Josh Kun: Border Sound Files

Border Sound Files v. 1: An Audio Essay

Border Sound Files is an hour long solo performance-lecture that mixes spoken narrative, spoken, history, and spoken critique, with a collage of sound, noise, and music. The piece focuses on the border between Southern California and Northern Mexico and explores it as a transnational field of sound, "an aural border." The piece explores the relationship between sound/music and the following principal areas of investigation: migration (documented and undocumented movement back and forth across the border by migrants, border patrol agents, drugs, and capital); tourism (how US tourism shapes Mexican border realities); and labor (who works, who pays, who gets treated how by whom). In keeping with the aims of this year's Institute encuentro, the piece also deals directly with religious and spiritual rituals of mourning and faith employed by Mexican migrants-- the Mexican mass that plays as white crosses line the border wall, as migrants pray at the tomb of Juan Soldado. The piece creates an archive of sound and music that is both critical and performative, one that theorizes the border through the noises it makes and demonstrates the powerful, complex role of music and sound in the negotiation of everyday life and cultural production in the face of policed national divisions. As a result, the piece covers a broad range of material, from the parables of Jorge Luis Borges, the Tijuana jazz of Charles Mingus, and the Tijuana jails of The Kingston Trio to the global "clandestino" protest of Manu Chao, the Mexican hip hop of Control Machete, and the two scores of Orson Welles' border fantasy Touch of Evil.


Josh Kun is Assistant Professor of English at UC Riverside, and an arts columnist for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and The Boston Phoenix. He is a 2000-2002 Sundance Writers Fellow whose writing has appeared in the popular press, scholarly journals, and book anthologies. He is the host of two Latin music video and culture shows (The Red Zone on MTV-Español and Rokamole on KJLA) and is a resident DJ with the US-UK-Latin America nightclub La Leche. He is currently completing his first book for UC Press, Strangers Among Sounds: Listening, Difference, and the Music of America.