Sounding the Dissolution

On September 1st, Giada Dalla Bontà started to work at the University of Copenhagen as a PhD researcher within the Sound Studies Lab. In her project she investigates the role of experimental sonic practices in the non-official art circles of late Soviet Union. Her guiding question is: What did the end of USSR sound like? This blogpost is her first on this website:

Sounding the Dissolution aims to fill a critical lacuna on an unexplored area of research, while also seeking to collect and preserve the heretofore unarchived material and testimonies. Being the first study dedicated to late Soviet underground sound art, the project aims to enrich and de-centralize a still Eurocentric field, while introducing Sound Studies and Sound Anthropology to the contemporary post-Soviet discourse. Beginning in the late 1970s-’91 in Russia to move towards more decentralised areas of the Soviet Empire, the project historically situates the impact of the decline of USSR ideology in order to identify the political significance of sound practices together with their concurrent cultural, artistic and sensorial ones.

A particular focus is given not only to the ability of sound to connect otherwise short-ranged underground circles and catalyze cross-pollination between artistic disciplines, but also to contribute to the erosion of political ideology in spite of its apolitical intention to solely ‘be and experience together’. This apparent political ambiguity is analyzed through the lens of cultural and political theory while interrogating the sensorial aspect of sonic experiences and the sonic fictions they generated through four case studies – ranging from conceptualist performative poetry to industrial rituals, electroacoustic experiments and the early raving culture.

This analysis also considers the role of corporeality and sonic fiction in sociopolitical dynamics, contemplating how ephemeral and idiosyncratic sonic experiences generate effects and affects in more tangible realms, even in contexts where unplugging from ideological dispositifs seems unimaginable. These dynamics of de- and re-territorializations from within the system allow to draw parallels and to expand the concepts of hypernormalization and Capitalist Realism in both synchronic and diachronic terms.

With the aim to establish the foundation for a future archive on late Soviet sound art, Sounding the Dissolution includes also primary sources such as audio interviews and fieldwork in order to deploy the concept of sonic fiction as both a tool and object of inquiry: besides considering the effects of affectivity and atmosphere, sonic fictions are examined as spaces of invention and desire-production; ultimately, processes able to de- and re-territorialize the empty yet inescapable rituals of hypernormalized dispositifs.