This article appears in the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media edited by Carol Vernallis, Amy Herzog, and John Richardson. This essay examines a growing number of filmmakers who construct personal sound aesthetics that rework the rules of sound and image relations. This trend has emerged over the past decade, and it finds global filmmakers engaged in a revitalization of the affective powers of film sound in a digitally converged world. Under consideration are issues of sound authorship, acoustic markers of cultural identity, how sound tropes circulate transnationally, and whether the rules governing sound and image are culturally determined.
Kerim Yasar provides a consideration of the acoustic imagination in literary works from the Sinosphere (China, Japan, and Korea). Yasar explores the development and use of sound symbolism in these countries’ writing systems, arguing that, even with such sound symbol–rich systems to hand, the Sinosphere’s authors depended and still depend on the active imaginative participation of their readers in order to cocreate the acoustic depictions found in their work. Spreading his survey of the literary traditions of the Sinosphere across three-thousand-year-old Chinese literature to modern Japanese manga, Yasar further demonstrates that the conceptualization of sound within the Sinosphere cultures helps shape the imagination and representation of sound within that culture’s language and literature.
Nina Sun Eidsheim
Over the last decades, much has been said and written about urban renewal and gentrification in Los Angeles. However, the issues addressed have been associated with the types of sounds present or created and musics played. This chapter examines the process of opera in relation to downtown Los Angeles’ gentrification. More specifically, drawing on Tim Choy’s and Ben Anderson’s notion of the “atmospheric” and “air politics,” this chapter addresses the ways in which considering the very acoustic part of the soundscape can offer entry into understanding of the process of gentrification. The listening into the acoustic realization of sound and the reverberation of distinct space can give evidence into broader and deeper shifts in the space’s value, otherwise often difficult to discern. The author does so by considering director Yuval Sharon’s and sound designer Martin Gimenez’s setting of Invisible Cities (composed by Christopher Cerrone) within Union Station’s waiting hall and courtyard. While each singer sang within the everyday soundscape and acoustics of the station, their voices were treated with a thorough sound design and offered up to audiences via wireless headphones. This partial interaction and selectively available product marks a project of “upgrading” the Los Angeles downtown acoustic soundscape—a process, the author proposes, that can be understood as an indicator of the late stage of gentrification.
One of the defining thematic preoccupations in the fiction filmmaking of Philippe Grandrieux, one of the leading figures in French Art Cinema, is that of the politics of property. In Sombre, La Vie Nouvelle, and Un Lac, the relationship dynamics between a woman and a variety of agents competing to claim her are mapped out in the overlap between different registers of space. This overlap opens up complex dynamics between differing spatial practices that are evident within Grandrieux’s narratives and the stylistics with which he shapes them, breaking down conventional understanding of the distance between screen and audience. This chapter argues that one cannot account for the richness of spatial practice in these films without attention to the representation of acoustic space. Drawing on recent concepts in sound studies and critical geography, and expanding upon the literature on Grandrieux’s work, the author focuses on instances of spatial delineation that defines elements of owned property in each of these films.
In his chapter on musical improvisation, Andy Hamilton deals with the cultural aspects and historical practices of the subject. Hamilton sets out to explore the artistic status of improvised music, and this involves a discussion of the connection between imagination and art and the differences between composition and improvisation. These discussions provide a theoretical framework to outline and defend an aesthetics of imperfection as a contrast to an aesthetics of perfection. Finally, the artistic value of jazz as an improvised art form is discussed and Hamilton ponders whether jazz music should be described as art music or as a form of classical music.
Marc Duby bases his exploration of sound and imagination on James J. Gibson’s affordance concept. In this chapter, Duby shows how musicians benefit from real and imagined actions in their interaction with real (such as pianos), virtual (such as MIDI controllers), and air instruments (such as air guitars [imaginary instruments]). In each case, Duby explores the connection between gesture and sound and how the various instruments afford creativity. This leads to discussions of the range of imaginary possibilities the instruments afford musicians in the act of performing, composing, and listening, and how the special case of the air guitar challenges existing theories of embodied cognition.
