The Sonic Persona

An Anthropology of Sound


Holger Schulze, The Sonic Persona. An Anthropology of Sound, Bloomsbury Press New York 2018. 272 pages, EUR 28,99.

»From Hermann von Helmholtz to Miley Cyrus, from Fluxus to the Arab Spring, from wave field synthesis to otoacoustic emissions, from premillennial club culture to post-democratic authoritarianism, from signal processing to human echolocation:
a research expedition to the sonic personae of humanoid aliens—their sensory corpuses, their auditory dispositives, and their elaborate precision of sensibility.«

In The Sonic Persona, Holger Schulze undertakes a critical study of some of the most influential studies in sound since the 19th century in the natural sciences, the engineering sciences, and in media theory, confronting them with contemporary artistic practices, with experimental critique, and with disturbing sonic experiences.

From Hermann von Helmholtz to Miley Cyrus, from FLUXUS to the Arab Spring, from Wavefield Synthesis to otoacoustic emissions, from premillennial clubculture to postdemocratic authoritarianism, from signal processing to human echolocation: This book presents a fundamental critique concerning recent sound theories and their anthropological concepts – and proposes an alternate, a more plastic, a visceral framework for research in the field of a cultural anthropology of sounding and listening.

This anthropology of sound takes its readers and listeners on a research expedition to the multitude of alien humanoids and their surprising sonic personae: in dynamic and generative tension between predetermined auditory dispositives, miniscule and not seldomly ignored sound practices, and idiosyncratic sensory corpuses: a critique of the senses.

»I’m going to prove the impossible really exists.«

Table of Content

PART ONE The materialization of sound: A research history

1 Quantifying sound
Pro tools and the phonautograph
1863: Writing Helmholtz
1929: Fletcher’s weirdness
1954: Experience by Beranek
Projections in the pavilion

2 Materializing listening
Destroying instruments, discovering ambient
1962: Sound in flux
1970: Baudry’s dispositif
2008: Beyond Aufführungspraxis
Dispositives of surround sound

3 Corporealizing the senses
Into darkness
1985: Serres’s syrrhesis
1992: Tension in Nancy
1998: Eshun and the senses
New sensory materialism

PART TWO The sonic persona: An anthropology of sound

4 In auditory dispositives
The microphone as poem
Scarce signals
The Apparatus Canto
Dispositive’s capitalization

5 The sonic persona
Sonic traces
Idiosyncratic implex
The sonic persona
Varying experientiality
Anthropology of sound

6 A sensory corpus
The material percepts
Corpus in situ
A generative sensorium
Corporeal epistemologies
The listening body

PART THREE The precision of sensibility: A political critique

7 The precision of sensibility
Sensory critique
Apparatuses naturalized
The precision of sensibility

8 Resistance and resonance
Zeige deine Wunden
No response
Erratic heuristics
Noise as presence
Persona resista

9 Generativity
Im Erwachten Garten
Sensory syncope
Synaptic Island

Further reading:

[To be added]