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date: 23 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In this chapter, we discuss the dramatic narrative arc of what we call the timbre–race equilibrium, particularly how it unfolds in discourse around the career of singer Bobby Caldwell and during the blind auditions for the televised singing competition The Voice. We outline how audience confusion about Caldwell’s racial identity has served as a reliable source of conversation and so-called clickbait. We also examine two instances in which The Voice employs this narrative arc, with the show’s judges serving as listener-protagonists. These judges model a way of listening for the home audience, enacting what Eidsheim calls “informal listening pedagogy.” In witnessing an effort to repair the rupture that occurs when race and timbre fail to align as expected, the public is entrained into normative—in this case, racialized—listening. In short, these examples model how we train ourselves, through this cyclical narrative arc, to hear timbre as racialized essence.

Keywords: race, timbre, voice, whiteness, blackness, critical listening, narrative theory, singing contests, reality television, “The Voice”

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