The Clearing with JJJJJerome Ellis
Organized by The Poetry Project and ISSUE Project Room

Friday, November 12, 2021, 8:00pm

The Clearing, courtesy of JJJJJerome Ellis


The Poetry Project
131 E. 10th Street (at 2nd Avenue)
New York, NY 10003 

About the event

Tickets available here.

The Poetry Project and ISSUE Project Room present the official launch for composer and poet JJJJJerome Ellis’ The Clearing. The project includes two sister pieces: an album (co-produced by The Poetry Project and NNA Tapes) and a book (published by Wendy’s Subway). The Clearing asks how stuttering, blackness, and music can be practices of refusal against hegemonic governance of time, speech, and encounter. Taking his glottal block stutter as a point of departure, Ellis figures the aporia and the block as clearing to consider how dysfluency, opacity, and refusal can open a new space for relation. Ellis will perform excerpts from the project.

First introduced in his 2020 essay “The clearing: Music, dysfluency, Blackness and time” in The Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, Ellis presents “The Clearing” as a concept that challenges us to reimagine dysfluency in speech and question how speech and articulation impact how we exist in the social realm. Ellis speaks with a block stutter, which manifests as intervals of silence in his speech. He calls these intervals “clearings.” In the opening section of the essay, Ellis argues that stuttering—much like music—challenges and “breaks up” time as we know it: “My thesis is that Blackness, dysfluency and music are forces that open time. Opening brings possibilities: temporal refusal, temporal escape, temporal dissent.” Ellis goes on to suggest that disabled speakers and certain types of people, especially Black folks, are subjected to related forms of temporal regulation and oppression that seek to pathologize and criminalize: “Temporal subjection enacted against Black people occurs in many spheres. Brittney Cooper examines several in her work: Black women’s reproductive health; legal and extralegal murders of Black people; racially skewed correlations between zip code and life expectancy; and the conceptualization of history itself.”

Recorded in various bedrooms over the course of several months and setting the text of Ellis’s essay to music, The Clearing is a haunting and expansive series of reflections on the questions of speech, articulation, and the power behind both. Expanding on Harriet Jacobs’s idea of the “loophole of retreat,” Ellis positions Black music and speech as disruptors of “conventional” time and as tools to map out new means of communication and activity.

More information here.

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