This chapter calls into question the celebratory use of certain adjectives typically applied to sound: ephemeral, immersive, remote, ineffable. Instead, these descriptions are attached to their less celebratory applications in the workings of neoliberalism: in contemporary warfare, the ubiquity of debt, and the unfettered movement of capital (but not peoples) known as ‘globalism’. We might refer to these qualities of neoliberalism as ‘acousmatic’, thereby connecting sound practice to the clandestine operations of contemporary economic logic and logistics. Examining sound works by the artists Samson Young and Matthieu Saladin, sound’s relationship to these adjectives is reimagined, not as a confirmation of sound’s privileges, but as a passage to a critical position.
This article explores the role of amateur music in the age of sound recording and reproduction technologies. It begins by evaluating concerns about the fate of the amateur in the early twentieth century. Most of the examples cited are from the United States, and the claims hold most strongly for American musical life. However, it also draws evidence from Europe and Asia to suggest the global scope of technologically mediated amateur music making. A strong user-perspective is reflected throughout this article. It then presents four case studies to examine the complex relationship between amateurism and music technologies. The case studies reveal a constant process of co-construction between users and the music. It also takes into account the social construction of technology (SCOT), as well as on the fields of cultural studies and media studies, to explore how users perform and construct identity through technology.
The history of the black diaspora is full with examples of the ways music has enabled various black cultural communities to cope with racial oppression. This article explains how sound-producing technology, in the form of vinyl records and turntables, functions within communities that endow these devices with cultural value. Hip-hop is used to center the discussion on ways in which turntables and vinyl records are attributed a racial authenticity not seen in other music communities where DJs exist. It begins with the premise that the hip-hop culture, similar to other music cultures, is a deeply technological way of life. Furthermore, it explores hip-hop and the emergence of digital vinyl systems and discusses hip-hop and race in the digital age. Finally, it suggests that the intersections of hip-hop, technology, and sound could help understand the ways the materiality of sound is embedded and circulated within society.
The notion of the wild is one that has developed a richer currency in recent years, simultaneously enrolled as a branding device for leisure activities and employed to account for the potential planetary consequences of a shift towards the Anthropocene. Noting parallel amplifications of wild sound in both the philosophical concept of the sublime and in the literary genre known as nature writing, this chapter critically accounts for the ways in which creative sound practices have deployed listening and recording to manifest the spatial parameters of the wild. These sound art practices are shown to reveal tensions in terms of any strictly demarcated border between the wild and the cultivated, in terms of the technical assemblages that are taken to the wild and that render what is heard there audible, and in terms of the wild as a space that is to be accessed through solitary, silent and arduous effort.
Clemens Wöllner investigates sonic actions in music performance. He argues that musicians construct sonic images in the act of playing that are based on timbral qualities of the sounds as well as on timing details that allow them to anticipate sonic actions. In this way, they can perform without auditory feedback, for instance, when sound is switched off or otherwise not available during a performance. Wöllner discusses the construction of sonic images in the context of performances with both traditional and controller-driven instruments, and he shows how a performer’s anticipated sonic actions may differ according to the type of instrument. Furthermore, the level of detail of imagined sound qualities involved in auditory imagery is explored, and Wöllner considers the mappings between gesture and sound that are required in order for audiences to be able to imagine the sound as emerging from the performer’s actions.
This chapter asks, how do rhythm, temporality, and noise work through a range of media practices from painting, writing, music, and film? Artists have long employed an array of media to create what might be referred to as ‘sound art’, when that term is expanded, as it is here, to include all work that is prefaced on a temporal flow and set against the figure of noise. What is sound art? This question seems to have been asked a lot in recent times. The intention here is not to pose it again but to offer instead some concrete reflections on what happens when other artistic practices work through sound and noise?
The sonic imagery of poetry and the poetry of radio are the subjects of Seán Street’s chapter. Street argues for a poetics of sound, whereby sound, like poetry, can stimulate images and feelings from the breadcrumbs contained within. Sound, especially that sound forming sonic art as found in many radio dramas and narratives, is essentially ambiguous, and it is this very ambiguity that sparks the imagination of the listener, plucking long-forgotten experiences from the deep recesses of our memory, experiences that, Street claims, are crucial factors in the preservation of our sense of self.
