Scream from the Heart: Yoko Ono’s rock and roll revolution

Scream from the Heart: Yoko Onos rock and roll revolution

Shelina Brown

While most academic scholarship on Yoko Ono focuses on her work as a pioneering conceptual and performance artist, little has been devoted to her accomplishments as an experimental rock vocalist. In this paper, I will discuss Yoko Onos searing vocalizations, or screams, as politically charged instances of abject sonic art, situated within the tumultuous socio-political context of 1960s U.S. counterculture. Interpreting Yoko Onos pioneering vocal performances from the albums, Yoko Ono: Plastic Ono Band (1970) and Fly (1971), Onos revolutionary impulse to shout from the heart will be treated as a move to redefine musical expression through gendered processes of abjection and cultural resistance.
In this paper, Yoko Onos extreme vocalizations will be considered as revolutionary cultural expressions that constitute visceral responses to 1960s and early 1970s political movements and countercultural practices.

Taking as a starting point Tamara Levitz assertion that the power of Onos scream lies in its violent, jarring evocation of an intense bodily immediacy, I would like to argue that the bodily immediacy that is produced by her scream is also bound to paradoxical process of bodily abjection. My central contention is that in the context of Yoko Onos extreme vocal performances, the scream functions as an act of sonic abjection, and brings to the fore a marginalized body negotiating, and defying, its own liminal borders within the wider socio-political formation.

This article will be published in an English-only edition of Volume!’s “countercultures” issues: Sheila Whiteley and Jedediah Sklower (eds.) (May 2014).

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