In the past week or so, I presented my PhD proposal to the other members of the Sound & Senses Research Group and wrote two articles about sound art and sonic warfare, respectively. The resulting discussions, feedback and introspection has made me reconsider my approach to the PhD proposal.
My initial interest in sound art – beside the immediate aesthetic experience – was based on the idea that sound (and art in general) could be made for non-human beings. Be they computers, animals or inanimate objects – the idea that sound is received by much more than just ears seems to me inherently obvious, yet generally under-theorised or downright ignored by many sound students.
What also interests me is the correlation between sound and intelligence. Just like an object’s reception of sound is often judged by anthropocentric standards of reciprocation and ability to distill meaning from a sound, so is intelligence judged in relation to human intelligence. In a colonial act of uniformity, computers and parrots are required to think like humans to be considered intelligent.
Trying to arrive at these ideas through the affect theory of Brian Massumi and Will Schrimshaw seemed logical at first, but anthropocentrism lurks in the shadows. Instead, my eyes have been opened to Object-Orientated Ontology. Perhaps this focus on objects and their relations can bridge the gap between Massumi’s affect theory, sound art and Steve Goodman‘s vibrational ontology. In a sense, I think this is what Schrimshaw attempted to do in his article “Non-cochlear Sound: On Affect and Exteriority.” However, he never addresses OOO directly.
It’s truly odd. Half a year ago now, I went into this with a curiosity about whether Actor-Network Theory might be what I was looking for in order to describe these anthro-decentric ideas I had. I remember diving into the Wikipedia article to get a taste of what this was all about, and ended up stuck in Latour feeling let down and dissatisfied. If I had only taken a left turn, followed some stray hyperlink or plunged deeper I might have found Morton, Harman, Bogost and Bryant much sooner.
All the more exciting to be academically starting anew. However it does not feel like starting over – it feels like reading up on ideas that – when formalised – were always self-evident.