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Introduction…

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With the invention of recorded sound in the late 19th Century new demands on
the processes of human consciousness transfigured the way we perceive the world.
In this new mirror all perceivable sounds were reflected back to us, and into us,
and for the first time since the invention of alphabetic script, the hegemony of the visual sense over the shaping of human thought came under direct challenge. Waves of amplified, compressed, and regurgitated sound, the voices of the dead and the living, echoes of the past, fantasies of the future, fact, polemic and persuasion, entered our lives on cylinders, discs and via radio transmissions. As this disembodied babble began to unfasten human consciousness from its literate self, the preservation and dissemination of all human knowledge, for two millennia the charge of a literate sensibility, entered a process of synthesis with this new technology…

Sonority, unlike visual perception, is ever in motion, unstable, ephemeral. Its
presence ‘arrives’ (Nancy) and passes away in a totality of resonance and
referents that are both physical and psychological. From the birth cry to the death
rattle the human body ‘… resounds as it listens’ (Nancy) and every sound we
hear has its own tone colour, or timbre, which maps its unique characteristics
spectrally. Timbre cannot be annotated or systemized. It is a ‘language of effects’ (p
59) which envelopes us from within, and without, making us integral, specific, to its
vibrationary process. In language it is intonation and stress, or prosody, that colours
our communication and is ‘an intrinsic part of the whole communicative process’
(Karpf). Our congenital affinity with acoustic resonance, and the human desire
to pattern sound into the codes and conventions of poetry and musical expression,
are rooted in auditory cognizance and any exploration of the subject must consider
not only an analysis of sound itself, but the impact of the technological revolution in
sound capture that has changed forever the way we hear the world.

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