Empty Orchestra: Karaoke and Queer Performance

Date and Time: 

April 23, 2014 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Event Location: 

Smith 306

A Talk by

Karen Tongson,

English and Gender Studies, USC

Empty Orchestra: Karaoke and Queer Performance

This talk uses the global phenomenon of karaoke to re-evaluate prevailing paradigms of originality and imitation in aesthetics, critical theory, queer studies and media economies, while also offering a preliminary account of karaoke cultures and technologies from Asia and the United States. Karaoke is a compound Japanese word: "kara" means "empty," and "oke" is the contraction of "o-kesutora," or "orchestra." Though the conceptual origins of karaoke are largely apocryphal, and have been linked by journalists, enthusiasts and scholars to folk forms of group-singing and sing-along entertainments across a wide historical span from medieval Europe, to Anglo-American vaudeville, to post-World-War-II Japan (from which the name of the activity is derived), the origins of the first karaoke machines can be traced back to Japan and the Philippines in the early-to-mid 1970s. This presentation will take into account the form’s “machinic” invention, and the intercolonial disputes that have arisen as a result, while exploring conversation karaoke's meaning, and its mobilization as a metaphor for contemporary forms of “copying” and creativity in a post-digital age.

Date: April 23, Wednesday, 4pm

Place: Smith 306

Karen Tongson

BIO: Karen Tongson is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at University of Southern California, and the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press, 2011). Her work has appeared in numerous venues in print and online, including Social Text, GLQ, and Novel: A Forum on Fiction. She is currently the series editor for Postmillennial Pop at NYU Press, and just completed a multi-year term as co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Popular Music Studies. Her current book project, Empty Orchestra: Karaoke. Critical. Apparatus. critiques prevailing paradigms of imitation in contemporary aesthetics and critical theory, while offering a genealogy of karaoke technologies, techniques, and desires.