In Sonic Warfare: Affect and the Ecology of Fear, Steve Goodman identifies the ways in which “the aesthetic politics of silence and noise has been a useful way of framing or demarcating the field of sonic power” (Goodman 2009: 191) beyond a fine art context. Goodman notes:
Silence [...] is sound in potential, unactualized. Similarly, the concept of noise, from futurism onward, came to mean the potential of any sound whatsoever to disrupt and move forward musical jurisdictions as policed by generic criteria, critical border patrols, or harmonic or melodic parameters of organized sound. Both of these aesthetic tendencies, within the remit of a politics of amplitude, are often placed in allegiance to an anticapitalist politics. (Goodman 2009: 191)
Both noise and silence have radical, destabilizing potential. There are numerous historical examples where the excessive presence or suppression of sound has been instrumentalized for purposes of control. Goodman cites the sound bombs used on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli Army; the playing of heavy metal music by the United States military as a form of “noise torture” in Panama, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo Bay; the complete silence enforced during instances of solitary confinement; and the infrasonic frequency that is at once inaudible and intolerable to the human ear, used by the British Military of Defense to disperse crowds during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. During the Vietnam War the U.S. military undertook campaigns of audio harassment that included the use of an instrument called The Curdler, or “People Repeller,” which could deafen those who were exposed to its high-volume outputs (Goodman 2012: 15-26).
These instances of sonic coercion, which Goodman refers to as “tactics of amplitude and frequency” figure into the creative tenor of Basanta’s sound experiments (alongside the practices of the multiple contemporary artists referenced herein). Reinterpreted through creative gestures, the presence (noise) and absence (silence) of sound manifests within their works, carrying with them their connotative complexities as tools for and against control. Basanta has specifically mapped a visual-sound language where tools of mass communication stand in for a wider system of sonic power. Furthermore, his works examine sound’s ability to influence a listener's behavior in disruptive, compliant, or coercive ways. The oscillation between noise and silence is woven within this framework.