…music has – indeed, music arguably is – the capacity to create a set of common affects, enabling otherwise disparate bodies to resonate in harmony, with political consequences that can be either progressive or reactionary depending on circumstances.
…just consider how much is conveyed by the tone of a voice, irrespective of the semantic content that it carries. The precise corporeal-emotional charge conveyed from one body to another by the relative tension of mouth and vocal chords is exactly what the term ‘affect’ best designates, and this is also exactly what the ‘grain of the voices’ confers. It is clear enough that affect is precisely music’s domain, while music is the cultural practice which deals most directly in the production, orchestration, repetition and interruption of affects.
[The] combination of intimacy and artificiality is one of the things that makes singing compelling and more than a little eerie: The singer squeezes breath from the moist, abject depths of their physical interior to create sound-shapes that seem transcendent and immaterial. Singing is self-overcoming, pushing against the limits of the body, forcing air into friction with the throat, tongue, and lips in exquisitely controlled and contrived ways.
…the making of art is never itself in the past tense. It is always a formative process, within a specific present.
If the social is always past, in the sense that it is always formed, we have indeed to find other terms for the undeniable experience of the present: not only the temporal present, the realization of this and this instant, but the specificity of present being, the inalienably physical, within which we may indeed discern and acknowledge institutions, formation, positions, but not always as fixed products, defining products.
So what do we learn, hearing all those words and breaths and gurgles, unencumbered? The voice is our most primordial and valuable instrument, and we respond to it more fully, in both spiritual and physiological ways, than almost any other organic sound. For millennia, our brains have evolved to perceive minute variations in the volume and cadence of a human voice. Those micro-adjustments can be staggering, and are worth listening for.