Notes for Steve Goodman Sonic Warfare
Key concepts: deja entendu, earworm, exteroception, granular synthesis, synesthetic.
Related theorists: Erik Davis, Brian Massumi.
2001: What is Sonic Warfare?
Goodman looks to primacy of synesthetic due to the presence of the beyond of perceptible sound thresholds (infra and ultra sonic); also question of how many sounds can be perceived, decoded, and listened to at once.
Book chapters titled in style of 1000 Plateaus jumping around to various significant years.
(9) Some attempts have refocused phenomenologically around the concept of audition. However, probing deeper than the merely auditory, the vibratory materialism developed here focuses, before human hearing, on the primacy of the synesthetic. . . . Any definition of sonic culture must synesthetically take into account that which exceeds unisensory perception, that which impresses on but is exterior to the sonic. . . . On the frequency spectrum, bounding the thresholds of perceptible sound (above 20 hertz and below 20 kilohertz), where sonic perception becomes intermodal or defunct, lies infrasonic and ultrasonic wave phenomena.
Acoustic cyberspace model of Erik Davis may begin with positionality also implicit in vision perspectivality, so nearby sonic transducers simulated in a binary (all the way to bipolar, digital to analog) left and right channel simulating 360 degree as two 180 degree halves representing stereoscopic vision. That is my version of a “polyrhythmic nexus of acoustic space” and “acoustic cyberspace.” Clearly need to study Erik Davis.
(14) In his key late 1990s essays reframing the concept of “acoustic cyberspace,” Erik Davis described how contemporary conceptions of virtual reality were trapped in a visual model of space inherited in particular from Descartes's split between the mind and the body, whereby the self transcends space, is detached from it, surveys it panoptically, as a disembodied vision machine (where “I” is synonymous with “eye”). . . . Instead, Davis, in parallel to Kodwo Eshun's analysis in More Brilliant Than the Sun, drew from the polyrhythmic nexus of acoustic space, in order to develop an alternative version of virtual space, one that is sonic but, more than that, is essentially invasive, resonant, vibratory, and immersive. In this vibrational ecology, the sensual mathematics of a rhythmachine possesses the affective sensorium, inserting itself amodally (between the senses), generating a polyrhythmic nexus.
1842: Sonic Effects
Synesthesia is primary to exteroception.
(47) Sonic warfare therefore is concerned with the generation, modulation, and dampening of vibrational carrier waves of sonic affect. . . . If amodality is taken to ontologically precede the designation of a sensation to a specific exteroceptive sensory channel (the five senses), then the clinical conception of synesthesia would have to be inverted from pathological condition to foundational of the affective sensorium. . . . Interestingly, many ascribe to the sonic a strange intermediary sensory role. Deleuze and Guattari . . . Stepen Connor . . . Michel Chion.
On a completely different level are the three modes of listening Barthes offers: Goodman zone of transensorial, visceral perception positions synesthesia at the lowest, alarm level; consider it from the perspective of someone long steeped in reading Plato exposed to the synesthesia of symposia.
(48) In any sonic experience therefore, it is primarily the vibrational (microrhythmic) nexus of sensory modalities that constitutes an encounter. . . . Where there is a visceral perception initiated by a sound and in a split-second the body is activated by the sonic trigger, then the gut reaction is preempting consciousness. Interwoven with the proprioception of the feeling of the moving relations of the body, a tactility facing toward, the affective sensorium as polyrhythmic nexus is a synesthetic synthesizer. For Massumi, synesthesia constitutes the perspective of the virtual. . . . This tension between transensoriality and the sonic produces the concept of unsound, the not yet audible, the dimension of sonic virtuality.
1946: Virtual Vibrations
Critique of analog by Massumi.
In a provocative essay, “The Superiority of the Analog,” Brian
Massumi attempts to strip away some of the hype of the digital,
arguing that the analog is always
on fold ahead.
Massumi reminds us that there is actually no such thing as digital
sound, whether generated on or off a computer; it it is audible, it
must be analog. Digital code is audible only after it is transduced
into sound waves. With theorists such as Pierre Levy, Massumi wants
to cleave apart the erroneous equation of the digital with the
virtual. Instead the virtual is defined as potential, while the
digital can only tend toward an already coded, and therefore
predetermined, range of possibility. . . . Typical objections to the
ontology of digital temporality share much with the philosophy of
(118-119) [quoting Evans] In the case of sound digitization, a sound is divided into small chunks of time (samples), and each sample is evaluated by measuring the air pressure at that point in time. . . . A first articulation of parts and a second of values. . . . the actual is not a neat sequence of frozen or static moments but an irreducible complex process that cannot be cleanly articulated in time or space.
