Sonic Possible Worlds The Political Possibility of Sound Listening to Noise and Silence Collo
Sound Art - Music
Knowledge with Voice and Hands
Bloomsbury | Feb 2023
Uncurating Sound performs, across five chapters, a deliberation between art, politics, knowledge and normativity. It foregrounds the perfidy of norms and engages in the curatorial as a colonial knowledge project, whose economy of exploitation draws a straight line from Enlightenment's desire for objectivity, through sugar, cotton and tobacco, via lives lost and money made to the violence of contemporary art.
It takes from curation the notion of care and thinks it through purposeful inefficiency as resistance: going sideways and another way. Thus it moves curation through the double negative of not not to “uncuration”: untethering knowledge from the expectations of reference and a canonical frame, and reconsidering art as political not in its message or aim, but by the way it confronts the institution.
Looking at Kara Walker's work, the book invites the performance of the curatorial via indivisible connections and processes. Reading Kathy Acker and Adrian Piper it speculates on how the body brings us to knowledge beyond the ordinary. Playing Kate Carr and Ellen Fullman it re-examines Modernism's colonial ideology, and materialises the vibrational presence of a plural sense. Listening to Marguerite Humeau and Manon de Boer it avoids theory but agitates a direct knowing from voice and hands, and feet and ears that disorder hegemonic knowledge strands in favour of local, tacit, feminist and contingent knowledges that demand like Zanele Muholi's photographs, an ethical engagement with the work/world.
"Salomé Voegelin's oeuvre epitomizes sonic dynamism. Her latest work is no different. In Uncurating Sound, Voegelin invites us to listen along as she troubles and blurs static lines between knowledge and curation, writers and bodies, sound and the book, reading and performing. As she converses with works by such figures as Kara Walker, Kathy Acker, Adrian Piper, Kate Carr, Ellen Fullman and Manon de Boer, Voegelin reminds us vitally – especially as we continue to emerge from pandemic isolation and sustained distancing – that we are embodied. And questions like, Who is the “I” and the ear that writes? and For whom do we write and listen? are vital to our collective flourishing. Compelling in its speculation and expansive in its sonic wanderings, Uncurating Sound will interrupt our deep assumptions about sound and knowledge as it calls for us, in all our full embodiment, to listen. Where is your body tuned now?"
Nicole Furlonge, Professor and Director of the Klingenstein Center, Columbia University, USA
"With detours and fuzzy paths, inhalations and exhalations, rivers and their volumes, Uncurating Sound proposes the decolonial and transversal politics of sound is a matter not only for art institutions and their publics but also for a broader untethering from extractive histories and ways of knowing."
Sasha Engelmann, Senior Lecturer in GeoHumanities, Royal Holloway University of London, UK
"Salomé Voegelin's sensitive handling of sound topics as a post-colonial un-discipline is both observational and treatise-ish, caring and critical, and affirms the complex entanglement of curation, the cannon, the archive, and the body, and proposes a new traversing identity of sound studies. A Tour de Force."
Miya Masaoka, composer, artist and Associate Professor of Visual Art (Sound Art) and Director, Sound Art Program MFA, Columbia University, USA
The Political Possibility of Sound
Bloomsbury | Nov 2018
The essay is the perfect format for a crisis. Its porous and contingent nature forgives a lack of formality, while its neglect of perfection and virtuosity releases the potential for the incomplete and the unrealizable. These seven essays on The Political Possibility of Sound present a perfectly incomplete form for a discussion on the possibility of the political that includes creativity and invention, and articulates a politics that imagines transformation and the desire to embrace a connected and collaborative world.
The themes of these essays emerge from and deepen discussions started in Voegelin's previous books, Listening to Noise and Silence and Sonic Possible Worlds. Continuing the methodological juxtaposition of phenomenology and logic and writing from close sonic encounters each represents a fragment of listening to a variety of sound works, to music, the acoustic environment and to poetry, to hear their possibilities and develop words for what appears impossible.
As fragments of writing they respond to ideas on geography and migration, bring into play formless subjectivities and trans-objective identities, and practice collectivity and a sonic cosmopolitanism through the hearing of shared volumes. They involve the unheard and the in-between to contribute to current discussions on new materialism, and perform vertical readings to reach the depth of sound.
“Her essays touch on political realities: enforced migration; razor wire in the Golan Heights; Obama's authorisation of drone attacks. Yet the imagined worlds of Sun Ra and Ursula Le Guin's science fiction also have a recurrent role. That such seemingly divergent elements should coincide within the political possibility of sound makes this book a stimulating, important and challenging experience.”
Sonic Possible Worlds
Bloomsbury | Jan 2021
From its use in literary theory, film criticism and the discourse of games design, Salomé Voegelin expands “possible world theory” to think the worlding of sound in music, in art and in the everyday. The modal logic of possible worlds, articulated principally via David K. Lewis and developed through Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological life-worlds, creates a view on the invisible slices of the world and reflects on how to make them count, politically and aesthetically. How to make them thinkable and accessible as the possibility of the everyday and of art: to reach a new materialist understanding from the invisible and to develop an ear for the as yet inaudible.
This revised edition continues Voegelin’s exploration of the sonic possibility of the world into the sonic possibility and impossibility of the body. Listening to works by Áine O’Dwyer, Hannah Silva and Jocy de Oliveira, it considers sonic possible worlds’ radical power to rethink normative constructions and to fabulate a different body from its sound. Thus, the word continuum in the subtitle of this book, Hearing the Continuum of Sound, which in the first edition stood principally for the continuum between music and sound art, is opened up to denote also another continuum that stands as principle for the body, while including that of sound: Hearing the Continuum Between Plural Bodies Breathing, between humans, humanoid aliens, monsters, vampires, animals, plants, things and anything we have no name for yet but which a sonic philosophy might start to hear and call.
