RE:SOUND 2019 TRACK: The Return of The Sonic Real

I will be co-chairing a track of three sessions exploring the emergence of the sound object as a vital sonic/material hybrid engaging the phenomenology of human affect, posthuman and alien ontologies, sonic realisms, and mental health — in theory and sonic practices. My session on “Sonic Materialisms” calls for presentations exploring the intersection of sound studies and new materialist philosophies. I would like to facilitate further consideration of the characteristic “thingness” of sonic innovation in ways that grapple with converging machinic, technical, organic, acoustic, and imaginary materials. From glitch to vibration, circuit-bending to analog synthesis, interactivity to installation, sonic materialism should help us apprehend the sound object.

Media Art History: RE:SOUND 2019 (Aug 19-23, 2019, Aalborg, Denmark)
The 12th Anniversary International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology will take place at Aalborg University, CREATE (School of Communication, Art, Technology and Music in collaboration with Research Laboratory of Art & Technology.

Dr. Morbius using the Krell mind booster in "Forbidden Planet" (1956).

Decoding the Sonic Xenomorph

This paper presents my work on sonic science fiction in cinema and philosophy, blending Pierre Schaeffer’s work on concrete music with the alien phenomena of speculative materialism to apprehend the emergence of the sound object as a vital sonic/material hybrid. I introduce the concept of sonorous object-oriented ontologies through a few cinematic models. The electronic tonalities created by Louis and Bebe Barron for Forbidden Planet (1956) are product of a sonic autopoeisis but also a ritualistic cybernetic biomedia programming that involves the Barrons’ systematic torture and autopsy of alien sound beings.

Tracking the alien that tracks the human heartbeat in "Alien" (1979).

Two SF/horror hybrids, Alien (1979) and The Thing (1982), tap into earlier golden age paranoia while taking advantage of the expanded spatiality of surround sound reproduction, a psychotechnological adjunct of affect. As the sonic “thing” that resides outside of what Kember & Zylinska call the “instrumental dimension of technology,” synthetic heartbeats in both films constitute an alien point-of-audition occulting the unstable biotechnologies of the sonic xenomorph.

Given the affective resonance that noises accrue in the context of SF/horror, diegesis becomes highly unstable, gravitating between arbitrary aesthetic differentiations of the expressive capacity of composed music and plausible sound effects; this points sonorous ontological instabilities toward interior, unknowable gulfs of abject alien technicities.

F.M. Einheit decoding muzak through sonorous dream magic while Christiane F. dreams of frogs in "Decoder" (1984).

The last film I discuss aims this instability toward political bodies. A dystopian film from the West German postpunk underground, Decoder (1984) is concerned with the ambient sonic programming of human consciousness. The sonorous object’s capacity for blurring the contours of history and memory is rendered as a technocultural strategy by which musique concrète combines with black noise magic against the media-saturated culture of consumption, surveillance, and mind control.

TUNING SPECULATION VI: Auscultations | Occultations, Listening to the Occult (Nov 2-4 2018, Bloomington IN)
The 6th annual interdisciplinary conference dedicated to bringing insights from speculative sound studies to bear on critical questions about contemporary media ecologies.