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Volume 9

FASCINATING NOISE

 SOUND IN ART AND SCIENCE

 

“Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating.”

John Cage, “The Future of Music – Credo”

For the American experimental composer John Cage all the world is noise rather than the stage, and many scientists would agree with him. In an attempt to explain the inner workings of the universe, Renaissance astronomer J. Keppler wondered at the harmonious 'music of the spheres', conceptualized at the crossroads of natural sciences, theology and art. Further developments in acoustics posited the new concept of sound as a wave, as was established in the ‘bell-in-vacuum' experiment, most famously by R. Boyle. The 19th century ushered new research on vibration, as physicists such as E. Chladni experimented with vibrating plates, which by the end of the century led to the development of technologies that captured and recorded the invisible properties of sound, such as T. A. Edison’s phonograph and E. Berliner’s gramophone. Ever since then the fascination with recording sound and music has continued to generate ever more advanced and compact technologies, all the way into the 21st century digitalization of sound.

Sound, vibration and noise turned out to be key for the aesthetics of 20th century artists, many of whom were influenced by the scientific discourses and developments in the field of vibration, such as the Futurists. In his manifesto “Art of Noises”, L. Russolo calls for the use of ‘intonarumori’, noise-generating instruments that would introduce the sounds of the modern world into traditional music. New perspectives on music and noise can also be seen in the Dada bruitists, who made noise an essential part of their performances, as well as in the work of composers such as J. Cage or E. Satie. At the same time, writers and poets sought new ways to convey sound in writing, such as the poets of the zaum, or J. Joyce who recorded the sounds of Dublin in his Finnegans Wake. The fascination with sound and noise remains unyielding in the postmodern and digital era, as demonstrated by a profusion of artists who work with new media and digital technologies to create immersive and interactive, or experimental audio(visual) projects and installations, e.g., M. Neuhaus, C. Marclay, ‘Little Songs of the Mutilated’, or ‘Scenocosme’. In addition, the rise of the Internet has made music widely accessible through various online sharing platforms.

Recently, new critical approaches have initiated research into sound and noise in the Anthropocene, focusing on the detrimental effects of anthropogenic sound on the environment (e.g., the ocean). Simultaneously, using methods such as sonification (transformation of data into soundwaves), eco-conscious artists make the inaudible strata of the natural world (microbial or plant life, but also Earth itself) audible. Such ethical perspective on sound in both natural sciences and sound art expands to address various ecological issues: climate change, extinction, non-human forms of hearing, etc.

In this issue of Pulse, we aim to investigate the discourses and practices of sound, noise and vibration from various theoretical and disciplinary perspectives, particularly those that focus on the intersection of art and science. Perspectives ranging from the history of literature and theatre, history of science, musicology, and the digital humanities are welcome, as well as ecocriticism, climatology and environmental studies. How did the technologies of incorporating sound into different artforms or cultural media evolve? Can research into sound in art and cultural media open up new perspectives of conceptualizing sound in science, and/or vice versa? What is the ethical potential of sound when it comes to extinction or climate change? Starting from the confluence of art and science, our aim is to map diverse territories of sound and noise across various scientific discourses and practices, and diverse art and cultural media.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

 

— ‘vibration’ in art and science

— technology of sound and noise in art

— digital technologies, new media and noise

— ‘bruitism’, performing arts, musical performance

— sound and durational art

— onomatopoeia; conveying noise in fiction

— bioacoustics and sonification in art

— sound, extinction and climate change

— sound and noise in the Anthropocene

— sound meditation and soundbaths

— sound and noise in evolutionary perspective

— sound, noise and neuroscience

— animal sounds and noise

 

 

References:

 

Cage, John. John Cage, An Anthology. Edited by Richard Kostelanetz. New York, 1968.

Halliday, Sam. Sonic Modernity—Representing Sound in Literature, Culture and the Arts. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.

Vibratory Modernism. Edited by Anthony Enns and Shelley Trover. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 30 April 2022

 

We welcome the submission of FULL ARTICLES (5000-6000 words) on these and related themes.

We also publish BOOK REVIEWS (800-1000 words); please get in touch if there is a book you would like to review.

For submission guidelines view our website.

To submit your contribution or for any questions please email at pulse.scistudies@gmail.com