An Almanac of Sound Words


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How do you speak about sound? This core question of sound studies and of artistic approaches around sound is probably troubling listeners and sound aficionados since the beginning of hearing – and it might actually never be resolved within the research frameworks of the cultures you and I inhabit, embody, and perform right now. However, the efforts to collect the words and idioms and vocalizations with which one might communicate a sonic experience, they never cease. Humanoid aliens like you and me, we love and we enjoy speaking about sound. It is simply a thing.

One of the most recent efforts to investigate the language for sounds and to collect sound words comes from German media and sound studies scholar Bernd Herzogenrath. Since 2017 he published together with Patricia Pisters a series of impressive volumes in their new Thinking Media-series – for instance on Sonic Thinking, on Media Matter or on Society After Money. Volumes that bridge the gaps between an English- and a German-language media studies discourse, between new materialisms and critical theory, as well as between cultural studies and sound and and sensory studies. Now he is planning an almanac of sound words.

For this endeavour he addresses:

mainly sound artists for whom English is not the first language, to contribute such a word or concept in their own mother-tongue (maybe even untranslatable) with a personal, explanatory, poetic entry – words that have the potential to maybe even change our perspective on listening- musicking-thinking … and if English words, then non-standard English, for example Welch, Gaelic, different dialects words. (Email by Bernd Herzogenrath)

These sound words should be „words related to sound – onomatopoetical, mythological, practical, etc., words of personal importance to you and your craft, words from your memory“ (ibid)

So, if you are interested in contributing, please get in touch by mail with Bernd in the next weeks, until New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2019). Depending on how many contributors propose their entries, the inividual contributions will either consist of (short) essays, or dictionary-style entries.

Short proposals are then due by ***March 15, 2020*** – and the final contributions should be handed in by the end of 2021. The publication would then be released in summer 2022.

Is there one sound word of yours that immediately comes to mind?

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