Brandon LaBelle

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Acoustic Territories

I’m interested to take seriously the challenging and enriching verve of sonic materiality and the diverse experiences of auditory phenomena. To do so, I hope to follow sound as it comes to impart meaningful exchanges against the singular body, and further, how it locates such a body within a greater social weave. From my perspective, sound operates as an emergent community, stitching together bodies that do not necessarily search for each other, and forcing them into proximity. Such movements in turn come to build out a spatiality that is both coherent and divergent – acoustic spatiality is a lesson in negotiation, for it splits apart while also mending; it disrupts the lines between an inside and outside, pulling into its thrust the private and the public to ultimately remake notions of difference and commonality. All these sonic movements and behaviours must be taken as indicating a particular and unique paradigmatic structure: sound as an epistemic matrix generating specific spatial coordinates, social mixes, and bodily perceptions.

Following the details of this paradigmatic structure, what kind of language might begin to surface, as means to describe or to think through where we are in the midst of sonic culture?

Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (Continuum Books, 2010) is a new publication in which I have explored the features of this auditory paradigm. My focus is on how sound comes to circulate through the built environment, to condition architectural spaces, and to form the basis for social and cultural projects. Each chapter sets out to query particular sites or topographies, such as underground spaces, the street or the home, investigating how sound lends to experiences of place. This is further explored by considering place according to particular sonic figures or behaviour. Understandings of echo, vibration, feedback, rhythm, silence, noise and transmission are used to investigate and unfold particular auditory histories and cultural narratives, and to detail the sonic geographies of everyday life. Importantly, it has been my interest to engage the politics of sound culture: how does sound participate within forms of resistance, and how might acts of listening influence understandings of community, difference, and the future city?

Acoustic Territories is the result of a post-doctoral fellowship, at the University of Copenhagen, Modern Culture department, 2006 - 09. Subsequently, I taught a year-long course on the subject, alongside Prof Doris Kolesch, at the Free University, Berlin, 2009. The research project continues in the form of installation projects, particularly, "Temporary Outpost for an Auditory Figure" which appears as an archival installation compiling related research materials, documents, videos and audio works, in addition to a composed five-channel audio work.

For more information on the publication, see Acoustic Territories.