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Black Performance on the Outskirts of the LeftA History of the Impossible$
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Malik Gaines

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781479837038

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479837038.001.0001

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Nina Simone’s Quadruple Consciousness

Nina Simone’s Quadruple Consciousness

(p.21) 1 Nina Simone’s Quadruple Consciousness
Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left

Malik Gaines

NYU Press

The musical performances of Nina Simone are situated in her activist context, influenced by the civil rights movement and her friends, including playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Simone’s relationship to leftist performance is explored through her uses of materials authored by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and the differences between her approach and Brecht’s proposed techniques underscore Simone’s black expressive mode and illustrate modernity’s reliance on blackness. Attention to Simone’s uses of voice, piano, dress, and presence construct a sense of a radically politicized performance mode. Using the song “Four Women” and the legacy of Du Boisian double consciousness, Simone enacts a kind of quadruple consciousness that uses excess to multiply, rather than resolve, the alienations and displacements of black subjectivity in an agile and mobile performance of difference.

Keywords:   Nina Simone, performance, blackness, excess, subjectivity, voice, Bertolt Brecht, Lorraine Hansberry, quadruple consciousness

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