The role of loudspeakers and microphones – as technologies of sound reproduction – and the way they materially imprint the sonorous circumstances they produce is frequently unacknowledged.
In the cinema we might hear the sound of a cloth as it rubs against the skin with the same volume of a glass crashing into the ground. This is possible thanks to the massive amplification of tiniest sound phenomena, even those we wouldn’t be able to perceive in everyday circumstances. This is an unnatural circumstance that nonetheless doesn’t shock us, because these and other frequent manipulations of audio technology are a regular feature of the auditory experience of film and audiovisual media.
Sound scholar Seth Kim-Cohen signals the historical conditions that prompted a “new embodiment of sonic space” as it unraveled in “Muddy Waters’ 1948 recording of I feel like going home”. His observation is that this recording “sets a precedent for a sound condition that will determine a great deal of our implications of hearing from then on. An individual microphone is dedicated to each of the instruments: [voice, bass, guitar] or, more accurately, the guitar amplifier)”. This “new embodiment” alludes to the conflation of spatial conditions physically impossible to be heard simultaneously – those produced at the point of audition of each pairing of microphone and instrument – as one single acoustic signal. Such spatial coalescence becomes specific (and prototypical) of audio recording processes from then on. 1
Sound Theory (The Clouds) acts upon the acoustic through disassembling the frontal and immersive quality of sound staging practices. It prompts questions such as: How does the imprint of sound mediation techniques prompt a diverse embodied experience of sound? how do the processes of recording and reproducing might render a sonorous circumstance as a fiction or as a testimony?