Sound Thinking Conference

30.05. – 01.06.2013
Goethe University Frankfurt

This project serves two conjunct purposes: on the one hand it wants to develop a sonic philosophy that takes music serious as a ‘form of thinking’ [and that might revise our notion of what ‘thinking’ means]. On the other hand, it aims to bring this approach into a fertile symbiosis with the concepts and practices of ‘artistic research:’ art, philosophy, and science as heterogeneous, yet coequal forms of thinking and researching.

The debate about the sphere of sound is presently carried out with high intensity. The emerging field of research ‘Sound Studies’ is primarily discussed in the humanities and social sciences – the ‘Acoustic Turn’ is tackled with the means of cultural sciences and semiotics. These disciplines, however, deal with sound more often than not in the field of its ‘cultural meaning’ (for the composer, for the constitution of national or ethnic identities, etc.). Sound and music always mean, and the meaning is found or discovered by understanding sound and music as ‘mere practices,’ the theory of which has to be imported from elsewhere – thinking about sound.

As mediated by John Cage, a better part of the American musical avant-garde refers to the philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who conducted sound experiments at Walden Pond in the mid-19th Century. In his Journals Thoreau writes: “Now I see the beauty and full meaning of that word ‘sound.’ Nature always possesses a certain sonorousness, as in the hum of insects, the booming of ice … which indicates her sound state.” The pun on ‘sound’ as acoustic sound and ‘sound’ as a state of health even calls for a reference to Thoreau’s dictum “in wildness is the preservation of the world” [from his essay ‘Walking’]. Here ‘wildness’ refers to the untamed but also to anything that resists representation and any static thinking of identity: the continuous self-differentiation of the world, its growing, its dynamics, its processuality – here lies its ‘soundness’ and also the ‘essence’ of sound. Thus ‘sound thinking’ does not only imply ‘the thinking of sound,’ but also ‘healthy thinking,’ or, as Deleuze puts it: a thinking that rightfully earns its name: a thinking that does not derive its parameters|concepts from an exterior ‘verified knowledge’ [Deleuze calls this ‘recognition’] in order to adapt the object of investigation to these parameters, but rather a thinking that develops its very concepts from the examination of the object of investigation [Deleuze calls this ‘encounter’]: here – a thinking with and by means of sound (not a thinking about sound), which eventually does not deal with the question what music is, but rather what music can [become]. And from this vantage point research and art, theory and practice, are coextensive.