Blog 6: Culture in Sound

18 May

In his article, “Audible Citizenship and Audiomobility: Race , Technology and CB Radio,” Art M. Blake reveals the functions of sound as cultural identifier and impetus for development of  connectedness within ethnic groups, specifically Whites and African American societies in America. During the post-war period, racial segregation not only prevented African Americans from being benefitted for attending war but also segregated them from the mainstream of the airwaves. The situation grew worse with the rise of Ku Klux Klan and their terroristic plan to harm African Americans. One thing I found very interesting from this article is that sound cannot be dominated by certain power. Sound waves seem very influential and pervasive because of its lack of physicality or tangibility. Once the sound is transmitted anyone whether one is an intended or unintended audience, gets to learn the information.  Overlooking this feature of sound, Ku Klux Klan’s plan fails due to Black CBers who heard the plan and communicated to African American communities through minor CB channels.  Just because White Americans had dominated the airwaves, it did not meant that they also has control over the audience who would listen to their messages.

White American hegemonic control over citizen band causes unexpected outcomes: “[A]s a result of racism on CB channels, increasing numbers of black CBers simply opted to gather two underused channels in the CB range…” (blake 537). As the control over airwaves get divided into public, Whites, and counter public, Black,  Citizen band in twentieth century, as Blake explains, has imposingly enhanced the sound culture in the African American community and has built foundation for African American styles of music such as hip-hop and raps because of its feature of audio mobility.  Most importantly, ” black CB use first developed in direct response to the racial politics of the postwar period, in particular, the years of struggle for meaningful desegregation and citizenship” (Blake 531). The major factor which enabled the establishment of unique African American sound culture is the ethnic demarcation created by their accent, vocabulary, and speech styles.  Before the emergence of Black CBers, African American could not feel sense of bonding through white hegemonic mainstream. However, rise of channel 6, Super Bowl, and increases of black CBer actually strengthened the sense of ethnic pride and connectedness between individual African Americans and provided an excellent source of communication between communities. By gaining public voices, Black CBers created humors and slangs, cheered people during the era of depression and racial segregation, and eventually gathered voices for their civil right movements.

These evidence proves that signifiers and signified  are not just mere sound waves and language but also contains cultural and social significance that actually affects human society in everyday life. CB radio was able to be developed with cultural meanings and influences that people assign according to their experience and beliefs. Although White Americans restricted Black Americans’ freedom on airwaves and also in society, Black Americans adapted themselves to the difficult situation of being minority and fought against White hegemony in order to diversify the audio culture in American, and as a result, they were able to establish solid music and verbal culture they have even until today.

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One Response to “Blog 6: Culture in Sound”

  1. AnnChan 25 May 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    I completely agree with your take on how the African American’s have undermined White American’s hegemonic use of the CB radio. In a time that segregated blacks desperately needed comfort in communal activities, the use of minor airwaves in the CB radio became a medium for such. Also, I think its interesting that you bring up the idea that nobody could be stopped from hearing what is said across the airwaves once it has been transmitted. I wonder how many White Americans were flipping to get to the major public White American channels and have crossed the counter public black run airwave channels and have ended up listening to this foreign culture’s music and speech instead. This unstoppable force of culture spreading throughout the airwaves could not be stopped and eventually grew to the point that we see how popular black culture is today across the airwaves, and across other mediums of mass media.
    It is indeed interesting the developments that the political statement the use of CB radio that blacks had originally intended had become a foundation for an establishment of black music and verbal culture. The black’s use of CB certainly had its own unique culture in that people were not scared to speak out across the nation to each other anonymously, which eased up much of the tension that were high in the segregation times. They could freely be creative in music and speech without being judged by the public, or perhaps in a manner that they didn’t even care if they were being judged due to radio’s anonymity.
    It is also interesting to note that black music and speech are now frequently heard in many prominent radio stations on the FM airwave; most of the stations that younger generations listen to all feature mostly hip hop and rap artists with black artists. Radio show hosts, often use black slang and accent to host the shows… sometimes these radio show hosts are not even black but imitate the accent not to mock but to gain popularity. The use of the CB radio has certainly helped popularize and spread the black culture, and had created such a unity that it often seems that those involved in the black culture are in a world of their own, and many people of the American culture are wishing to be included. Black culture has now become public and is no longer counter public.

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