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Mark Peter Wright
Environmental sound arts are based on a long-term engagement with nonhuman subjects through disciplines such as bioacoustics, acoustic ecology, field recording, and soundscape studies. Recording and representing the sounds of animals and environmental phenomena have been essential to such practices and their archival and arts-based impact. Throughout these more-than-human histories, however, there has been a relative lack of attention given to the presence of recordists themselves. This article endeavors to re-hear the fringe identity of the environmental field recordist and analyze the promises and threats of self-erasure. I propose a new concept, the Noisy-Nonself, as a way of understanding such an identity. It is a chimeric figuration that seeks to collapse human, animal, and technological binaries, prompt ethical critique, and ask, “ what are the consequences of hearing our own monsters?”
David C. Jackson
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.
In this short piece, I describe a performance by Vibracathedral Orchestra in which the musicians collectively create an atmosphere of gradually coalescing and dissolving plateaus of droning sound. That this collective sound-making (and listening) can offer an aesthetic conducive to contemplating environment and aesthetics I demonstrate as well as describe in reporting my responses to the performance, drifting from description into a more imaginative realm of speculation on urban space, plants, concrete, time, memory, and the productive flowering ruin of cities and bodies. Returning with the end of the performance to more conventional description, the short review performatively enacts the potential for drone music to evoke, challenge, and explore an imaginative aesthetics of environmental sound.