Sound Leads Elsewhere

Authored by: Douglas Kahn

The Routledge Companion to Sounding Art

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138780613
eBook ISBN: 9781315770567
Adobe ISBN: 9781317672777


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While working on his collection Sound Studies Reader, Jonathan Sterne asked me to paraphrase part of a conversation we had in Berlin in 2008. The number of studies on sound had grown significantly, appearing in and cutting across different institutional and intellectual contexts; the momentum had already congealed into sound studies and there was no sign of things slowing down. We had been there at an earlier stage and were wondering where it all might lead. The drives that animated early works to create discursive spaces for sound, where there had previously been none, were responsible in their way for understanding innumerable topics intersecting with sound, listening, the voice, etc., as well as opening areas unlikely to have been examined otherwise. It seemed important to sustain whatever it was that drove those drives, even if that meant steering past any cul-de-sac that might develop called “sound” or “sound studies.” At least that is how I remembered it. So I wrote: “ ‘sound,’ rather than being a destination, has been a potent and necessary means for accessing and understanding the world; in effect, it leads away from itself. A very nebulous notion of methodology, but also something that kicks in before methodology” (Sterne 2012: 6). Let’s abbreviate that to sound leads elsewhere.

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