As an ablebodied and classically trained singer and actor, articulation to me is that practical space where lips, teeth, tongue and so on (those organs known in anatomy and physiology etc. as the ‘articulators’) combine to shape the sound emanating from the vocal source into a comprehensible/socially recognizable stream of…well: words…or any other utterance that has some degree of meaning. To “articulate!” in both these art forms is a short-hand expression used to cajole a performer into working their speech organs more consciously to produce and communicate a crisper meaning. This gets a bit tricky however, since every good artist knows that communication doesn’t come down strictly to how clearly or perfectly one pronounces or projects. Meaning comes from the ‘how’ something is articulated, not just from the ‘what’ of semantic meaning that is ostensibly the target of clear articulation. When I start thinking about the multiple, socially impacted dimensions of the ‘how’ of articulation, I find Stuart Hall’s “Race, articulation, and societies structured in dominance” a helpful tool. Hall uses the concept of ‘articulation’ to describe how meaning-laden social structures are assembled, gain force, and present the illusion of totality, and, I might add, the illusion of being ‘natural.’ As a researcher my interest in the ‘how’ of articulation is in the meaning transmitted by the material that carries the ‘what’ of articulation for most ablebodied individuals: the voice. When thinking about the power that the ‘how’ of articulation wields through voice, I borrow from Hall’s thinking to trace out how biology and the social work together to give meaning to not what is said, but the way that saying sounds.

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