Conclusion: Toward a History of a Loudspeaker Soundscape


Permeated with noise – associated with recording strategies or limitations of the recording devices, and appreciated for their interference capabilities or capacity to sonically provoke – these loudspeaker sounds have almost all that is necessary to remain a source of rubbish within the framework of an ethnographic inquiry, no matter how multimodal it may be. The “politics of the background” engaged with in this research led me to first adopt a medio-archaeological approach, attentive to the medio-technical conditions of production of the audio-visual archive presented here before returning to an ethnographic approach sensitive to the lived experiences of the listeners (whether they chose to listen or not). It was less a question of choosing between one or the other approach, than of combining them in order to transform this loudspeaker noise into the main object of analysis and composition (of the short videos). Relying on my fieldnotes, the sound of loudspeakers could finally be unfolded as a key element in order to understand the porous line between public and private spaces in the “Gypsy Hood” of Dițești. 


Accompanying the video materials combined with what might be considered as sound rubbish, and addressing the blind spots of my research and its various methodological and technical obstacles, the text conveys a broader history of the loudspeaker soundscape in Dițești. The descriptions of the sonic presences of loudspeakers followed the chronological order of my defective recordings. However, as I have also relayed, these forms of sonic presence have coexisted for more than a decade at least, even if the loudspeaker competitions now tend to overshadow the other practices. A detailed history of these uses has yet to be drawn up, and such a history cannot be created through a study of my recordings alone. For the inhabitants of Dițești, the disparate possible uses of loudspeakers (as a symptom of fame, sonic marking of an intimate experience, sonic provocation, or a sound interference) makes the interpretation of the intentions of these uses all the more delicate and important. A multimodal ethnography of the background noise produced by the loudspeakers in Dițești should combine a critical study of the position of the ethnographer and a history of aural experience, “listening to histories of listening” (Feld 2023).




I am particularly grateful to the peer reviewers and the journal editors for pushing me to listen more carefully to my ethnographic rubbish, and to Marcel Cobussen and Sharon Stewart for their patience and assistance.