THE SONIC PERSONA:
Formants of an Anthropology of Sound
Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC)
Queens University Belfast
Belfast BT9 5BQ
The Sonic Persona
Sound is a material, an energetic and invasive entity in one’s life. As a constituent in sensory experiences it is one of the major objects of research in an anthropology of the senses in general: it provides an entrypoint to explore sensibilities, corporealities and idiosyncrasies of all those humanoid protagonists present in a listening situation. This talk introduces three formants that shape an anthropology of sound: the sensory corpus, the auditory dispositive and the sonic persona. These three formants guide an approach to research on sounding and listening that intends not to reduce or even to exclude — but to stress and to focus on the materiality, the agency and the erratic existence of all those very soft machines (W.S. Burroughs) contributing to a given sonic experience. As a result the understanding of listening and sounding then moves away from a large number of assumed claims and truisms regarding sound’s impact, the role of technology, the phenomenology of music and the listening experience.