I argue that sonic mattering also involves this kind of multiplicity of “eroding together,” defined by a combination of collective concern, forces and materials acting on each other, simultaneity of multiple processes, and blurriness of boundaries. This resonates with musicologist Nina Sun Eidsheim’s philosophical reflections on the relationality of music as intermaterial vibration at the end of her book Sensing Sound. Eidsheim raises the question of where something ends and something begins, while also pointing out that relationality often erases itself in analysis, as it presumes isolated aspects that are linked – effectively cutting things into pieces – rather than attending to the “thick event” in terms of a continuous field of vibration and energy (Eidsheim 2015: 181-5). Barad’s account of agential realism deals with some similar issues, coining the term “intra-action” to counter the notion of separate entities interacting. Barad (2003; 2007; 2014) delves into processes of what she calls agential separability, emphasizing the importance of how related but differentiated components within phenomena emerge rather than existing prior to relations. On the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, such ideas relate to the complexity of materials falling apart and folding together through the process of erosion and to the sonic mattering of this coming together and breaking apart. It’s not just that waves rolling on the beach or crashing against a cliff give voice to these material processes. The littoral soundscape does not simply arise from erosion in the sense of erosion as cause and sound as effect. Rather, I want to suggest that erosion carries over into the sound – that sound, too, is erosive.
To be clear, sonic erosion is not just about signal degradation, a particular audio effect, or recording the sound of erosion. It is about how sound is continuously modulated by, and modulates, many other forces, energies, media, technologies, attitudes, meanings, understandings, etc. “Eroding together” on the Îles-de-la-Madeleine necessitates attending not only to how the physical processes of erosion carry over into sound and sonic composition by way of analogy, but also to the complexity of the social, cultural, and ecological aspects of erosion – changes to the habitats and lives of human and nonhuman beings on the islands and the dangers of accelerated erosion. If erosion is at once a process that has been necessary to the formation of the archipelago and a process that now threatens to make parts of it uninhabitable for multiple species, how does this complex double potential matter in sound? In part, it does so by undermining any sense of certainty about what is being heard and by pointing to the limits of our capacity to understand the “full story” of sonic phenomena. The complexity of erosion also acts as a reminder of the different matterings sound has for different listeners in specific situations. Erosion is multiple, its mattering through sound is multiple, and sound’s erosive mattering is multiple. In Compositional Routes, sound is made material in particular ways both through the process of producing the work and through its presentation. In what follows I trace the sounds and signals of the work, showing some of the ways they manifest erosion. A cleanly articulated stable representation of erosion is never reached.