Tuesday, 16 November 2021

The Intersection of Stuttering and Blackness

"I have an ongoing practice of spelling my name JJJJJerome Ellis in certain circumstances. I do this because the word I stutter on most frequently is my name. You can choose which spelling you prefer." 
JJJJJerome Ellis

JJJJJerome Ellis is a black stutterer and artist based in New York. He is interested in how ableism disadvantages people with a stutter since they do not adhere to the flows of time. This disfluency, to him, becomes "a means to exist outside of ordinary time, as defined by a white-dominated world." His work is an approach to experimenting with freedom and to depathologising disfluency (via)

I was interested in the role that clocks and watches played o-o-on plantations in the antebellum south. How slave masters deliberately did not let enslaved people own [them], as a way o-o-of domination and control.

"On the album, I feel safe stuttering because it's just me. I have the opportunity to score my own stutter. That felt very liberating." JJJJJerome Ellis

This article argues that dysfluency, music and Blackness, because of their distinct relationships to time, have the power to forge alternative temporalities and help us heal from ‘temporal subjection’. As a Black composer who stutters, I write from first-hand experience. With reference to my own recordings and scores, I examine the ways I use musical techniques like loops and rubato to create these alternative temporalities. Stuttering (especially in the form I present with, the glottal block) creates unpredictable, silent gaps in speech. I call these gaps ‘clearings’. Slaves sang in the fields, and whites heard them; but they also sang (and danced) in the woods at night, out of earshot. Undergirding the clearing created by my stutter is that other clearing, in the woods, where my enslaved ancestors stole away to keep healing, resisting and liberating through music ‐ work that I continue today.
"Sometimes people just walk away. Perhaps because I didn’t adhere to t-t-the choreography t-t-that we are often used to. So much of the pain comes from not feeling fully human. Not feeling intelligent. People thinking that I might be evading a question. I don’t want my Blackness to come off as a threat and I don’t want my stuttering to come off as evidence of lying.”

YouTube Selection:
::: Loops of Retreat: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Stepney: LISTEN/WATCH
::: Dysfluent Waters: LISTEN/WATCH

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photograph via


  1. Replies
    1. His approach is so wonderful and interesting.
      Many superthanks for dropping by, Macy!