Cara Tolmie

Listening to the Displaced Vocal Body

Photo: David Lasowski

The singer-listener relationship is unique in its body-body dynamic within spaces of sonic production. As the only musical instrument contained within the body itself, through the singing voice we are confronted not only with a sonic object but also a complex human body that we relate to both conceptually and affectively.

The way that we listen to this singing voice is entangled with our experience of its body. Even when we are presented with the voice alone we continue to project onto it certain expectations about the body that we imagine to produce it. But what kind of body is this singing/vocal body? How do we listen to it and exactly what do we expect from it? 

Through my research I wish to explore the notion of the ‘displaced vocal body’ and its potential to reorganise the conditions of listening within its space of performance. I define this ‘displaced vocal body’ as the use of performative, vocal and choreographic methods that seek to disturb the continuity between a voice and the body which produces that voice. 

In what ways might the displaced vocal body challenge and re-configure listening relations within our spaces of performance? What might be revealed within the spaces we perform through this process that was previously obscured or rendered invisible? How might these re-organised approaches to listening encourage us to listen together through new value systems, both inside and outside of our spaces of performance? 

Cara Tolmie’s practice exists within the intersections of performance, music and moving image. Her works probe the site-specific conditions of performance-making by finding ways to vocalise and place her body that access the political and poetic capabilities of physical written and musical languages. She collaborates regularly as ULAPAARC with Paul Abbott, as a quartet with Will Holder / Paul Abbott / Seymour Wright, in collective vocal group DRANG and on artistic research projects Gender of Sound with Susanna Jablonski and The Glossary of the Event with Frida Sandström and Aleksei Borisionok. She is also part of the editorial collective for Cesura//Acceso Journal. 

Principal supervisor: Mathew Gregory
Assistant supervisor: 
Katja Grillner and Malin Arnell
Admitted to Konstfack
Project period: 2019-2022