Sound at Home 1: Territory, Materiality and the Extension of Home


Mette Simonsen Abildgaard, Marie Koldkjær Højlund and Sandra Lori Petersen


For this special issue of the Journal of Sonic Studies, we invited authors to consider sound at home from a range of perspectives: sound at home as the hum of appliances, the babble of water pipes, the chatter of media, and the creaking of a wooden floor; sounds that seep in from other homes and from the world outside – traffic, music, shouting, disconcerting sounds that stand out, and sounds that go unheard in their familiarity. 


Our call for the “Sound at Home” special issue was circulated in February 2020, just before much of public life around the globe shut down in response to the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic. In the following year, many have been asked to shelter in place, and conditions of home life as well as home sounds have been brought – or have brought themselves – to the fore of our attention in a way that is unprecedented. We see this reflected in the topics and methods of this issue, where researchers inquire into renegotiated soundscapes and neighbor relations, listening carefully as activities such as instrument building, meetings, and even long-distance laboratory work are relegated to the home.


We received an impressive number of submissions from a range of perspectives and disciplines, spanning from sound art to urban development, and have therefore decided to divide the special issue into two separate ones. This first issue is comprised of studies that thematize sound as territorial, and investigate materialities of sound as well as what we might describe as sonic homes that extend beyond the traditional (family) dwelling.


The methodologies used to study concepts such as territory, materiality, and the extension of home range from ethnographic qualitative methods to experimentation with performative audio pieces] this is not a methodology; actually, ethnography also not, techno-historical studies to practice-based sonic experiments, together weaving a field of diverse and multifaceted approaches that resonate with the complexity of the main theme of this issue. Through these approaches, this issue explores what might be taking place when sounds travel within the home, into the home or when sounds of the home are teleported out of it, when sounds from the outside or from other insides become inevitably enmeshed with the sounds of the home, thus challenging traditional notions of inside and outside. 


The papers and exhibitions in this issue question whether the territory of the home is demarcated by its walls and floors or made up of zones of sounds that might be designed. They question what happens when the workplace is acoustically present in a kitchen as well as how intimacy is distributed throughout the home, for example when private conversations take place on a landline situated in the living room. As we learn from the papers published here, sonic territoriality of the home implies exploring and negotiating what makes up a home as well as the possibility of stretching and rearranging the established order of the home. When headphones are used to accompany the listener through the city, they might be considered a component of a sonic shield of familiarity, with COVID-19 making the notion of the home as a shield especially poignant. When sound becomes transportable through electronic devices, its materiality comes to the fore – the handheld device makes it (almost) tangible; when one’s work is building musical instruments, working from home implies impactful changes in the sounds at home. And when the online meeting platforms that COVID-19 has made us integrate into our working lives filter and configure sound in a certain way, sounds that we might not have noticed before suddenly become remarkable.


We would like to thank the editors of the Journal of Sonic Studies as well as the contributing authors for engaging with us in order to realize this special issue and for dedicating their time and creativity to venturing upon this exploration with us.