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Title: Keepin' it reel : hip hop, remediation, and the performance of the New Black Realist soundscape
Author: Millea, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 9358 362X
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2019
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"Subcultures represent ‘noise’ ... [as an] interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media." Hebdige, 1979, 91 Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” (1988); Tricia Rose’s Black Noise (1994); Tony Mitchell’s Global Noise (2002); and the Beastie Boys’ “Make Some Noise” (2011) - while just a snapshot of the titles on offer from hip hop’s practitioners and researchers, it is clear from this list that throughout the almost fifty-year history of the culture and its music, noise, in whatever form, has been one of hip hop’s constant companions. As a composite binding of contemporary postmodern technologies and orally based ideologies, hip hop is noise because it disrupts the traditional characteristics of mainstream media and culture in order to create a space for subcultural revolt and resistance. Nowhere is this more fascinating than in the soundscapes of New Black Realism, a collection of African-American commercial independent films released throughout the 1990s in which the aesthetics of hip hop culture stand as guiding principles. This study explores such moments of noise in the sound and music of New Black Realism. It contends that these films create meaning in their disruption of the traditional structures of the cinematic soundscape. Maintaining characteristics of orally based expressions while at the same time incorporating and destabilising elements of the literate and technologically sophisticated society in which its practitioners live (Rose, 1994, 85 - 86), these soundscapes are charged with a culturally-specific understanding of author, text, and audience. As a post-literate orality, New Black Realism blurs the boundaries between each in a performance of the celluloid. At the heart of that cinematic performance is the double-consciousness of remediation, the balance between the immediacy of the sonic material presented throughout these films and the hypermediacy of the frames of that presentation. As those two elements clash, the soundscapes of these films utter of contemporary Black America, both on and offscreen. More than just the use of canonic hip hop songs in these films, on the soundtrack, this thesis is concerned with the way hip hop influences the construction of the cinematic soundscape, of each of film’s three sonic layers of music, sound effects, and the voice. This study argues that, as hip hop (re)uses sound generally rather than just music and melodic material in its compositions, in New Black Realism all levels of the film soundscape contribute to the narrative world onscreen and our perception of it. To this end, this thesis draws on the work of a collection of young Black American, and largely male, directors who made New Black Realist films at the end of the twentieth-century. Stretching from Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing in 1989 to Hype Williams’ 1998 film, Belly, and from Los Angeles to New York City, the research explores the performance of the New Black Realist soundscape across a small collection of coming-of-age dramas that deal with a problem-riddled Black urban culture in conflict with a white mainstream.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral