The Sonic Anthropocene: Dark Ecological Soundscapes in Chris Watson’s “Vatnajökull”
As acoustic ecology and soundscape studies have developed alongside an ever-evident climate crisis, it has become imperative to reclaim the environmental aspects of soundscape recording and to use acoustic ecology as a way of confronting our current ecological condition. Ecological thinking challenges acoustic ecology to contend with the idea that sounds are critically connected to broader questions about environmental matters and urges soundscape artists to move beyond reflective or ecomimetic recordings towards active and exploratory ones. Soundscape researchers and artists, including Chris Watson, have been key to investigating the environment through sound and documenting ecological degradation and the concurrent silencing of the natural world. This article synthesizes work done in acoustic ecology and contemporary thinking about the Anthropocene to elaborate a “dark acoustic ecology” that listens in on the sonic conditions and effects of accelerated climate change. I examine Chris Watson’s 18 minute soundscape recording of the 10,000-year-old Icelandic glacier “Vatnajökull” from his 2003 album Weather Report to pose questions about what it means to think darkly about our ecological interconnections in relation to flows of space, place, time, silence, and movement.
- Acoustic Ecology
- Chris Watson
David C. Jackson, “The Sonic Anthropocene: Dark Ecological Soundscapes in Chris Watson’s ‘Vatnajökull’.” Evental Aesthetics 6, no. 1 (2017): 43-62.