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Sound Scripts

Sound Scripts

Article Title

Sonic Pleasure, Absence and the History of the Self: An Alternative Approach to the Criticism of Sound Art

Authors

Abstract

Historical, psychoanalytic and cinema criticism have characterised the history of Western modernity and the individual subject as founded upon an affective lack. Pleasure is solicited by the promise of fullness, but this is never fulfilled, fuelling further desire. Sound art however is more typically theorised as inherently present and immersive, as a form that offers direct experience, which literally touches the subject. I draw upon the work of Jonathan Sterne, Steven Connor, psychoanalysis and film criticism to rearticulate not just modernist media and subjectivity as characterised by lack and absence, but the perception of aestheticised sound. Starting with an analysis of influential seventeenth century audiovisual theorist Athanasius Kircher, I sketch a history of the self and media where pleasure is solicited and threatened by subjective absence and lack, in which the aesthetics of Romanticism, absolute music, Alvin Lucier, Noise artists (Justice Yeldham), feminist sound poets (Amanda Stewart), the New Music Ensemble Decibel (director Cat Hope) and others are implicated.

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