This essay asks how the soundscapes represented in Caribbean literature and music provide alternative paradigms for conceptualizing noise and silence. As American and European sound studies have drawn from the writings of John Cage, Murray Schafer, and Jacques Attali to articulate alternative practices of listening and soundmaking, they have marginalized black experience. Caribbean noise, formed out of resistance to slavery and colonialism, has been excluded from informing those alternative practices. The depths of sonic experience revealed by soundscapes of Kamau Brathwaite’s poetry and the Mighty Sparrow’s calypsos concern the impact of centuries of Atlantic slavery on black hearing and speaking. They expose the racial and economic determinants of sound studies’ advocacy of indifferent listening and pure sound environments. In contrast, Caribbean histories of resourceful hearing and soundmaking bring distinctive sonic cultures to challenge established listening practices and provide ways of questioning canonical definitions of noise and silence.

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