Sonic Thresholds 


The intangible character of sounds makes it difficult to understand the relationship between sounds and actions. To facilitate the task, I have chosen to approach affordances via the notion of thresholds. A threshold is by definition what connects and separates two spaces of a different nature, e.g. inside and outside. It is a miniature space having a status of an architectural detail. Far beyond the spatial aspect, the French philosopher Tatjana Barazon has offered an in-depth study on the notion of thresholds in the article “La ‘Soglitude’: aperçu d’une méthode de la pensée des seuils” translated to English as ‘Soglitude’- introducing a method of thinking thresholds (2010). The nomadic nature of this term has urged her to elaborate a broad overview of its signification in different disciplines: cinema, art history, ethnology, history, psychology, and philosophy.


Barazon presents thresholds as a “state” or more precisely a "state of in-between" – a moment, a space or perception: the interstices. A threshold is "neither one thing nor another"; it “defines" a vague zone, a state of floating that allows us to understand a situation about to evolve. The threshold raises awareness of a transitional state where things are "never done, but are being constantly done.” It seizes the moment when one thing is not yet reached while another is no longer finished, pointing therefore to a state of becoming (Barazon 2010: 4, translated by the author) 


With regard to ambiences, thresholds define a perceptual state where perception is shifting towards another sensory world (Chelkoff 2016: 124, translated by the author). Here, thresholds are spatial elements often associated with movement and rites of passage: entering, waiting or leaving, as well as other actions that mark transitional phases along a passage. It is a dynamic state of perception that implicates a body in motion.


We can forge closer links between affordance and thresholds in the sonic dimension. Three aspects substantiate this correlation. The first is related to the meaning of a threshold: its value of transition. Approaching the change in the sonic environment as a threshold facilitates the understanding of affordances: the detection of sonic thresholds – i.e. places and moments where a change in the sonic environment takes place – and figuring out its impact on the social actions makes an assessment of sonic affordances and their modulations attainable. The second aspect lies in the dynamic state of perception related to the body in motion. A threshold marks a change of perception, whether in an emotional state or in the sensory phenomena. For example, when crossing a threshold, one may experience a gradual or sudden fluctuation in the levels of light or sound. It is due to this dynamic state of perception the Pecqueux suggests the “affordances of events,” while Chelkoff underlines the mobile state of the body in traversing and perceiving thresholds. The third aspect is the spatial urban configuration of the oasis habitat. The urban fabric offers a series of tiny spaces that connect main spaces; these subspaces single out the walking experience.