In Krystof Wodiczko's striking installation Out of Here: The Veterans Project, currently on view at the ICA in Boston, choppers roar overhead. People scream in the distance. Glass breaks and shatters on the floor. The viewer can see almost nothing; the large room is dark, except for a few windows high above, created by a row of video projections. The view from these windows is obscured; the piece is as much about what you can't see than what you do see. But even more importantly, the piece is about what you hear--and what you can't hear. The chants of an imam become the sounds of women wailing. Gunshots begin to fire sporadically. Military officers yell harsh commands. The rumble of bass—a swarm of Humvees in the distance, drawing closer—gets louder and more threatening. The longer you stay in the room, immersed in the increasing racket, the more palpable the sense of dread becomes. The harrowing sounds of war are not simply about the sounds themselves, but the spaces in between.
In the intriguing new book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear [MIT Press], Steve Goodman explores the power of sound as a tactic of irritation, intimidation, or even permanent harm. Goodman analyzes "environments, or ecologies, in which sound contributes to an immersive atmosphere or ambience of fear and dread--where sound helps produce a bad vibe."