Voice Machines: Listening Within

September 22, 2023 - 3:30pm
Old Cabell Hall - Room 107

The Sound Justice Lab presents a discussion of Bonnie Gordon’s new book, Voice Machines, an exploration of the castrato as a critical provocation to explore the relationships between sound, music, voice instrument, and machine.  


Suzanne Cusick, Music, New York University
Erin Lambert, History, University of Virginia
Jo Livingstone, Independent Literary Critic
Kristina Richardson, History, University of Virginia
and Emily Wilbourne, Music and Global Early Modern Studies, Queens College/CUNY

Moderated by Anne Coughlin, School of Law, University of Virginia

This event is sponsored by Sound Justice Lab; Karsh Institute of Democracy; Music Department; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Department; and the Institute of Humanities & Global Cultures.

Voice Machines: The Castrato, the Cat Piano, and Other Strange Sounds

Italian courts and churches began employing castrato singers in the late sixteenth century. By the eighteenth century, the singers occupied a celebrity status on the operatic stage. Constructed through surgical alteration and further modified by rigorous training, castrati inhabited human bodies that had been “mechanized” to produce sounds in ways that unmechanized bodies could not. The voices of these technologically enhanced singers, with their unique timbre, range, and strength, contributed to a dramatic expansion of musical vocabulary and prompted new ways of imagining sound, the body, and personhood.

Bonnie Gordon

A music historian who works across disciplines and creative practices Bonnie Gordon is fascinated by the idea of sound as fundamental to the ways we move through the world and deeply committed to the idea that learning about sound is not for musicians only. She is a founding faculty member of the Equity Center and founded the Arts Mentors a program designed to increase access to the arts in Charlottesville. Her research centers on sound and gender in the early Modern world. In addition to her scholarly work, she has published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Slate and the Cville Weekly. She plays jazz, rock, and classical viola.

Link to Voice Machines

Bonnie Gordon was recently interviewed by Nathan Smith from New Book Network  to talk about her new book ,"Voice Machines: The Castrato, the Cat Piano, and Other Strange Sounds". you can listen to the podcast here: https://newbooksnetwork.com/voice-machines

You can also read an article about Bonnie and her newest book in the Sept 20th C-Ville here(https://www.c-ville.com/digging-into-sound)

Old Cabell Hall is located on the south end of UVA’s historic lawn, directly opposite the Rotunda. (map) 


Please note: public parking lots at UVA will not be available the afternoon of September 22 due to a home football game. Sound Justice Lab can reserve a limited number of parking spaces at Bond House, 600 Brandon Avenue.  If you’d like to reserve a space please fill out this form by September 20th: Parking Reservations.

Voice Machines attendees may also register for parking at Culbreth Garage by going to this link  https://uva.pmreserve.com/ and using the access Code: UVA23CRG.

All programs are subject to change.  

For more information, please call the Department of Music at 434.924.3052 or write music@virginia.edu with any questions. 


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UVA Department of Music
112 Old Cabell Hall
P.O. Box 400176 Charlottesville, VA 22904-4176

Email: music@virginia.edu