[-empyre-] Thursday, 19th: Hearing and Listening

Jim Drobnick jim at displaycult.com
Thu Jun 19 23:09:37 EST 2014

For today, Thursday, 19th, our focus will be on "Hearing and Listening." While these topics may have been addressed in the past through perceptual or phenomenological  methods, the questions by Jennifer Fisher, Eldritch Priest and Salomé Voegelin hint at the affective, bodily and political forces implicitly at work during this activity. Too often it is assumed that hearing or listening merely involves a passive transfer of sensory data, as if the ear were merely a conduit for information. But it's clear that the ear is subject to socialization and bias, training and discipline, personal idiosyncracies, and influence by the surrounding environment. The 3 questions today, then, seek to reflect upon the effects of such influences when attending to audio art:

1) Jennifer Fisher: What is the significance of spatial resonance and affect when listening to sound art? How do hearing and proprioception combine in formations of resonance?  How might the resonances of ambient space -- whether a museum, concert hall or other venue -- operate contextually in curating sound art? My sense is that resonance operates somewhat differently from vibration: if vibration stems from the tactile sensing of a discrete object (or its emission from a particular point in space), might resonance afford more delocalized, contextual, intensification of hearing and proprioception?  

2) Eldritch Priest: Through tropes such as the often cited “the ears are never closed,” artists and theorists alike routinely posit audition as form of “exposure,” a veritable faculty that lays us open and vulnerable to the world. But as Steven Connor notes, the ear is not submissive; it "actively connives to make what it takes to be sense out of what it hears.” This means that the ear not only refuses to entertain an outside -- “noise” -- but its operations seem to entail "a kind of deterrence of sound” such that to hear is always to mishear. But if all hearing is mishearing, audition can only be a fundamental hallucination that works for the powers of the false. From this premise we might ask whether hearing is (in both its ordinary and Peircean sense of the term) an abduction of the “outside.” What would it mean or do, then, for sound studies—specifically sound studies in its humanistic phase -- that its organ of concern (l’oreille) is steeped primarily in “guesswork”? Does studying sound mean studying what is effectively a connivance? And if so, if audition is always making sense up, then with what, or as Neitzsche would say, with “whom” is it complicit?

3) Salomé Voegelin: What is the relationship between listening and sound art?

Jennifer, Eldritch and Salomé, please feel free to further elaborate or extend your initial thoughts!



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