Jessica Holmes: Abstract and Biography

Jessica Holmes

Abstact: “Singing Beyond Hearing”

Sound artist Christine Sun Kim brings her Deaf minority standpoint to the performance art tradition to “reclaim ownership over sound.” Integrating elements of American Sign Language with musical notation, written text, non-verbal vocalizations, recordings of electronic sounds, improvised technological instruments, and deliberate “silences,” she engages with sound through tactile, visual, and kinaesthetic stimuli.

In this presentation, I draw on recent ethnographic work to showcase two distinct expressions of vocality in Kim’s celebrated performance art piece Face Opera II (2013): Kim severs the related associations between the voice and vocal cords by staging a “silent,” embodied singing voice inspired by the facial nuances of American Sign Language, and likewise expresses an audible singing that at once defies Deaf custom and resists oralist control. By recuperating and refashioning the expressive potential of the singing voice, her unique approach affords new ways of listening and radically challenges what it means to be musical.


Biography: Jessica Holmes is a PhD Candidate in Musicology at McGill University. Her dissertation is a cross-genre, case study-based theoretical study of disability in contemporary music performance. Her specific research interests include music and Deaf culture, disability and voice, as well as music and prosthetics. Her doctoral research is funded by the Vanier Canada scholarship program, and she has presented her work at numerous academic societies including the American Musicological Society, the Society for American Music, and the Society for Disability Studies. Jessica is a cellist, singer, and improviser of several mixed media art creations.