Unsound: Undead - Steve Goodman, Toby Heys, Eleni Ikoniadou (eds.) Falmouth (UK): Urbanomic Media Ltd, 2019


by Matt Lewis


Following a vibrational logic, this publication manages to break away from the familiar “about sound” approaches found in many sound studies texts by freely mixing a range of reflections on vibrational knowledge and practice. The book is curated by the AUDINT Research unit – Eleni Ikoniadou, Steve Goodman, and Toby Heys – contributions from whom are interspersed throughout as a ground bass to the texts by a wide range of other artists, and theorists. As with Steve Goodman’s previous book Sonic Warfare, the short chapters allow you to tune in and out of the book in order to find your own sonic narrative by patching contributions together freely. Although the book is carefully organised into sections around broad themes such as body, signals, and code, the variety of contributions connect successfully across chapters and create the conditions for the production of a resonant network of voices. 


The book is made up of over sixty texts which weave histories, fictions, and futures, all relating in some way to the overarching themes of the book: frequencies on the edge or outside the boundaries of human perception. Enquiries into perception and frequency in the book go far beyond audition, and much of the writing allows for many interpretations of vibration and frequency, including cultural, historical, and political. By following a “thinking-through-sound,” as promoted by one of the contributors, Julian Henriques, the authors allow the sonic to operate as a means to amplify, reconfigure, and disrupt, reverberating and connecting, repatching and shredding strands across histories. Contributions thus avoid being “about sound.”


Theory and practice are well-balanced. Particularly successful is the inclusion of contributors better known for their practice – such as Jenna Sutela, Lee Gamble, and Paul Purgas – alongside theorists, including Luciana Parisi, Jonathan Sterne, Matthew Fuller, and Anna Greenspan. Sound in the book is constantly used to critique and question systems, structures, and epistemologies, and here vibrational thinking resides as much in the body and the imagination as in the brain. From the sonic interplanetary connections of S. Ayesha Hameed and the Sirens of Eleni Ikoniadou to the Archaeoacoustics of Paul Purgas and the Hum of Kristen Gallerneaux, Unsound: Undead is a wonderful, entangled listening experience of many possibilities.