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KM

Katherine Meizel

Katherine Meizel is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University. Her book Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol (IU Press) was published in 2011; she also wrote about Idol for the Slate.com from 2007 to 2011. She is currently co-editing the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies, and completing a monograph for Oxford University Press titled Multivocality: An Ethnography of Singing on the Borders of Identity.

"I Can’t Keep Quiet: A Feminist Anthem for 2017"
Just after the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. in January, film director Alma Har’el posted a recording on social media featuring a flash-mob she had captured during the event. In the video three women’s a cappella groups, surrounded by a human sea capped with pink “pussy” hats, joined to sing the refrain, “I can’t keep quiet…no, not anymore.” Led by Los Angeles musician Connie Lim (under her stage name MILCK), the groups had organized and rehearsed online at opposite ends of the nation, and then come together in the capitol to perform an arrangement of Lim’s recent single, “Quiet.”  Lim had written the song in the personal process of coming to terms with an abusive situation, with her intersectional perspective as an Asian American woman, with mental illness, and with the purpose of finding her voice. But in the context of the Women’s March, its meaning expanded, and it became a literally multivocal symbol encouraging women to make their own voices heard. The video was an immediate worldwide viral sensation, gathering over 6 million views by the morning after the march. And “Quiet” was hailed as the unofficial anthem of a newly galvanized, global feminist countermovement.
The song has a website, with downloadable sheet music and lyrics. There is a hashtag, and the internet teems with videos of performances across the U.S., Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ghana, England, New Zealand, and Canada. Through analysis and interviews, this paper examines the song and its multi-site, call-and-response dissemination as a kind of “people’s microphone”—a prevalent method of public address at protests, in which a speaker’s words are repeated progressively through the listening crowd to make sure that those standing in the back hear them. “Quiet”’s flash-mob performances, similarly, involve many groups of many voices, making a vital message heard.