The "sonic turn" in recent art reflects a wider cultural awareness that sight no longer dominates our perception or understanding of contemporary reality. The background buzz of myriad mechanically reproduced sounds increasingly mediates our lives. Tuning into this incessant auditory stimulus, some of our most influential artists have investigated the corporeal, cultural, and political resonance of sound.
Hearing has traditionally been regarded as the second sense—as somehow less rational and less modern than the first sense, sight. Reason and Resonance explodes this myth by reconstructing the process through which the ear came to play a central role in modern culture and rationality.
Music, language, and drama come together in opera to make a whole that conveys emotional reality. In this book, Irving Singer develops a new mode for understanding and experiencing the operas of Mozart and Beethoven, approaching them not as a musical technician but as a philosopher concerned with their expressive and mythic elements.
Sound can be deployed to produce discomfort, express a threat, or create an ambiance of fear or dread—to produce a bad vibe. Sonic weapons of this sort include the "psychoacoustic correction" aimed at Panama strongman Manuel Noriega by the U.S. Army and at the Branch Davidians in Waco by the FBI, sonic booms (or "sound bombs") over the Gaza Strip, and high-frequency rat repellents used against teenagers in malls.
From the mid-twentieth century into the twenty-first, artists and musicians manipulated, cracked, and broke audio media technologies to produce novel sounds and performances. Artists and musicians, including John Cage, Nam June Paik, Yasunao Tone, and Oval, pulled apart both playback devices (phonographs and compact disc players) and the recorded media (vinyl records and compact discs) to create an extended sound palette. In Cracked Media, Caleb Kelly explores how the deliberate utilization of the normally undesirable (a crack, a break) has become the site of productive creation.
The groundbreaking mix CD that accompanies this book features Nam Jun Paik, the Dada Movement, John Cage, Sonic Youth, and many other examples of avant-garde music. Most of the CD's content comes from the archives of Sub Rosa, a legendary record label that has been the benchmark for archival sounds since the beginnings of electronic music. (For a complete list of audio credits, see below.)
How human musical experience emerges from the audition of organized tones is a riddle of long standing. In The Musical Representation, Charles Nussbaum offers a philosophical naturalist's solution. Nussbaum founds his naturalistic theory of musical representation on the collusion between the physics of sound and the organization of the human mind-brain.
What does it mean to hear music in colors, to taste voices, to see each letter of the alphabet as a different color? These uncommon sensory experiences are examples of synesthesia, when two or more senses cooperate in perception. Once dismissed as imagination or delusion, metaphor or drug-induced hallucination, the experience of synesthesia has now been documented by scans of synesthetes' brains that show "crosstalk" between areas of the brain that do not normally communicate.
The art of sound organization, also known as electroacoustic music, uses sounds not available to traditional music making, including pre-recorded, synthesized, and processed sounds. The body of work of such sound-based music (which includes electroacoustic art music, turntable composition, computer games, and acoustic and digital sound installations) has developed more rapidly than its musicology.
In Music and Probability, David Temperley explores issues in music perception and cognition from a probabilistic perspective. The application of probabilistic ideas to music has been pursued only sporadically over the past four decades, but the time is ripe, Temperley argues, for a reconsideration of how probabilities shape music perception and even music itself.