Daniel A. Schmicking
Daniel Schmicking explores auditory imagination from a phenomenological perspective. He starts with an outline of phenomenological tools building mainly on Husserl’s thinking, and then sets out to analyze the structure of auditory imagination and its function in collaborative music-making. In his account of the workings of auditory imagination, Schmicking challenges the traditional Western notion of imagination as something private. A central part of Schmicking’s account of auditory imagination comprises a distinction between pure and weak forms of imagination, and this distinction is further used to explore how imagination contributes to other intentional forms, such as perception and memory.
With the general goal of describing “how music understands itself socially and politically,” Sabine Sanio starts out by focusing on the musical neo-avant-garde, and especially on John Cage, and continues by discussing aspects of the musical idea of space. Although her chapter draws on several threads reaching back to the beginning of the twentieth century, the central topics of the chapter are current issues dealing with musical explorations of the sound itself, modern data technologies, and public spaces. Using a number of examples, Sanio discusses how the relationship between composers and audiences is both socially and aesthetically challenged by redefinitions of the concept of space and character of the musical live event—or live-like event.
Jonathan Weinel deals with the representation of hallucinations within audiovisual media. Weinel forms his discussion around the concept of augmented unreality, providing examples from films, VJ performances, video games, and other audiovisual media to show how sounds are used to represent hallucinations. His focus is on the material design of the representations of hallucinations, and he discusses how the form of visual and auditory hallucinations may serve as the basis for audiovisual artworks. In conclusion, Weinel provides a set of structural norms that define representations of psychedelic hallucinations, and he hypothesizes that, given improvement of digital technologies, the boundaries between external reality and synthetic unreality might gradually dissolve.
J. Martin Daughtry
This chapter examines the history of the militarization of the iPod portable media player during the first six years of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Drawing on interviews and correspondence with American military service members and Iraq war veterans, the chapter documents how iPods and the music they contained were used to smooth and hasten the passage of time, tether service members to their civilian lives back home, memorialize the deaths of fallen comrades, “pump up” troops for combat, maintain their focus on missions, and calm them down at the end of the day. The chapter also illuminates the degree to which the iPod has become a thoroughly militarized prosthetic technology—one deployed in the service of media consumption, one-way translation, interrogation, crowd dispersal, intelligence gathering, “winning hearts and minds,” and even precision shooting in the field.
Adopting a diegetic and semiotic approach to multisensoriality in comics, Marco Pellitteri discusses the aural dimension of this specific art form. The workings of comics are traced back to Aristotle’s concept of noesis; the mental activity of reading comics, Pellitteri suggests, involves a willingness to actively conceive of images and ideas in one’s mind not least of which are those belonging to the aural dimension. To argue this point, Pellitteri concentrates on the comics medium’s layers of actual or suggested sensoriality and illustrates the sensorial suggestiveness of comics’ graphics by discussing the implied aurality of lettering, fonts, word balloons, visual onomatopoeia, and the representation of music.
The Avant-Garde in the Family Room: American Advertising and the Domestication of Electronic Music in the 1960s and 1970s
Timothy D. Taylor
Today, the world is surrounded by electronic sounds of all kinds, which were not always so omnipresent or accepted. This article offers a history of the domestication of sounds that were initially associated with science fiction but fairly quickly found their way into television commercials. It uses the domestication concept in three ways. The first deals with the adoption of sounds associated with science fiction to use in selling products in everyday life. The second explores the complex set of processes behind the scenes by which electronic sounds were harnessed for use in selling. Under this, the article addresses the question of how electronic musicians convinced potential clients in and out of the advertising industry that such sounds could be used in advertising. Finally, the article refers the concept of domestication to the ways in which commodities were thought to become friendly products for consumers and were brought to life by electronic sounds.
Martin Knakkergaard discusses expectations and imaginations vis-à-vis the concert hall of the twenty-first century. The chapter outlines some of the central historical implications of Western culture’s haven for sounding music and its impact on the understanding of the musical phenomenon as an element in societal and cultural processes. Based on his case study of the Icelandic concert house Harpa, Knakkergaard considers how these implications, together with the prime mover’s visions, have been transformed as private investors and politicians take over. Throughout, Knakkergaard investigates the objectives required of musical sound and the far-reaching demands of the acoustics that modern concert halls must necessarily meet.