Marina Sudo finished her PhD research on noise music in October 2021. She has been a regular visitor of our library and wants to share her enthusiasm for one particular book from our collection:
Michel Chion. Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise. Translated by James Steintrager. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.
Sound is the essence and the most fundamental component of music. Despite this fact, we rarely think about sound itself. This is probably because the primary interest of our musical listening and understanding often lies in decoding a stream of sounds and the relationship between them—melody, rhythm or harmony, for instance—rather than isolated sound entities. Michel Chion’s Sound provides a perfect opportunity to reflect upon our encounter with sound in the context of music, speech, films or everyday soundscapes.
Sound becomes meaningful only when we draw attention to it and try to understand it. It is therefore hardly surprising that questions of sound need to be pondered as questions of listening. Listening is a complex perceptive process that is deeply connected to our consciousness, memory, language or cultural background. Whilst discussing the relationship between sound and technology, cultural/historical contexts, language or visual images, Chion continuously encourages readers to think about how we might be able to open our ears to new sounds and how we can be more informed, empowered listeners and reflective perceivers of the world.
Chion’s philosophy of sound and practical theory of listening was a great source of inspiration during my doctoral research on noise music. Noise cannot be approached by using familiar musical reference points, and as such I had to find my own way to analyse it. Chion’s book provided a useful guide by teaching me the importance of transcending prior assumptions about “(proper) musical sounds”, directly engaging with sound in the space and observing its physical property. Although I have now finished my doctoral research, the challenge of listening continues—there is no end to the journey of expanding and refining one’s listening capabilities.