“Sing About Me”: Social Media Memorial and Inventory Form

Redmond, Shana L.

Music is oftentimes where and how people live. It’s a dynamic experience of performance and reception that requires vigor, from the breath and muscle twitch of the singers and/or musicians to the hearing and processing of those melodies by the receiver. Music, then, is the perfect technology through which blackness is animated, even that of those presumed dead and gone. Songs of tribute for the deceased, including Nina Simone’s “Why? (The King of Love is Dead)” and, more recently, “Trayvon” by Pittsburgh emcee Jasiri X, are sonic memorials intended as life support for the memories and visions of loved ones as well as hopes of and for communities who face ongoing structural and physical brutalities. Some of the latest incarnations of this musical strategy are directly influenced by contemporary protest technologies. Musicians have picked up on and expanded upon the labors of social media, which have turned the changing same of state violence into rallying cries delivered in 140 characters or less, hashtags, and memes. Music as a method of communication, organization, and vision is meeting the call again from insurgent communities for new narratives and representations of the many people gone.

In the transition from personal phone to globally-accessible social media, these events are amplified, drawing attention, gasps, outrage, studies, and curricula through the hashtags that organize them in public consciousness. Through the multisensory liveness of video, with its dramatic scenes and sounds, we might begin to hear another metamorphosis from the event to the video to the hashtag and back into an alternative sonic experience. The epistemo-archival impulse that energizes Black Twitter—the urgent need to reveal, to document, to record—has continued offline in an effort to collate and reanimate the women and men condensed in social media by technological necessity. Unbound by word count, contemporary Black musicians translate IP addresses into time signatures in order to organize the “noise” of the Twitterverse into a unique repertoire of continued debate and rebellion.


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October 22, 2018