"Salomé Voegelin is a brilliant and subtle thinker about sound and music, so Sonic Possible Worlds: Hearing the Continuum of Sound, Revised Edition is a deeply explored and essential study of the necessity of listening, of openly absorbing what sound tells us of our shared world, listening which gives us access to the fluid nature of relationships and connections, to the interactive web of the world and our participation in it through awareness of this 'complex continuity' and of ourselves inextricably enmeshed within it.
Voegelin generously maps many ways of practicing listening to sonic worlds and of sharing access to the ever-expanding “possible world” of sound-life, then goes further, leaping beyond our physical and conceptual limits, diving into sound we cannot hear but which affects us, becoming part of our apprehensible world and of our learning how to live within it."
Annea Lockwood, Composer and Professor Emeritus,
Vassar College, USA
"In this highly anticipated and essential second edition, Voegelin thinks about bodies and presents with rigor and extraordinary clarity the way sound may open us up to the plural possibility of bodily existence. Effortlessly interlacing phenomenology, feminist and queer theories, and weaving together sound thought and practice, while remaining precise yet accessible, the author invites us to listen to our own and each other’s bodies, enjoy their transforming, hybrid and even monstrous capacities, and discover the emancipatory force of their soundings."
Mikhail Karikis, Film Director and Professor,
MIMA School of Art & Design, Teesside University, UK
Sonic Possible Worlds
Bloomsbury | Aug 2014
Inspired by its use in literary theory, film criticism and the discourse of game design, Salomé Voegelin adapts and develops “possible world theory” in relation to sound. David K Lewis' Possible World is juxtaposed with Maurice Merleau-Ponty's life-world, to produce a meeting of the semantic and the phenomenological at the place of listening.
The central tenet of Sonic Possible Worlds is that at present traditional musical compositions and contemporary sonic outputs are approached and investigated through separate and distinct critical languages and histories. As a consequence, no continuous and comparative study of the field is possible.
In Sonic Possible Worlds, Voegelin proposes a new analytical framework that can access and investigate works across genres and times, enabling a comparative engagement where composers such as Henry Purcell and Nadia Boulanger encounter sound art works by Shilpa Gupta and Christina Kubisch and where the soundscape compositions of Chris Watson and Francisco López resound in the visual worlds of Louise Bourgeois.
“Voegelin's Sonic Possible Worlds is a rather provocative and challenging endeavor to take this necessary discussion to a high scholarly level without losing the connection with the art works themselves ... It should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in listening and the counterpart or supplement to new materialism, sonic materialism. Additionally, it is one of the few books which deals with both sound art and music, thus contributing not only to the discourse on sound studies but also offering new perspectives for musicologists.”
Listening to Noise and Silence
Bloomsbury | May 2010
Listening to Noise and Silence engages with the emerging practice of sound art and the concurrent development of a discourse and theory of sound. In this original and challenging work, Salomé Voegelin immerses the reader in concepts of listening to sound artwork and the everyday acoustic environment, establishing an aesthetics and philosophy of sound and promoting the notion of a sonic sensibility.
A multitude of sound works are discussed, by lesser known contemporary artists and composers (for example Curgenven, Gasson and Federer), historical figures in the field (Artaud, Feldman and Cage), and that of contemporary canonic artists such as Janet Cardiff, Bill Fontana, Bernard Parmegiani, and Merzbow.
Informed by the ideas of Adorno, Merleau-Ponty and others, the book aims to come to a critique of sound art from its soundings rather than in relation to abstracted themes and pre-existing categories. Listening to Noise and Silence broadens the discussion surrounding sound art and opens up the field for others to follow.
“The examples under discussion range from by-now canonical soundworks...to recent works by a clutch of lesser known artists...Voegelin's critical style is so singular that she avoids cliche in the treatment of all these artists, prising them out of a conversation about music and into a challenging treatise on the art of listening.”
“Listening to Noise and Silence will be of interest to a great many people following breakthrough trends within art and philosophy.”
Colloquium: Sound Art – Music
Zero Books | Sept 2016
Thomas Gardner & Salomé Voegelin
In 2012, Thomas Gardner and Salomé Voegelin hosted a colloquium entitled Music - Sound Art: Historical Continuum and Mimetic Fissures at the London College of Communication, UAL. This meeting dealt with the current debate concerning the relationship between sound art and music and focused on the precept that sound art and music evolve in a shared context and that the joint navigation of this common terrain would allow for new creative approaches to be taken and new critical insights to be established on how we produce, listen to and engage in works with sound.
This book proposes the opening of the colloquium to a wider readership through the publication of a decisive range of the material that defined the event. It includes the transcripts of the original colloquium discussions, the provocations that initiated its debates as well as responses to its themes written after the event. It declares the relationship between sound art and music “colloquial”: spoken and accessible, rather than locked behind disciplinary boundaries, and aims to raise some pressing and relevant questions without providing answers, opening up the continuum between concert hall and gallery space, between record collection, radio, sound on-site, online and the everyday.
With contributions from: Allen S. Weiss, Nye Parry, David Toop, Volkmar Klien, Aura Satz, Leigh Landy, Cathy Lane, Simon Emmerson, Claudia Molitor and Kathy Hinde. With a postscript by Kate Lacey.
“The act of listening is a complex web of interconnected behaviour and mental manoeuvring between music, pure sound and historical context. This book is an important tool to negotiate the gap between the history of music and the wider panorama of sonic art.”
Anne Hilde Neset | nyMusikk
“Of course we need this book! Why? Because we take too much for granted about the relationship between sound art and music. Because we need incisive, creative thinkers, like the ones gathered in these pages, to help us separate the conjoined twins of sonic practice, such that they might – via their independence – contrive a more salubrious kinship.”