Sound Art and The Public Auditory Awareness

Essay published at HertZ Magazine

Sound is the mechanical disturbance of a media provoked by an element in vibration. Its presence is subject to the existence of a media, such as gases inside planetary atmospheres.
Light is the complex electromagnetic radiation provoked by a photon. It exists throughout the entire universe including all that is within it.
Sound is the ubiquitous extension of events, which announces its presence to living creatures.
Light constitutes the visual counterpart to the vital power of heat. It is related to the creation of the cosmos and the conception of life.

It is irresistible to examine the hierarchy of these two universal medias, the cosmic relevance of light over the planetary relevance of sound. It reasons that humans are physically conditioned to this order; naturally established to give privilege to forms over events, to images rather than sounds. However, this disposition adjusts throughout time according to a cultural tendency. From the Renaissance till today, vision has been the privileged field in perception, and thanks to industrial development and technological abuse (both of information and communication), this favoritism keeps growing. The world is being represented and exposed mainly in images, which attract and impose on our conscious focus of attention through publicity, television or Internet. The ocular-centrism in our culture modifies and exaggerates the perception we have of the world. The postponing of the development of our auditory sense and the ignorance of its mechanisms creates a general, unconscious tolerance to acoustic contamination, a permission to devices of power, control and sound manipulation (sirens, alarms & muzak) and to the imprecise handling of our acoustic environment.

In practice, there have been various forms of sound activism with the intent to confront, instruct and expound upon the problem of auditory consciousness in society. Since the famous first book, The Tuning of the World (1977) by Murray Schaeffer, these have become practical concerns. The book deals with the imperialist and indiscriminate sounds of the cities, its impact on our lives, how to anticipate it and even how to use it in a positive way. As a diverse practice, Sound Art is recognized for being a working part of this eco-acoustic team. It is this relation that I will expound upon in this text, i.e. the connection between Sound Art and public auditory sensibilities.

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