'Just a man singing' : Scott Walker and the Voice of Another

Kobel, Malte (2020) 'Just a man singing' : Scott Walker and the Voice of Another. Journal for Cultural Research, 24(3), pp. 236-251. ISSN (print) 1479-7585


Scott Walker had a complicated relationship to his own singing voice: he called it a beast. He was terrified of the voice’s own determination, a vocal expressivity that seemed to lie outside of himself. In this essay, I work through Scott Walker’s problematic relationship with his own voice, focusing on his use of voice in his later work. Scott Walker’s voice is a rich source for me to not only deconstruct common vocal essentialisms, which reduce the voice to notions of expression, body, sound or speech, but furthermore to develop a theory of the musicking voice – a conception of voice which follows the performative agency of music. I will theorise Scott Walker’s singing voice as an impersonal expressivity and will listen for its performative impersonations in the song ‘Patriot (a single)’, from the 1995 album Tilt. In the space of this essay, Walker’s singing voice functions as a theoretical figure with which I deconstruct unitary and ontological conceptions of voice in philosophy.

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