Sonic Economies: Sound, Voice, Substance

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ACLA Annual Meeting, March 20-23, New York University
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If sound is a physical property, it is also at once a property of ambiguous physical effect, and an effect difficult to regulate as property. We speak of the weight or grip of a voice, the worth or substance of a song, of sound —environmental and linguistic, especially—as a thing to be lost, but also to be gained or regained. We speak, through the terms of new media and recording technology, of sound preservation and purification, of sonic hierarchies or dismantlings: mixing, splicing, sampling. Yet this investment in the materiality, or materialization, of sound is an uneasy one, at constant odds with what we know of sound's fragilities and invisibilities, its resistance to ownership, its tendencies toward corruption, disruption, and decay.

This seminar is interested in sounds and voices that circumvent, or appear to circumvent, their own tenuousness, making themselves available for apprehension or expenditure, reading, keeping. We welcome papers that engage with the intricate dynamics of assigning value to things heard or meant to be heard. What kinds of economies are involved in the claim to hear sound, on the one hand, and voice, on the other? Under what circumstances can certain sounds or acts of sound-making be perceived to outweigh or outvalue others? How does choice regulate our auditory experiences? How do the economies that govern "live" listening differ from the economies of "silent" reading? What kinds of ethics might be involved in the work of "capitalizing" on sounds and on voices?

Abstracts should be submitted through the ACLA website:

Please select "Sonic Economies: Sound, Voice, Substance" from the drop-down list of seminars. Deadline for proposals is November 15, 2013.

Contact seminar coordinator Serena Le (University of California, Berkeley) at with any questions.