In a recent Tweet, a friend of mine mentioned how the phrase ‘silence is violence’ could pose as a challenge to Sound Art if we started to consider how sound can be an action in itself, later arguing that she considers sound as a doing, or a verb. However, sound is clearly more than an active event, or the product of one, even despite its dependency on the actions that incite it. For in bringing us closer to the event and emphasise it, the sonic also physically and ontologically distances itself from its genesis, developing an individual ontology formed from multiplicities.
Without doubt, the challenging part of composing and thinking about sound is the moment of conceptualisation, not only due to sound’s existence as something ephemeral, but also because there is great tension between what a sound is made of, and what this in consequence might mean. In daily life, the sound of an object reaches our ears, and immediately we recognise its origin and on some occasions its cause, or if the sound is novel, how large and what material it might be composed of.
Immediately, thinking about sound outside of daily life, we are already faced with a multitude of complexities. Breaking a sound that occurs in general space into segments, we see how sound is composed of very distinct parts which flourish within its temporality. Let us imagine the sound of a glass breaking after accidentally being knocked off a table in a cafe. What we hear is not only the shattering of the glass on the concrete floor, but also the action that led to that event. Consequently, we hear how it interacts with the environment it is present in and at the very last moment, we hear it interacting with our ears or in the case of a sonic boom, how the acoustic wave interacts with our flesh and bone. Albeit an oversimplified example, we can start to appreciate sound as a composite, supple, and dynamic event, since the end result is an amalgamation of all the elements present at the moment of sounding.
Despite this, sound does exist because of the activity surrounding objects, some of which may cause a glass to fall off a table, or for a person to voice their concern, and yet, sound cannot be reduced to neither that action or its surrounding environment, nor to what has been heard through the body. What this makes evident is that the challenge to Sound Art is not to start applying sound as a verb to sounding objects, or to distance sound from the object completely –consider the non-sense of a phrase such as a sound sounding— but to start thinking about the sonic dynamically, as a vast interconnection of content, of which final assemblage we define as a distinct ontology: Sound.