Goodman produces a tough description of VR, not considering leveraging capabilities of machinic intelligence articulated by Reddell.
(119) For Evans, something is lost in this transition from the fullness of the analog to the exact partiality of the digital. . . . “The digital has a resolution, and detail finer than this resolution is ignored by the digital's ordered thresholds.” The analog, on the other hand, for Evans, as a variable continuum, is fuzzy, and responsive – any operation performed on it transforms it. . . . it is “rather a productive difference, a not-yet-determined, an ontological fuzziness inherent to actuality itself. Difference as productive cannot be digitalized. The processual nature of the actual, and its generation of singularity, must exceed its capture.
Interesting functionalist equivocation of neural nets and embodiment; good definition of VR that also hints at Kittler, whom Goodman has cited many times in the first half of the book.
If the digital is to provide access to the virtual, then it would
have to “produce unforeseen results using feedback mechanisms to
create resonance and interference between routines.” A virtual
digitality would have to integrate the analog “into itself
(bio-muscular robots and the like), by translating itself into the
other evolutionary systems), or again by multiplying and intensifying
its relays into and out of the analog (ubiquitous
(120) The narrowband of humanoid audio perception is a fold on the discontinuum of vibration. On this field, the musical distinction between rhythm (infrasonic frequencies) and pitch (audible frequencies) dissolves, each merely constituting bands on the frequency spectrum. This vibrational discontinuum can be mapped as molecular texturhythm. . . . This is the plane of microsonic turbulence explored by contemporary digital sound design.
Grains of sound like Derrida bites?
(120-121) No longer should sonic matter be conceived purely in terms of waveforms, but now also in terms of grains of sound.
Micro timescale sound recording = ME/ATemporality through very impressive explanation and argumentation; seems related to Derrida, Kittler, and other dominant signifiers in my galaxy of meaning.
(121) Perhaps, contra the “superiority of the analog” thesis, the digital encoding of sound at the micro-timescale has opened untold sonic potentials in terms of textural invention, a surplus value over analog processing. . . . At a fundamental level, in its slicing of sonic matter into a multiplicity of freeze frames, digital samples treat analog continuity as bytes of numerically coded sonic time and intensity, grains that may or may not assume the consistency of tone fusion, the sonic equivalent of the persistence of vision.
This is a wild thought that takes a while to get: granular synthesis can demonstrate the lengthening of the event using text to speech data.
(121-122) In granular synthesis, discreet digital particles of time are modulated and sonic matter synthesized at the quantum level. In analog processing, to lower the pitch of a sound event adds to the length of the event. . . . Time stretching, however, facilitates the manipulation of the length of a sonic event while maintaining its pitch, and vice versa.
The book logically should change titles here if starting from the beginning; unsure what its rhetorical effect is supposed to be besides offering a study of its crossing into the always imagined future. Maybe I should stop reading until next year. Not sure I totally like the date jumping method.
(122) A too quick dismissal of the digital, articulated without an exploration of the numerical dimensions of the virtual at work in mathematical problematics and in popular numeracy, risks falling back into a phenomenological fetishization of the emergent plentitude of the analog. What is required is an affective calculus of quantum rhythm. Such a calculus would map the rhythmic oscillations that vibrate the microsonic, and the molecular turbulence these generate, a spiral that scales up through the nexus of the analog and digital (a sonic plexus) – its codes and networks of affective contagion. Sonic warfare becomes a sensual mathematics.
2012: Artificial Acoustic Agencies
1971: The Earworm
(146) Branding has gone preemptive in the move from product to pattern, swooping down to capture the interval between code traces and network profiling. This is the full-spectrum dominance of multidimensional synesthetic branding, operating in the gaps between sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell.
Earworm catchy tune that gets stuck in your head.
(147) A commonly cited species within memetics, the earworm is the catchy tune that you cannot get out of your head, the vocal refrain, the infectious rhythm or the addictive riff.
(150) Branding increasingly makes use of such memory glitches in which the distinction between past, present, and future becomes blurred.
Compare deja entendu to being more familiar with the written translation while hearing for the confusedly first time the original Greek text in one of the periphery concurrent auditory channels of symposia.
(150) In this process of switching, a synesthetic surplus value is produced, and it is this surplus that makes acoustic time anomalies in sampladelic culture such a common occurrence. The more commonplace version of this involves accidentally stumbling across an original track when you are much more acquainted with its sampled riffs or vocal phrases populating another piece of music.
Again a different approach to the virtual as not-yet-determined, a place of synestheisa prior to differentiation into discernable perception.
(204 n14) Massumi understands affect as the intermodal, synesthetic perspective of the virtual.
Goodman, Steve. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2010. Print.