Audible Matter / Wave #4 ESSAY April 2021

Editor's Note #4

[1] “If the river groans, it’s because it carries stones.”

A variation of a popular saying goes “Si el río suena, es porque piedras lleva,” [1] conceding rumor mills as a valid source of knowledge. If many people speak about the same thing with a minimal consensus, there must be an underlying truth to be discovered. Rumors are the encounter of sonic energy and social language.

The entanglement of knowledge and sound is to be understood from within the intimacy of situated collectivities and their relation to the audible. Sound is mediated, translated and negotiated collectively from where systems of non-Western knowledge take shape. The river groans because its materiality is in friction with the world.

Audible Matter, the title of our second Current, aims to think about the conjuncture of soundings and knowing-the-world through an audible experience. Contrary to a reduction of sound to cognitive human processes, we take inspiration in the anthropologist Steven Feld’s work on Acoustemology, considering situated knowledge and social systems that act with the world, and whose knowledge is based in collective memory, anti-colonial resistance and non-human kinship. The notion of knowledge is activated through the de-substantialization of sound, acting as ontological relationality, a sound that is simultaneously situated and fugitive and exists always in relation to others.

With our next set of Waves, we will respond to questions such as: How is sound mediated and translated? How does it shape indigenous epistemologies in tandem with the non-human world? How does the audible engage with the enigmas of silence and infrasonic registers of sound? Where do culture and the materiality of sound find each other? How do the sounds of trans-Atlantic waves pummeling stones into sand build upon a philosophical and existential experience?
We are beginning our exploration of Audible Matter by focusing on these types of questions. Our Wave #4 features sound artists, experimental composers, filmmakers, writers, musicians, scholars and artists.

Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s contribution to Infrasonica’s 4th Wave, The Sonic Image, uses voice over, text and imagery to weave together a recount of biopolitical sonic technologies of race segregation and migratory policies through the analysis of LADO (Language Analysis for the Determination of Origin)–– a voice recognition technology implemented in Western countries to trace the accent on asylum seekers. In his accompanying essay, Abu Hamdan also looks into sound as a methodology for the constitutions of images by examining the history of Bassel, who believes himself to be the reincarnation of Yousef al Jowhary, a child soldier who died at 16 during the 1984 Chouf War in Bhamdoun.

We are thrilled to introduce part one of two installations of Sound Calamity by Moad Musbahi, a sonic essay that through five pieces examines different aspects of Islam’s relationship and reliance on the power of sound and the human voice to understand the cultural and semantic configurations of Islam, entwined in the layers of meaning and performativity. Each part delves into the specifics of a nuanced topic, culminating in a final, deafening blast.

Arjuna Neuman’s contribution to Wave #4, Multi-Cultural Dread tracks the power of underground musical movements through the Jungle scene in London’s Jamaican community, taking aim at a neoliberal culture that obliterates Black and brown voices and bodies. The result is what Neuman calls a mixtape-essay; a vertiginous and deliriant conjuncture of music, text and image that demands to be witnessed.

Red Culebra’s 4 Cycles+1 is an invocation configured by live sound composition performed by the duet Guillermo Galindo and Cristóbal Martinez, whose fluidity moves in collaboration with performers and the active engagement of the audience. The duo engages with endurance, repetition and forms of sonic synthesis that play on fugitive sounds that exist in the immanence of the communities it engages with. As they put it: “For us, modifying terms and conditions provide pathways for seeing and sensing the world that might escape some of the corruptions of capitalism that almost always find a way to seep in. This is why we try so hard to listen to each other, bring our audiences in as participants and hold new performative moments for as long as we can.”

Through a bold exploration of the work of Mmakgabo Mapula Helen Sebidi’s A Girl Meets Her Spirit Parents (2014-15), Portia Malatjie connects with her own community kinship, finding within Sebidi’s work traces of her own intellectual and sensitive endeavors. This is an essay written with intellectual subversive rigor and the sensibility of someone open to listening to The Sound that Fish Make.

The 4th Wave track is Chacarera del Tiempo by the Argentinian electronic duo Kermesse, which consists of Pedro and Gurtz. The string-heavy, up-tempo track layers long stretches of instrumentals, electrobeats and alluring vocals that brilliantly sets the tone for our new Current.

We hope you enjoy these works as the collaborators join our expanding community around the world whose work continues to push the boundaries of artistic research, sound art, sonic experimentation, music composition and theory production in unexpected and thrilling ways.

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