Vicarious Vocalities / Simulated Songs

online (25.-26.9.2020), 22. June 2020.

Call for Papers

Lost, Borrowed and Stolen Voices in popular culture
A virtual voice studies conference

Friday 25 - Saturday 26 September 2020 (Virtual platform details TBA)

Vicarious Vocalities, Simulated Songs: Lost, Borrowed and Stolen Voices in popular culture aims to explore the many and varied iterations of simulated, copied or imitative voices in popular culture from the invention of sound recording to the present day.

Ranging in scope from the overdubbed ‘ghost singing’ of the Hollywood musical to the success of comedians such as Lost Voice Guy on Britain’s Got Talent (ITV, UK) or singing ventriloquist Darci-Lynne on its American counterpart, it seeks to examine and critically analyse the phenomena of such voices.

The conference invites presentations that draw upon an international and interdisciplinary approach to uncover and understand the fascination with — and function of — these voices in popular culture, as sites of intersection related to individual identity, the creative economy and with respect to the aesthetics of performance.

Identifying vocal vicariousness or sonic similarity as a shared property across a range of such voices, the conference seeks to curate a conversation that brings together approaches and ideas that have thus far been largely disparate in scholarship. As an aim, then, its intention is to explore connections and find new resonances between performance and current discourses on subjects including ventriloquism (Steven Connor 2000), tribute acts (Shane Homan 2006; Georgina Gregory 2016), lipsynching (Caroline Langley 2006; Jason Bird 2020; Merrie Snell 2020), karaoke (Rob Drew 2001; Kevin Brown 2015) or vocal emulation in bio-musicals and biopics (Millie Taylor 2012; Ben Macpherson 2020).

Sample lines of enquiry might therefore include:

·       Case studies of particular performers, performances or techniques;

·  Fetishized vocality on television entertainment shows (e.g. Carpool Karaoke (Apple, USA); The Stand Up Sketch Show (ITV, UK); Hidden Singer (JTBC, South Korea));

·        Ventriloquism and its variations;

·       Overdubbing, ghost singing and playback singing across cultures;

·       Singing or speaking along with your (recorded) self (and its representation in performance);

·         Vocal simulation in bio-pics and bio-musicals;

·         Tribute acts;

·         Cover bands;

·         Karaoke and amateur ‘imitation’;

·     Mismatched media (e.g. Haribo sweet commercials; the ‘white voice’ of Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You (2018));

·         Satirical impressionists on stage and screen;

·         Lipsynching and its many manifestations;

·        The fetishised ‘othering’ of artificially-enhanced voices in popular culture.

The conference will consider such explorations in three strands, conceptualising vicarious vocality in the following ways:

STRAND 1: ‘Lost voices’
STRAND 2: ‘Borrowed voices’
STRAND 3: ‘Stolen voices’

We welcome proposals that challenge pre-existing boundaries of enquiry, embrace a plurality of approaches, and explore intersections ‘in-between’ previously discrete areas of practice or discourse (Thomaidis and Macpherson 2015). It is anticipated, then, that the same area of discussion may be included a number of times but explored through different lenses.

Anonymised abstracts of 250 words should be submitted, for papers of 20 minutes,  along with a separate 100 word biography (including institutional affiliation as appropriate), to by Monday 22nd June 2020. You will be notified by Monday 29th June 2020 if you have been invited to present.

Proposals should include a provisional title, a key theoretical or contextual framework, and indicate which thematic focus you have taken (‘Lost’, ‘Borrowed’ or ‘Stolen’).

Any queries or questions may be sent to the conference organiser, Dr Ben Macpherson (

We look forward to discussing these fascinating ideas together,

The conference committee

Prof. Lincoln Geraghty FHEA, FRSA
Professor of Media Cultures
School of Film, Media and Communication
University of Portsmouth