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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores the enslaved musician Blind Tom’s sonic repertoire as an alternative to that of the discursive slave narrative, and it considers the methodological challenges of theorizing the conditions of captivity and freedom in cultural representations of Blind Tom’s performances. The article explores how the extant anecdotes, testimonials and cultural ephemera about Thomas Wiggins live in tension with the conventional fugitive’s narrative, and it traces the ways in which the “scenarios” emerging from the Blind Tom archive reveal a consistent set of themes concerning aesthetic authorship, imitation, reproduction and duplication, which tell us much about quotidian forms of power and subjugation in the cultural life of slavery, as well as the cultural means by which a figure like Blind Tom complicated and disrupted that power.

Keywords: sound, listening, sonic ekphrasis, echo, memory, reproduction, imitation, transcription, notation, improvisation

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