A study of aural culture, built along the same lines, would be about the interpretation of a world of things rendered in their acoustics forms. It has become conventional to describe such a world by means of the concept of soundscape. Undoubtedly when it was first introduced, the concept served a useful rhetorical purpose in drawing attention to a sensory register that have been neglected relative to sight. I belive however that it has now outlived its usefulness. More to the point, it carries the risk that we might lose touch with sound in just the same way that visual studies have lost touch with light. In what follows I will set out four reason why I think the concept of soundscape would be better abandoned. (…) The power of the prototypical concept of landscape lies precisely in the fact that it is not tied to any specific sensory register. (…) Thus in resorting to the notion of soundscape, we run the risk of subjecting the ears, in studies of the aural, to the same fate as the eyes in visual studies. This is my second objection to the concept. We need to avoid the trap, analogous to thinking that the power of sight inheres in images, of supposing that the power of hearing inheres in recordings. For the ears, just like the eyes, are organs of observation, not instruments of playback. Just as we use our eyes to watch and look, so we use our ears to listen as we go forth in the world. (…) The scaping of things – that is, their surface conformation – is revealed to us thanks to their illumination. When we look around on a fine day, we see a landscape bathed in sunlight, not a lightscape. Likewise, listening to our surroundings, we do not hear a soundscape. For sound, I would argue, is not the object but the medium of our perception. It is what we hear in. Similarly, we do not see light but see in it. (…) The sky is not an object of perception, any more than sound is. It is not a thing we see. It is rather luminosity itself. But in a way, it is sonority too, as the musicologist Victor Zuckerkandl explained (Zuckerkandl, 1956: 344). In the experience one has looking up into the sky, according to Zuckerkandl, lies the essence of what it means to hear. If this is so, then our metaphors for describing auditory space should be derived not from landscape studies but from meteorology.

Against Soundscape by Tim Ingold | pdf | buy

31. May 2013 by
Categories: essays, soundwords | Leave a comment

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