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Societies 2015, 5(4), 744-759; doi:10.3390/soc5040744

S-s-s-syncopation: Music, Modernity, and the Performance of Stammering (Ca. 1860–1930)

Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki, Fabianinkatu 24, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
Academic Editor: Megan Strickfaden
Received: 23 September 2015 / Revised: 23 October 2015 / Accepted: 2 November 2015 / Published: 5 November 2015
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [685 KB, uploaded 5 November 2015]

Abstract

The modern history of disability, and of speech impediments in particular, has largely been written as one of medical discourse and (more recently) of social and cultural imaginations. The pathology of speech appears as an embodied, but ultimately intangible, issue due to the transient nature of sound itself. Once produced, it disappears, and seems to escape memory. In this text, stammering is approached as an object of material history. Drawing on the “paper trail” left by medical experts, popular entertainers and a handful of stammerers’ experiences, this paper examines the ways in which stammering was made material in the nineteenth century. The impediment not only provided (pseudo) medical actors with a lucrative market for various curative objects and practices, but also propelled the (sheet-)music business. Stammerers themselves appear in this story of materialization and market as both agents and objects. The cheap self-cures, medical manuals, sheet music and (later) recordings that were produced not only for, but also by, them, show how easily the impediment was aligned with the modern consumer’s identity and how the persona of the stammerer was, ultimately, lodged in the Western collective memory in very material ways. View Full-Text
Keywords: speech impediments; recording; music; history speech impediments; recording; music; history
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Hoegaerts, J. S-s-s-syncopation: Music, Modernity, and the Performance of Stammering (Ca. 1860–1930). Societies 2015, 5, 744-759.

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