Research Remixes Sound Studies x Black Girlhood

Blair Ebony Smith (Art Education, Gender & Women’s Studies) was a 2023 HRI Summer Faculty Fellow. Smith used the fellowship funding to support a research trip to Richmond, Virginia.

Learn more about HRI’s Summer Faculty Fellowships, which are designed to help faculty at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign maximize the summer in service of their ongoing professional development. 

Describe an aspect of your research that is different from similar work, scholarship, or practices in your field. What is distinctive about the angle you’re taking and/or the methodology?

An aspect of my artistic research that is different from similar work, scholarship or practices in my field is that I put Black girlhood and sound studies in conversation by taking it on as theory and practice (praxis) as a sound artist/DJ interested in where the love is. What is distinct is that I sample, remix, reuse sonic archival materials from a range of familial, collective, and studied Black femme sound contexts—to make a new song/song that might open our hearts up to love and listening to Black people and each other more slowly and generously.

Photo credit: Blair Ebony Smith

What drives you to pursue this topic in your research? How do you stay motivated over time?

What keeps me on the journey over time is knowing and going where the love is in my life. Asking new questions about Black girlhood and sound by re-listening to home(s), SOLHOT (Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truths), Black femme artists, lovers and sampling, and remixing new sounds/futures.

How did this HRI fellowship support your work?

The HRI fellowship supported a research trip to Richmond, Virginia to field record sounds in places significant to my girlhood. It also supported time for me to rework my writing on Black girlhood and sound and prepare a proposal for the HRI Campus Fellowship.