Techniques of Listening and Acoustic Orders

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Virginia Tech


Contested interactions between social acoustic spaces and the appropriate methods of listening within them are pervasive in everyday life. This dissertation answers two questions within this expanding field of inquiry. How are sounds phenomenologically interpreted into perceptual categories? Why are these private categories reflected in shared acoustic space, configuring the possible conditions for future sounds? For the first, I propose a phenomenology of audition within which sounds are categorized into three modes: affective, symbolic, and excessive. This classification technique enables the perceptive listener to objectify, parse, interpret, and respond to the sounding world. Second, I argue that these categories are projected and reflected in the socio-political concept of "acoustic orders". Organizations of sound in social space emerge from the tensions between interpretive agents and pre-existing acoustic configurations; in return, the habits and techniques of auditors are fundamentally influenced by these acoustic orders. Henri Lefebvre's spatial theory will be utilized to develop this descriptive framework. The reciprocity outlined between listener and context suggests dual theoretical revisions. In the first part, phenomenology is shown to benefit from the inclusion of its socially generated influences. Alternately, I argue that acoustic orders exist in part because of spatial actions intended to resolve excessive perceptions into a unified experience.



Silence, Noise, Excess, Sociology of Acoustics, Phenomenology of Audition, Sound Studies