The Political Possibility of Sound

Sonic knowledge, the knowledge of the invisible and what remains unheard...

The Political Possibility of Sound
Salomé Voegelin

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.

2018, Bloomsbury

“Sound as a concept invites us into the materiality of things, not to deny the visual but to augment how we might see; and it transgresses the boundaries between the object, the thing looked at, and the space and context of its appreciation, introducing a sense of simultaneity instead of pre-existence, and promoting the reading and experiencing of things as agitational, interventionist, multisensory and capacious.”

“…the ephemeral mobility and generative nature of sound can open the narrow confines of politics to different political possibilities. The unseen is uncertain, unreliable and incomplete, and thus it invites a quasi-medieval view of the relationship between reality and reason, where reality is not a visible status but an invisible zone within which perception passes through imagination and emotions and is touched by the possibility of phantasms, which deliver it not into trivial fiction, but into the power of creative desire and hope.”

“The actions of sonic possibility, charged with emotions and imagination, enable the re-imagination of a political practice and its material truth: determining how else politics could be instituted and how else the truth of a community, the shared practice of living, might be effected. Sound’s mobile and ephemeral constitution enables and motivates this echographic practice of inclusion: including the formless, the invisible and the barely audible, the unfamiliar and the affective in the generation of knowledge and the knowable. Knowledge is a fundamental engine of political change and transformation. Sonic knowledge, the knowledge of the invisible and what remains unheard, opens politics, political actions, decisions and institutions to the plural slices of this world.”

“Listening has an exploratory capacity that does not seek to know about the world but approaches learning as a practice, as a physical and continuous effort to understand momentarily and always again how to live in the between-of-things. Its aim is not to know definitively, but to engage through doubt in a temporary and sensorial knowing.”


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