Editorial: Materials of Sound II

Caleb Kelly


This is the second issue of the Journal of Sonic Studies focused on the Materials of Sound (see issue no. 16). At the heart of these two issues is something of a twist in sonic thinking that sees the authors thinking about sound as more than sound, the opposite of Cage’s dictum of letting sound be itself – as hearing sound as sound. Instead, the materials that produce the sounds under investigation are understood as being more than the sounds that they create. Sound is not heard as innocent, pure, or transparent but rather as a part of a political ecology in which it is deeply linked to various histories and ecologies that form and hold the materials of any sound’s making.


In the first issue the papers were focused on creative sonic production that engaged materials. In this issue, material sounds are found within cultures, cities, religions, movement, environmental catastrophe, and the murmurs of the crowd. The authors hear these sounds that, for the most part, are already in the world. These sonic occurrences form the basis of a developing understanding of the materials involved. 


By thinking about sound as more than its physical properties, more than a series of waves, we can begin to learn about complex material realities. The essays in both journal issues depart from the question: what can sound tell us about materials?