A History of Sound Art
The nonvulgar journey of sonic art
I listen, I hear, I obey.
Does the exquisitely dissonant institution of sound art, and its subsequent ordering of desire, ensure that we subscribe to a genealogy through which it is governed? In this composition I hear a rhizomic collective, which obeys, albeit contradictorily, a government of past and future time. Historical mapping reconceptualized, audibly so.
I hear the pop, clunk, hum, clink, buzz of the sonic agent provocateurs scrambling to inscribe difference.
‘Tomtoumtomtoumtomtoum’; the ‘Cage’ of sound arts past. I hear hindsight.
‘Bwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa’; the sound of sound arts future.
I hear possibility, dynamic, open, multiple, textured, outside ‘time, (is there outside time?). Referring to Heidegger, Derrida describes how, in the nonvulgar or ‘Greek’ conception of time, times past, present, and future converge and diverge; they are at once glancing, touching and yet so very distant. The nonvulgar appear and disappear in this composition’s motifs, they ascribe difference, blend and further differentiate how I listen. I hear the sound of the oncoming community, Nietzsche’s Übermenschare, nonvulgar, allegorical.
This sonic journey has no pause, the repeating beating ‘new order’ of fleeting voices propels concepts adnauseam. Everything that can happen is happening, and not only once, but infinitely. Turning and returning. It does not go along with a simple, linear, modernist scenario. But further problematizes sonic arts institutionalized patterns of irrationality.
Further along the plane I hear double meanings, a double-pincer of the future: one linear, one nonlinear.
It invokes individuation, movement, body, and sensation. Voicing announcements of the future of noise; whilst scattering uncanny silence, more a buzz than a beep of the future becoming. Is this a compositional transformative strategy, or my listening as relational and ultimately performative? I hear the sonic future that never arrives because it was already always here. It sounds nonlinear, atemporal or polymorphically temporal. It presents post-human possibilities as resonant and reverberant.
Ironically, this playful and metaphorical collage of sound arts genealogy is not only broader, but more literally plausible than what Heidegger calls the received or “vulgar” view of orderly, progressive, linear time. Language itself, the splintering of sounds into signs, into embodied and disembodied representations, signals and signifiers, call into question my subjective image of the past: a schizophrenic plane of signification, a neurotic creativity, the disunity of the singularity of becoming sonic.
Finally, I hear silence, an absent sense of knowing, of the heard, that I project into a future: pop merging with click, and dissolution into ecstasy, which relieves my constitutive sense of loss. Lacan suggests that this loss is based on the illusion of the uncoordinated. As a listener at the end of this work I feel like a wobbly toddler looking in the mirror and happily hallucinating in my own disunity. Once again language splintering signification. I am left with the idea of an uncomfortable wholeness. The reconciliation of sound arts past with its future seems like an empirical illusion.