Post-Natural Sound Arts
Mark Peter Wright
This article argues for a new critical perspective called “Post-Natural Sound Arts” (PNSA). Its focus resides within the context of environmental sound arts and disciplines such as field recording, acoustic ecology and soundscape studies. PNSA questions entanglements of power and agency between recordists and their subjects and produces new epistemological consequences in relation to silence, subjectivity and technology.
By discussing historical and contemporary audio documents, the author demonstrates how sonic representations are part of an interlacing of geographies, media, and time. These recordings harbor trace evidence of anthropogenic incursion and are re-heard in order to question a history of non-impact within the practice of environmental sound arts. PNSA therefore aims to function as both an audial-analytical methodology and instigator for artistic praxis.
Audio Acid: Affective Design and the Psychoacoustic Trip
As a New Age commodity, binaural beat audio comes packed up with the pseudoscientific imagery and discourses of the loose social movement. If this material is to believed, the listener can expect a broad range of effects, from increased sexual prowess to a deeper connection with the infinite cosmos. While refraining from critiquing such claims, this paper explores how affective experience has been –– and is being –– designed and commodified through binaural beat audio, in the interplay of synthesized sound and the sensing body. The affective subjects of binaural beats are positioned across materialities and temporalities, from the psychoacoustic capacities of the body, to the abilities of precision-synthesized sound towards producing the specific microtemporalities of binaural beat audio. This paper will situate these materialities and temporalities historically, with an ear lent to the processes of “crystallization,” to use the language of Bruno Latour, that have cemented binaural beat audio as contemporary media objects.
The sounds of food: Defamiliarization and the blinding of taste
This essay – situated within the small but emerging field of sonic food studies and gastronomic auditory cultures – is positioned in the gap between the sounds of food and the meanings derived from the behaviors and practices encircling food. In food studies literature, assumptions abound about multi-sensory engagement. Yet, the sonic components of food remain undertheorized. This sonic research article – consisting of an sonic artifact and exegesis – emphasizes and prioritizes sensory incongruity. Intentionally, the non-eating sounds of the digital and analogue interactions surrounding food are summoned. There is a reason for the focus on these interfaces. Working with Viktor Shklovsky’s theorization of defamiliarization or ostranenie (остранение), presented in his 1917 essay “Art as Device,” I am interested in reducing “automatization” and value “disruptions.” I have produced a sonic artifact that textualizes three slices of food sound: shopping for groceries, the delivery of food to a domicile, and cooking. These sounds were not slotted into a convenient narrative of a sonic documentary. They were not staged; they were not sound effects. There is a gap – of experience, expertise, perception, and meaning – between signifier and signified, the sound and its reception. The deferral of meaning creates hesitation, confusion, instability, and unsettles meaning systems.
Silencing Urban Exhalations: a case study of student-led soundscape design
This paper describes a practice-led soundscape studies project in which students created sound interventions to transform the “voice of the city.” A loud exhaust fan outlet dominated the site, and students were asked to create a soundscape intervention in response to an imaginative-artistic question: the exhaust outlet is the voice of the city, speaking; can this voice be deciphered, transformed, augmented? Students responded with live sound-art, musical and electroacoustic performances played through loudspeakers placed adjacent to the exhaust outlet, and physical changes to the environment with interactive sound-making artifacts. The intervention was informed by the acoustic ecology movement’s maxim that acoustic design and the “retrieval of a significant aural culture” is a “task for everyone” (Schafer 1977: 206); thus, students were encouraged to listen and creatively respond to the dominant sound. Students were introduced to a mixture of acoustic ecology listening exercises and structural approaches derived from the Research Centre on Sonic Space and the Urban Environment (CRESSON). The project aimed to demonstrate that with the assistance of educational resources, city dwellers, given the opportunity to creatively interact with city sounds, might revitalize their own city-relationship through participatory soundscape design.
“You can hear them before you see them” Listening through Belfast segregated neighborhoods
Nicola Di Croce
The present research explores urban segregation in Belfast through listening. Specifically, the aim is to investigate how auditory culture subtly and deeply affects everyday lives and how marginal areas can be identified and analyzed from an auditory perspective. Moreover, the paper highlights the strong relationship between everyday sonic environments, certain urban and social issues, and the system of public policies related to the preceding. Therefore, urban planning and public policy design are investigated through a sonic studies approach in order to reveal the political framework of the city.
The sonic environment of Belfast’s most segregated areas is characterized by ice cream van melodies and their propagation within different neighborhoods. Such a street trade, which is also spread over Great Britain and Ireland, represents the perfect opportunity to enter areas that are often difficult to approach.
The case study shows how a study of the production and reception of the moving melodies emanating from ice cream vans is crucial in detecting where and how Belfast's contemporary culture is developing and in what ways sonic studies may influence a new wave of inclusion policies. The sounds of ice cream vans and their dissemination can be investigated to both confirm and challenge Belfast’s segregation trend; understanding them offers practitioners and dwellers an unexplored “sonic tool” to discuss segregation.
“City Noise”: Sound (Art) and Disaster
Frans Ari Prasetyo
My sonic work “City Noise” proposes both an artistic and a theoretical approach to the city-sound relationship. The default assumption about this relationship is that sounds reflect a one-to-one relationship between soundscape and landscape, both drawing upon and revealing the physical and social landscapes from which they originate. However, the question can be posed regarding whether there actually is a direct relationship between sound and place in our increasingly globalized world. Due to this globalization, the relation between the local and the global has become more fluid, and the relation between sounds and scapes has begun to blur.
Noise as “sound out of place”: investigating the links between Mary Douglas’ work on dirt and sound studies research
Hugh Pickering, Tom Rice
“Noise” is an important subject in sound studies research. However, due in large part to the fact that judgements about what constitutes noise are highly subjective, researchers have often struggled to define it. Where attempts have been made, many have settled on a definition of noise as “sound out of place,” a reformulation of Mary Douglas’ definition of “dirt” as “matter out of place” (Douglas 1966: 44). Beyond this, however, no effort has been directed towards exploring the link between dirt and noise or seeing how far the analogy between the two extends. This article corrects this omission by undertaking a close reading of Douglas’ writing on “dirt” and linking it to contemporary sound studies research. It argues that far more than simply giving rise to the definition “sound out of place,” Douglas’ classic anthropological work can be used as the basis for an integrated “theory of noise,” deepening our understanding of what it means when we describe a sound as “noise” and drawing attention to the ambiguous, transgressive and dangerous qualities and potentials of noise.
Listening like White Nationalists at a Civil Rights Rally
This soundscape and accompanying essay explore the listened-to world of white nationalists protesting a 2015 civil rights rally in the United States. Marked by countless instances of police brutality and a racially motivated mass shooting, the autumn months of 2015 echoed with the rallying cries of Black Lives Matter… cries that stoked white nationalists’ nascent conspiracy theories about white genocide and an impending “race war” between black Islam and white Christendom. Both the new Civil Rights movement and these white nationalist fears came to a head at the Justice or Else Rally in October 2015. This essay explores the acoustemological – acoustic and epistemological – world of white nationalists protesting Justice or Else, using the nexus of creativity and empiricism to understand a white nationalist standpoint acoustemology proliferating in Donald Trump’s United States.