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Sounding New Media

Sounding New Media: Immersion and Embodiment in the Arts and Culture

Frances Dyson
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 262
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  • Book Info
    Sounding New Media
    Book Description:

    Sounding New Mediaexamines the long-neglected role of sound and audio in the development of new media theory and practice, including new technologies and performance art events, with particular emphasis on sound, embodiment, art, and technological interactions. Frances Dyson takes an historical approach, focusing on technologies that became available in the mid-twentieth century-electronics, imaging, and digital and computer processing-and analyzing the work of such artists as John Cage, Edgard Varèse, Antonin Artaud, and Char Davies. She utilizes sound's intangibility to study ideas about embodiment (or its lack) in art and technology as well as fears about technology and the so-called "post-human." Dyson argues that the concept of "immersion" has become a path leading away from aesthetic questions about meaning and toward questions about embodiment and the physical. The result is an insightful journey through the new technologies derived from electronics, imaging, and digital and computer processing, toward the creation of an aesthetic and philosophical framework for considering the least material element of an artwork, sound.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94484-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    Immersion, interactivity, cyberspace, telepresence, virtuality, artificial life, posthuman—the reader will encounter these terms again and again in descriptions of new or digital media. Although sometimes used independently, they more often than not represent mechanisms or processes that collectively define both the experience of new media and its uniqueness—its absolute difference from “old” media such as television and radio. While “new media” refers to a set of technologies (e.g., virtual reality [VR], the Internet, ubiquitous media, etc.), the array of concepts that describe these technologies promise much more than the merely technological. The term “virtual,” for instance, denotes the...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Ethereal Transmissions: The “Tele” of Phōnē
    (pp. 18-32)

    Despite our best efforts to contain the cough, the sigh, the strain, the hoarseness, the wheeze, or the stammer, the “grain of the voice” (as Roland Barthes would say) pushes through the boundaries of etiquette, articulation, rhetorical flourish, diplomacy, and deception. It is very tempting to read this grain as something both originary and irreducible: an expression of the body that culture has yet to constrain, a manifestation of the purely sonorous voice, unencumbered by language. However, prior to any utterance, the voice is already a metaphysical instrument, and already caught within particular circuits, switchboards, or machines that both literally...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Celestial Telegraphies
    (pp. 33-53)

    The complexities of the post-World War I atmosphere come together in the work of the Italian Futurists and the avant-garde. Early “liberators of sound” made the connection between the release of sound and the explosions on the battlefield.¹ Influenced by Marinetti, Luigi Russolo wrote in 1912 of the Futurists’ dedication to “add to the great central themes of the musical poem the domain of the machine and the victorious kingdom of Electricity.”² Contemporaneously, Edgar Varèse, one of the first composers to embrace sound technology, commented on his taste for “music that explodes,”³ and he wrote of his search for “new...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Aural Objects, Recording Devices, and the Proximate Apparatus
    (pp. 54-82)

    Arnheim’s prescriptions for the art of radio ca. 1936 were soon to move beyond the confines of the radio feature broadcast (theHörspielor radio play in Europe), as sound became a compositional material rather than a support for the spoken word. The microphone and magnetic tape were essential technologies in this development, and both were surrounded by, and indeed produced, certain narratives about the meaning and being of sound that far exceeded the technological frame that was their foundational support. Within these narratives, the three-dimensionality of the audio recording seems to absorb the presence of the technological interface, disappearing...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Death, Silence, and the Tape Recorder
    (pp. 83-106)

    The experience of immersion relies upon stereoscopy to create a sense of depth and body monitoring to create a feeling of interactivity. These technologically aided sensory illusions extend the cultural phenomenon of what I am calling “apparatus proximity,” by projecting physical/ spatial characteristics beyond the particular technologies with which they are associated, into a cosmic, metaphysical, or transcendent domain. The proximity between voice and body, headphone and ears, stereoscopic screens and eyes, or computer interface and body, acts as another version of the “presence” that Derrida critiques vis-à-vis the autoaffectivity of the voice and becomes the ground for technognostically inclined...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Immersion
    (pp. 107-135)

    As a prologue to discussing Char Davies’s work, I begin this chapter retrospectively, from the position of one who has followed Davies’s work for over a decade, to establish a context through which the cascading repercussions of a very simple event—walking and talking onReverie—will manifest in my reading of her work. I am making tea in Davies’s cabin, on her land—Reverie—in southern Quebec. We have just returned from a long walk, and still a little breathless (Davies has a fast clip), I am astonished to realize that during my short time in the kitchen she...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Embodying Technology: From Sound Effect to Body Effect
    (pp. 136-157)

    Sonic signs flourish in the contemporary acoustic landscape: beeps remind you to charge, answer, or read your cell phone, louder beeps warn you that either your house is on fire or the smoke detector needs a battery change; sonic commands flood the acoustic field, saying as much about the technology from which they issue, as the aural messages they transmit. As mentioned, through audiophony—whether analog or digital—sound can be heard at any time, in any place, by any listener. Divorced from any phenomenal relation to the forms and flows of sounds occurring in the environment, no longer bound...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Atmospheres
    (pp. 158-181)

    At this point it is important to return to the dual movements of contraction (interiorization) and expansion (etherealization) that permeate media technology, allowing it to constantly mold the cultural, technological, and discursive horizon to accommodate new and often very enchanting vistas. In the discussions of posthumanism thus far, two rhetorical threads stand out: the first focuses on the transcendent private space of virtual or immersive environments; the second expands this space of “being-in” to theorize artificial life and “digital being” in general. Uniting these two is the overarching conceit of evolution, the enabler of partnerships between humans and machines, and...

  13. Conclusion: Music and Noise
    (pp. 182-190)

    Hayles’s correlation between technology as an agent of incorporation, which produces the interactions between humans and machines that she endorses, and her initial analysis of audiophony is not at all without precedent. Whereas the samplings of audio artists may suggest the eclipse of body and space in favor of the culturally saturated signal, the “new” of new media depends on redefining embodiment, space, reality, and experience in ways remarkably similar to notions of immersion and transcendence associated with audiophony. This “elsewhere” beyond media, and sometimes beyond culture itself, enabled early sound theorists to retrieve audio from the stain of reproduction...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 191-232)
  15. References
    (pp. 233-240)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-246)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)