Amy Skjerseth ( or Ailsa Lipscombe ( with any questions or concerns. Persons who believe they may require accommodations to participate fully in the event should notify the coordinators in advance.

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