Rhythms and rhythmic processes underlie everything we do. Physiological, biological, and planetary rhythms regulate the functions of our bodies, other living organisms, and our surrounding environments, while linguistic and cultural rhythms shape our interactions with others as we move through space and time. And then there are the rhythms of music, the rhythms of working, the rhythms of our lives, and the rhythms of the stories of our lives. There are noisy random rhythms, comfortable and uncomfortable rhythms, the familiar rhythms of tradition playing alongside inventive rhythms that no one has ever heard before. It is through rhythm—through our quotidian interactions with distinct but overlapping rhythms and rhythmic systems—that we come to understand who we are and how we relate to others and the world. Perpetually shifting from one moment and context to the next, through the rhythms, musics, and random noises we experience and encounter, we come to (re)configure identities for ourselves and (re)negotiate social positionalities in relation to others and the world.
While rhythmic phenomena operate in every area of our lives and experiences, the aim of this study was to focus on how rhythm, music, and sound operate in texted forms/forums, specifically in novels, and to explore how texted sounding phenomena create spaces for identity appropriation that operate both inside and outside the frame of literary texts, and specifically in novels. In discussing Ousmane Sembene's God's Bits of Wood, Ahmadou Kourouma's The Suns of Independence, Aminata Sow Fall's L'appel des arenes, Simone Schwarz-Bart's Ti Jean L'horizon, Maryse Condé's Crossing the Mangrove, and Patrick Chamoiseau's Solibo Magnificent, this study has uncovered layers of multiple sonorities as manifest in texted representations of rhythmic and musical phenomena. Vibrantly presented in narrative descriptions of the sounds of singing, dancing, and music making, as well as evocations of the rhythms of biology, technology, and miscellaneous everyday noises, such texted rhythmic and musical components create resonant imaginative soundscapes that promote a transpoetic aesthetic from within the frame of the novel in which written, oral, and instrumental styles intermingle. As a means of addressing the specificity of texted representations of nonvocal rhythmic and musical components as transposed in the frame of the novel, this study presented the new term “instrumentaliture,” and defined it as phenomena through which the sonorities of instrumental music and the sounds of everyday instruments and objects—including performance pieces, sound compositions, and musical arrangements and improvisations—are presented in the frame of written literature, creating sounding spaces for innovation, communication, negotiation, and exchange. Evoking the emotions and expressiveness of ordinary and extraordinary resonant phenomena in texted forms, instrumentaliture inspires readers to (re)consider and (re)configure their understandings of aesthetic, linguistic, political, and sociocultural criteria, among others, in a resounding relational forum. Although similar to oraliture, a process through which oral genres are transcribed and described in written literature, instrumentaliture is nonetheless distinct from oraliture in that it infuses textual spaces with resonant elements that are neither oral nor written. As demonstrated in this study, this move away from the binary modes of categorization that are used to bifurcate categories including but not limited to oral versus written, traditional versus modern, and Occidental versus Oriental has important implications, particularly when approaching questions of identity in the postcolonial Francophone world. By breaking free of binary tendencies, writers succeed in opening questions of identity to realms of boundless possibility in which the array of identificatory configurations is infinite rather than limited.
In view of questions of identity, this study has also analyzed the importance of the concept of “transculture,” a term used in describing phenomena that are shared, communicated, appropriated, and exchanged among and across multiple cultures and/or cultural systems. In discussing the novels selected for this study, it has been useful to present the word “transculture” in tandem with “transpoetics” in characterizing the transpoetic transcultural space of the text. A noisy texted space in which the silences and sonorities of multiple aesthetic categories intermingle and/or coalesce, and the products and perspectives of diverse cultural systems overlap and/ or interconnect, the transpoetic transcultural space is filled with resonant potential in both function and in form. Through the course of the analysis, this study has established the transpoetic transcultural space as a forum for communication, invention, negotiation, and exchange, in which autonomous identity constructs are (re)considered, (re)configured, and/or (re)appropriated.
In discussing Ousmane Sembene's God's Bits of Wood and Ahmadou Kourouma's The Suns of Independence, this study has considered texted rhythmic and musical elements in view of strategies of social and political activism in the colonial and postcolonial eras. In exploring transpoetic transcultural phenomena in the two novels, this study discussed the ways in which Sembene and Kourouma address questions of language, identity, and authority in their respective texts through integral representations of the quotidian rhythms of singing, dancing, working, and moving. Moreover, connections were established among the scripted sonorities of songs, dances, and other everyday cadences, as well as the lexical localization strategies and stylistic musicalization and instrumentalization techniques that both writers employ in conveying local sociocultural and aesthetic conventions in their respective novels. Throughout this process, the ways in which Sembene and Kourouma incorporate rhythmic, musical, and otherwise noisy phenomena as a means of creating spaces for identity (re)appropriation and social activism in the frame of the Francophone novel were revealed.
