Reflections on Sonic Environments

Vincent Meelberg and Marcel Cobussen


I like to run without listening to music. Whereas many joggers let the tempo of their pace be determined by the music they are listening to, I prefer to let my own body determine its speed. More specifically, the sounds my body makes during the run set the tone of the intensity with which I will run.

As John Cage experienced while being present in an otherwise empty anechoic chamber, the body is never completely silent. It produces sounds, always – that is, until the body stops functioning altogether. As long as the body belongs to a living human being, sounds will emanate as a result of breathing, the beating of our hearts, and even the functioning of our nervous system.

Breathing, in particular, is a sound that I notice while running. I try to synchronize my pace to the tempo of my breathing in and out. One may conclude that I thus set the tempo of my run to the internal clock of my body, but this is not how I experience this process of synchronization during the run. Instead, I experience this sound as something alien to me, as an external entity to which I try to conform. Even though I know that the breathing sound is produced by me and that it belongs to my body, at the same time the sound escapes me, both literally and metaphorically. It metaphorically escapes me because I am not always able to properly sync my pace and my breathing. Consequently, I am struggling with my body in the sense that I try to harmonize two bodily activities that emanate from me, but at the same time are, at least to a great extent, beyond my control. This fallible attempt to harmonization demands a constant monitoring of the two.

Breathing also literally escapes me. It is airealized, as Peter Szendy (Szendy 2002) calls it. The sonic entity that results from the physical activity called breathing no longer is, or belongs to, my individual body. Instead, it appears to me as another, vibrating, body, separated from its origin, that will interact with the human body it originated from, i.e. my own running body. The sound of my breathing is a sonic intrusion that interferes with my other bodily rhythms, such as the pace with which I run. In trying to synchronise these I become more and more aware of the fact that the breathing sound no longer is part of my body, but rather a separate sonic entity to which I need to conform.


                                                                                                                              The Study

                                                        The Shop

            Sirens                                                                                                                                                                  The Gym


                    The Bedroom


                             The Ear and/versus the Eye

                Sound Design    



                                                    Footsteps                                                                                                                                      Rattle and Hum

                                                                       Your Space