Allowable is a sound art installation that explores the aesthetic mining and culture influences/appropriation of African diasporic music. Big Mamma Thornton’s 1952 rendition of Hound Dog is juxtaposed to Elvis Presley’s 1956 version, which sold over 9 million units more.
The piece begins as Thornton’s version is played unaltered through two loudspeakers above the installation. The sound transitions to the central speaker with an 8’ djembe placed concentrically above the speaker. The piece is manipulated to highlight the resonant frequency of the djembe as well as induce feedback in the speaker system. The djembe, representing stereotypes of African diasporic music, visibly resonates to show the lack of adherence to stereotypes evident in Thornton’s rendition. The song then plays again from the loudspeakers and is violently manipulated to allude to elements of Presley’s version. This includes tempo and pitch shifting as well as the inclusion of additional percussion elements and additional reverb and compression. The manipulated song is then played through djembe and no longer induces a strong resonance or feedback response.