In analyzing Simone Schwarz-Bart's Ti Jean L'horizon and Aminata Sow Fall's L'appel des arènes, the discussion of texted rhythmic and musical elements focused on the motifs of travel and wandering, specifically as they relate to questions of language, culture, history, and identity in postcolonial Francophone contexts. In analyzing the respective journeys of Sow Fall's Nalla and Schwarz-Bart's Ti Jean, the importance of rhythmic and musical cues was revealed, particularly in their capacity as operative points of reference. In this respect, in both novels, rhythmic and musical signals serve to orient the disoriented protagonists as they navigate real and imaginary spaces and simultaneously confront questions of individual and collective identification as they travel through space and time in Sow Fall's and Schwarz Bart's respective narratives.
In considering Maryse Condé's Crossing the Mangrove and Patrick Chamoiseau's Solibo Magnificent, the analysis of texted rhythmic and musical elements focused on the theme of identity negotiation through music and mourning. In the discussion of both works, the dimensions of identity as mediated by collective and individual recollections and remembrances were approached through the interrelated processes of music, memory, and mourning. In analyzing texted representations of the work of remembering and the music of mourning, this study revealed the ways in which Chamoiseau and Condé confront questions of identity not only in view of the dead—Solibo Magnificent and the innocent victims of police brutality in Solibo Magnificent and Francis Sancher in Crossing the Mangrove—but also in view of the living, the community of survivors, witnesses, and mourners. In this respect, as characters in Solibo Magnificent and Crossing the Mangrove assemble fragments of collective and individual memories in mourning and investigating the mysterious deaths of Solibo and Francis, they are simultaneously compelled to confront complicated questions of individual and collective identities.
Through an exploration of texted rhythmic and musical elements in God's Bits of Wood, The Suns of Independence, L'appel des arènes, Ti Jean L'horizon, Crossing the Mangrove, and Solibo Magnificent, this study has established a framework for considering transpoetic and transcultural phenomena in the space of the novel. As demonstrated in the analysis, Sembene, Kourouma, Sow Fall, Schwarz-Bart, Condé, and Chamoiseau masterfully employ a variety of lexical and stylistic strategies as a means of prominently incorporating the vibrant sonorities of melodies, polyphonies, cacophonies, and dissonances into the written frames of their novels. Through their salient representations of resonant rhythmic, musical, and otherwise noisy phenomena, these writers succeed not only in promoting local aesthetic values and cultural sensibilities, but also in opening spaces for autonomous identity configuration and appropriation that operate in between and beyond the limits of Western critical paradigms, perpetuating a necessary critical shift. Designated as zones for communication, innovation, negotiation, and exchange, the transpoetic transcultural spaces created by Sembene, Kourouma, Sow Fall, Schwarz-Bart, Condé, and Chamoiseau are filled with resonant possibilities. Transcending the limits of linguistic conventions, geographical borders, sociocultural norms, and aesthetic formats through integral incorporations of texted sounding phenomena, these writers prompt their readers-listeners to negotiate individual and collective dimensions of identity through the reading-listening experience of rhythms, musics, noises, and texts within multiple interacting biological, mechanical, musical, cultural, and literary systems.
This brings us back to the notion of “sounding off.” By texting the sounds of human voices and human bodies in accord and disaccord with the ordinary and extraordinary noises of nature, language, music, and machines, Sembene, Kourouma, Sow Fall, Schwarz-Bart, Condé, and Chamoiseau sound off as a means of evoking, invoking, and provoking reaction, reflection, negotiation, innovation, and response. Socially committed as artists, advocates, and activists, these writers incorporate resonant instrumental and vocal cues throughout their works, effectively creating vibrant texted soundscapes in which they explore complicated dimensions of social problems and identity politics. By translating, transcribing, and transposing the sonorities of local languages, songs, dances, and noisy quotidian phenomena in the frames of their respective texts, Sembene, Kouourma, Sow Fall, Schwarz-Bart, Condé, and Chamoiseau sound off as a means of challenging aesthetic, linguistic, political, socioeconomic, and cultural conventions and policies, among others, and of inspiring reaction, dialogue, education, and transformation among their readers/listeners in local and global communities. More importantly, however, they invite their readers/listeners to participate in the critical dialogue, to sound off in kind with their own noisy questions, acknowledgments, commentaries, texts, rhythms, and songs. I have done my part to respond to the call set forth by God's Bits of Wood, The Suns of Independence, L'appel des arenes, Ti Jean L'horizon, Crossing the Mangrove, and Solibo Magnificent by sounding off in my own way. Now, it's your turn to sound off in kind.