Sound Theory (The Clouds)

Infrastructures of Imagination

In the theatre distances are not neutralized, they are ‘transfixed’. That is because even when in theatre a table is a table, the table is there not to fulfil a table-function but, fundamentally, to be sensorially experienced. The act of gazing, listening or “touching at a distance” becomes more important than the real distance that separates us from the table.

This transfixing act inhabits stages and screens from the Greek amphitheatre to the digital surfaces of mobile phones. These could be considered both as technical configurations and infrastructures where perception is modulated. In both cinema and music there are codes that steer how the spectator listens, how the sound is to be attended to and how the spectator locates itself in relation to the sound. Musical sound (in its habitual form) detaches our attention from the “material reality” of sound production: we are prompted to hear the pitch produced by the instrument and not the effort of the person doing it. On the other hand, cinema can ‘fictionalize’ incidental sound: we hear noises as an imaginary ‘out of screen’ field in the mind of a fictional character thanks to cinema’s montage operations. As such, each of these discplines ae informed by protocols and techniques which modulate how we listen.

As French philosopher Bernard Stiegler states, as “we perceive, most of the time, through the intermediary prostheses of perception”, the synthesis that we as subjects perform “stems from knowledge [we have] of the technical conditions of the image-object´s production”. In other words, it is the way we rely on the technologies we use that is the foundation of our perception.

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