Composing the Field of Dwelling: An Autoethnography on Listening in the Home
the pressures acting upon and within this place are intensified by lockdown
the kids are driving me up the wall
the inverse of social distancing is social compression
home becomes hyper-relational implosion
while the quiet streets outside fill with birdsong
and an apocalyptic politics morphs and grows somewhere far away right here under my nose
This article unfolds as a story of listening and sounding in the home I share with my partner and two primary school-aged children in Glasgow during the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a practicing sound artist, I have spent a lot of time listening to and through everyday spaces, and during the COVID-19 pandemic I have been considering the usefulness of this critical listening as a basis for dealing with the new situation of living inside. If sonic practice can attune people to the social, environmental, material, technological, and political dynamics of their world, then what can be learned, and what new capacities can be developed and shared, through an engaged practice of listening in the home under lockdown?
Combining diarized notes, storied reflections, first-person field recordings (Findlay-Walsh 2019), theoretical discussion and analysis, this textual and sonic autoethnography presents and discusses my efforts to develop a critical practice of listening as the form and function of this home changes during lockdown. Connecting Pauline Oliveros, Hildegard Westerkamp, and Salomé Voegelin’s generative listening practices, Tim Ingold’s “dwelling as building;” Sara Ahmed’s embodied “orientation;” Jean-Luc Guionnet et al., George Lewis and Alexander I. Davidson’s improvisation as radical sociality; and Stacey Holman Jones, bell hooks, and Peter Gouzouasis et al.’s spaces of (self-)critical pedagogy, I trace this developing practice as a basis for regenerating and inhabiting domestic space as co-composed music.
Sonic Relations as Bulging Spheres
Sandra Lori Petersen
In multistory housing, sounds occasionally penetrate the walls and floors separating apartments. It may seem like this is a one-way flow of acoustic waves moving through built material from one inhabitant to another. In this article, I show that acoustic waves passing among apartments often move in more ways than just through built material. I propose a conceptualization of the auditory connection between neighbors as sonic relations that consist not only of concrete sounds but also of a range of abstract emotional layers, elements of personal histories, and interpersonal conflicts. Through an exploration of the accounts of two neighbors living in an early 20th-century building in Copenhagen, I show how the sonic relation between them can be understood as interfering in the domestic-personal spheres that shape both of them.
Overhearing the Unheimlich Home: Power and Proximity in “Shut Up Little Man!”
This article explores the relationship between home and the auditory through an examination of the “Shut Up Little Man!” recordings – secret tapes made by two men of their next-door neighbors’ fights. These recordings documented the vocal performances of an unheimlich domesticity, marked by poverty, violence, and what would become iconic phrases. Embraced as comedy, the tapes were traded and shared, gaining subcultural fan followings and broader popular cultural impacts. The “Shut Up Little Man!” recordings thus offer crucial case study of the permeability of the domestic soundscape, the struggle of ownership over sounds at home, the ethics and politics of eavesdropping, and the intervention of media technologies in these dynamics. Ultimately, this article argues that the tapes’ creation, power, and popularity stem from a desire to listen to the unheimlich home of the urban poor – a desire that underscores social distance, invites identification, and reminds us that proximity does not mean intimacy.
Aural Expectations of Home: An Autoethnography of the Amazon Echo Smart Speaker
Stephen J. Neville
The paper conducts an autoethnographic case study of the Amazon Echo smart speaker to explore problems of acoustical privacy at home. A gap in surveillance research is addressed by treating smart speakers as private social media platforms that connect users to sound, devices, and home environments. The concept of aural expectations of home is developed which expresses how dwellers live with and through sound. The paper argues that problems of acoustical boundary control in the domestic sphere not only help understand the communicative and socially connective aspects of smart speakers, but also illuminate surveillance issues as one’s sonic habits at home are rendered as data under the purview of corporations.
Room Ambience: Home as Heard in Film and Media Arts
The article investigates the mediation of homey ambiences or domestic atmospheres and their relation to the outdoors in film and media productions. The article examines how human mediation impacts the perception of site-specific ambient sounds of the home that are aesthetically deployed as auditory backdrops in films and media artworks. The focus is on examining the processes of reconstructing the site of the home through the reproduction, mediation, and rendering of the relatively closed and private indoor sonic environment and its complex relationship to the public outdoors.