Engines of Affect: Experimenting with Auditory Intensities in the Jamaican Sound System Session.

Henriques, Julian F.. 2022. Engines of Affect: Experimenting with Auditory Intensities in the Jamaican Sound System Session. In: Britta Timm Knudsen; Mads Krogh and Carsten Stage, eds. Methodologies of Affective Experimentation. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 93-115. ISBN 9783030962715 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The chapter describes some of the Jamaican sound system engineers’ skilled practices for shaping auditory frequencies. It calls these phonomorphic (sound-shaping) techniques to distinguish them from the phonographic (sound-writing) instrument of the sound system. These phonomorphic techniques are their key method for increasing affective intensities, or “building the vibes” as it is called, through the volume and qualities of the phonographic musical material the sound systems play. Indeed, each sound system can be considered as an affective apparatus in competition with all the other sound systems on the island – as the greater the affect, the bigger their crowd (audience) and the more commercial success. The idea of vibration is identified as the common denominator in both the subtle “scyence,” as it is called by the Jamaican auditory engineers, as well as the standard model audio mechanics, as taught in engineering schools. The chapter then explores the sound system as an experimental apparatus for fine-tuning these vibrations as such a central feature to Jamaican dancehall popular culture. It compares and contrasts some of the techniques of this “street lab” with those of commercial or academic research institutions. The ways-of-knowing of affect in the hands, hearts and ears of the sound system audio engineers contrasts with conventional social and scientific methodological and epistemological approaches to such intensities. The chapter concludes by suggesting that the sensitivities and sophistication of the engineers’ vibrational fine-tuning is best compared with Eastern spiritual traditions in which the human body is conceived as a series of chakra each with their own particular frequency of vibration.

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Book Section

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Topology Research Unit


28 June 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

15 Jul 2021 12:24

Last Modified:

15 Aug 2022 15:13



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