Corpus – dispositive – persona: formants of an anthropology of sound
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 entry point for the exploration of sensibilities, corporealities and idiosyncrasies of all those humanoid protagonists present in a listening situation.
This article 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 exclude or even to reduce – 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 the impact of sound, the role of technology, the phenomenology of music and the listening experience.
This article is an edited transcript of a keynote lecture given at the conference Musikforskning idag at Uppsala University, Sweden, 13–15 June 2018. The conference was arranged by the Swedish Society for Musicology and the lecture was sponsored by the Tobias Norlind-samfundet för musikforskning.
Corpus; dispositive; persona; anthropology; sound.