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

Salomé Voegelin mail at salomevoegelin.net
Fri Jun 20 08:39:51 EST 2014


Sorry, just to add. I do not think that a post-idealist, post-humanist materialism means to deny human agency, perception and reflection in a passive vibration, but to understand the equivalent embededness, (being centered in the world while not being at its centre) as well as the ethical responsibility that comes with being capable of human agency. Because while the bird can listen to me as much as I can listen to it, in the end my position is different and if I pretend it is not I think I am in danger or "naturophilia", if such a word exists, and that will not empower the bird.


On Jun 19, 2014, at 11:21 PM, Salomé Voegelin <mail at salomevoegelin.net> wrote:

> Chris: I am sorry if I was not as clear as I would like to be. I do not think sound is necessarily political, and a vista is not per se political either, but listening and looking are. Sound is sound and a chair is a chair, but how I look at it or listen to it is political. There is a difference and it is vital.The notion of sonic materialism is important as a critical lever, but materialism is, for me at least, paradoxically a philosophy of the material at the same time as it is a philosophy of perception and reflection, and that paradox or coincidence, dissolves the dichotomy that you rightly say should not be evoked: it is not a matter of human/non-human, culture/ nature but the compounding of all of it and thus gives us an "insight" into the make-up, bias, balance of that comound. So I think, or hope at least, we are on the whole in agreement, if not in the details or in how we get there.
> 
> I  do not mean to build a straw man or woman and neither do I mean to point a finger at any body in particular, but the focus, as seen in these discussions, on the one hand towards technological clarify, and on the other hand the celebration of unspeakable states of the heard (mishearings and hallucinations)  that need to be bracketed off if we want to make sense within critical language confuses me. It at once suggests that sound is a pre-critical inarticulable state that needs to be framed if we mean to hear anything valuable and talk about it, while at the very same time celebrating that inarticulable state. Neither position seems useful to me as it avoids considering the socio-political particularity of listening.
> 
> hope that makes a bit more sense. 
> 
> 
> On Jun 19, 2014, at 10:55 PM, Christoph Cox <ccox at hampshire.edu> wrote:
> 
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Salome: Whom do you have in mind with the claim that "some of us . . . [pretend] that scrutinizing the ideological or political aspects of listening or sound [ . . .] is somehow either not possible or desirable or manifests a betrayal of a purer state"? Does anyone actually hold that position? Seems like a straw man argument to me.
>> 
>> In this conversation, at least, what's at stake is not WHETHER there is a politics of sound but what "politics" MEANS and how we CONSTRUE it. Sound is a power, a force that is imposed and resisted in multiple forms, ways, and regimes. And so of course there's a politics of sound. The false notion is that politics ought to be separated from sonic materiality more generally. Left politics is deeply rooted in materialism. It seems to me that anyone committed to left politics (as I am) should reject the cultural idealism that (explicitly or implicitly) insists on dichotomies between nature/culture, physics/politics, etc.
>> 
>> On 6/19/14, 5:18 PM, Salomé Voegelin wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> At a talk tonight at the Chelsea College of Art in London I was reminded that John Berger wrote his seminal Ways of Seeing in 1973. That is a good 40 years ago, and it is 40 year of acknowledging and working with the fact that seeing is ideological, political, cultural and social; that it is inflected by class, gender and economics. And yet, when 40 years later it comes to Ways of Listening, we pretend, or some of us do at least, that scrutinizing the ideological and political aspects of listening or sound, which are bizarrely and uncritically mixed up at times, it is somehow either not possible or desirable or manifests a betrayal of a purer state.
>>> 
>>> I see Seth's desire " to sprinkle sand in the gears of the cultural-industrial machinery" also as my desire to critically consider listening maybe not to hear better, but to get to understand the gears that drive listening and make us hear a truth that is just another word for bias. Then listening becomes a socio-political tool not just to listen but to make a different "sound".
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> On Jun 19, 2014, at 8:14 PM, Christoph Cox <ccox at hampshire.edu> wrote:
>>> 
>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>> I think a false dichotomy is being drawn here between "sound waves" and "mute materiality" [sic], on the one hand, and ideologies, economies, societies, subjects, history, power, on the other. This dichotomy maps on to other false dichotomies: physical/cultural, extra-discursive/discursive, passive hearing/active listening, etc. The world is full of differences of degree but no such dichotomies or differences of kind. It forms a single plane. And, whatever the human, the social, the ideological, the discursive, etc. are, they are continuous with the physical, the material, etc. As Steve Goodman, Marcus Boon, and I myself have argued, there is a "politics of vibration" that does not require the philosophically bankrupt division of the world into the non-human/human, physical/cultural, etc.
>>>> 
>>>> I'm curious what Eldritch means with the claim that "all hearing is mishearing" and that "audition can only be a fundamental hallucination." If by that he means that hearing is selective, then of course that's true. But such selection does not mark out human listening as different from any other form of biological or mechanical registration: a thermostat is selective, too, concerned only with temperature thresholds and nothing else. Materiality is not inert or mute. It is fundamentally active and responsive.
>>>> 
>>>> (I apologize for the quick and sometimes brusque nature of my comments this week, which I'm spending with a sick parent in the hospital, which makes thoughtfulness and sustained attention nearly impossible.)
>>>> 
>>>> On 6/19/14, 10:27 AM, Seth Kim-Cohen wrote:
>>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> 
>>>>> Hello All
>>>>> 
>>>>> Nice to be with you and thanks, Jim, for the invitation to participate.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Art that engages sound is not a special case. The same obligations obtain, and the same privileges too. The fetishization of audio technology hearkens back to half-century-old discussions of the "material support" of visual artworks. Why should we care if the painting is on canvas or linen? Likewise, should we know or want to know if it's Supercollider or Max or a CD? Similarly, why is listening isolated, idealized, and idolized? Ultimately, the interactions that sustain interest and importance are not those between sound waves and eardrums, but between ideologies and economies, between societies and subjects, between history and concentrations of power.
>>>>> 
>>>>> The fatigue with the language of conceptual art expressed by Semitransgenic strikes me as a response to the very difficult and neverending work of resisting the dominant vocabularies of our times and places. Such vocabularies are so pervasive as to operate transparently and to be adopted unproblematically as natural. The best "international art-speak" of the past fifty years has taken it upon itself to sprinkle sand in the gears of the cultural-industrial machinery. Of course, the machinery constantly recoups this sand as raw material for further manufacture. This recuperation produces both our collective fatigue and the demand for further "innovation" (I use the term cautiously) in the strategies and modes of alternative meaning-making.
>>>>> 
>>>>> I fear - genuinely, I do - that our collective recourse to technology, to listening, to mute materiality, is a signal of retreat from the ubiquity of cultural-ecnomic hegemony. Sound schmound. Let's think about the relationships artworks create between audiences, institutions, conventions, ideas, and philosophies. Then we're on to something.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Kindest regards to you all
>>>>> Seth
>>>>> 
>>>>> ________________
>>>>> www.kim-cohen.com
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> 
>>>>> On Jun 19, 2014, at 9:09 AM, Jim Drobnick wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> 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!
>>>>> 
>>>>> Best,
>>>>> 
>>>>> Jim
>>>>> 
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