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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Chera D. Kee


Sonic Motion and Heaviness in Black Media investigates music videos that imagine alternative black futures through the embodied motion of sound or, more directly, “bodies of sound.” It analyzes videos by contemporary artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples, Flying Lotus, and Beyoncé that raise the question: How would it feel to have a body made of sound? To move with and through sonority against the epistemic, spatial, and omnidirectional pressure of antiblackness? This “sonic motion” manifests as levitating bodies, haunted choreographic sequences, and black feet on the run, with each visual motif elaborating the timbral and rhythmical dynamics of synchronous sounds (rap “flows,” percussive “drops,” basslines, vocal melisma, and modular effects). Through close readings of music videos, Sonic Motion and Heaviness crafts a new language of black time that compresses sonic possibilities within the force-fields of aggression that contour black life, from ambient racisms and repetitious violence to the social and representational preponderance of black death. It also reveals a black speculative tendency that is unique to the perceptual address and visualsonic affordances of the music video medium. Drawing together critical scholarship in the fields of Afro-Pessimism and Afrofuturism, Sonic Motion and Heaviness in Black Media insists that we conceive of black futures in the rhythms, beats, and latent motions that scatter across the present, given that the present is sutured by the vectors of encumbrance and violence that overwhelm black life.

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