Jonathan Sterne in the book The Audible Past accounts for the conditions in which the birth of sound reproduction technologies at the end of the nineteenth century arose. He emphasizes there the transformations that, across the late nineteenth century, had taken place and had already altered the way listening was being performed.
Thus, new technologies of sound reproduction, apart from expanding the range of possible sound to be produced and proliferated, were part in the development of new competences and new sensibilities. Sterne elaborates on this emergence through what he labels Audile Technique. 1 p. 154]
As sound ceased to be necessarily anchored in a subject that produces it, new skills and modes of attending to sound ensued. These modes encompassed the ‘separation of hearing from the other senses’ as well as the ‘connection between sound, listening and rationality’ (p. 154), the ‘focus on detail’ (p.157), the possibility to conceive of a ‘reconstruction of acoustic space’ and the consolidation of a ‘private acoustic space’ (p.160). The disappearance of the subject as a necessary condition to which sound was attributed was thus essential for what Sterne also labels the shift towards a tympanic paradigm, in which the focus of technology moved towards the ear, prompting further alterations in the ways in which attention to sound developed later on.
Melissa van Drie on the birth of the Théâtrophone and the origin of new listening configurations
Brian Kane on Sterne’s Audile Techniques. Source: West Den Haag / Vimeo
Gabriel Paiuk (2021): Sound Theory (The Clouds)