When Edison made the first recording, the deaf man reciting Mary Had a Little
Lamb for the child he could scarcely hear, he instantly doubled the quantity of
sounds in the world.
Nowadays the sound environment is almost entirely non-natural.
Making a noise is a mark of power. The legal right to use sirens or drill holes
in the road or fly Concorde over suburban sprawls belongs to those who can
afford it or who make the rules.
Making a noise is a mark of rebellion. It is a refusal of socially conformed
standards which allow only the powerful to make a din. It is a territorial
Only recording makes silence possible.
To make sense of sound, the 20th century has used two tools: information and
Early sound films are information-led. They are narratives driven by the
passionate pursuit of absolute knowledge. Their vehicle is dialogue, and music
and sound FX are subordinated to the script.
Russolo's futurist noise-music (the intuonorumori) and Cage's 4 minutes 33
seconds have reinvented music as the ambition to supercede information with
The Cage experience of music is the experience of space (the sound environment)
as time (the duration of the piece).
Nowadays, the film soundtrack is becoming musical.
In new cinema, Dolby/THX and foley function as musical elements. These films
have subordinated information to the experience of fictional worlds.
No one ever remembered the plot of a *Batman* film. Everyone remembers Gotham
Fictional worlds are better business than narratives. They are machines for
generating narratives. That is why there is no *Mutiny on the Bounty* videogame.
Film is a time-based medium. You can only explore its world in one direction.
Space is subordinated to time. This is why so many new films are musicals, even
if no one sings.
At the Kolnischer Kunstverein a few years back, for a retrospect of video
installation, visitors were given headsets which switched from one soundtrack to
another when you moved from area to area. Most people hated it. Because the
headset is a Cartesian device: I hear, therefore I am. It invents a pure
individuality listening at a midpoint between the ears.
Installation sound is for moving through. Installation sound is
Installation sound is spatial.
Installation sound is social. (Unless you wear a headset).
These are the domains of recorded sound: information, time and space.
But in the year of the invention of recording, there was also the invention of
telephony. Fully implicated in the development of radio, transmitted sound is
Transmitted sound is geographical.
Transmitted sound is interruptable. (In principle: radio lost most of its
two-way capability through the exercise of telecoms monopolies at the turn of
Trasnmitted sound is (in principle) social.
What is net sound like?
I am looking for sites that might escape from the parameters of the
information/music binary to the dialectical step beyond. Most of what I have
found is informational (tunes and effects backing up visual messages). Some is
musical, encouraging a musical form of listening to sounds as the experience of
duration. Is there such a thing, if the net is really changing things, as a new
mode of hearing emergent? Or are we still at a convergent moment at which radio,
telephony and movie soundtracks are still shaking hands in cyberspace?
Any and all suggestions, critiques, earopeners and flames welcome.