Experiences of listening can be appreciated as intensely relational, bringing us into contact with surrounding events and bodies, voices and things. Given that sound propagates and expands outwardly, as a set of oscillations from a particular source, listening carries with it a sensual intensity, whereby sonic events deliver intrusive and disruptive as well as nurturing and assuring experiences. Such a material force characteristic of sound suggests a deeply affective, locational knowledge path – that is, sound affords unique ways of exchanging, of being situated, and from which we often extend ourselves.  In this regard, sound and listening can be captured as providing a platform for understanding place and emplacement as processes.
 While I am arguing for sound and listening as the basis for particular views onto relationality, it is important to consider experiences of deafness and how Deaf culture has had to grapple with “audism”, or the politics of “audio supremacy”. Within arguments around the potentiality of listening, I see deafness as an important issue, one that can be critically addressed through an acoustic framework, as well as what offers a productive challenge to prevailing ideas of hearing ability. For more on this, see my publication Acoustic Justice: Listening, Performativity, and the Work of Reorientation (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021), especially chapter 4.
Such qualities of auditory experience give suggestion for what I may call an acoustical paradigm, which allows for defining more specifically how sound conditions or impacts the material state of things. I’m interested to consider the particularities of an acoustical paradigm and how it allows for specific articulations of temporal and spatial dimensions – to follow sound as it imparts conditions for meaningful encounter and exchange by locating one within a greater ecology. From my perspective, sound provokes a sense of emergent community by weaving together bodies that do not necessarily search for each other, forcing them into proximity for a moment, or longer. Such movements bring forward a spatiality that is coherent and inhabitable as well as divergent and diffuse, that is, temporal and multiple, noisy. Acoustic spatiality, in other words, brings into play forms of social or cultural negotiation through being constituted by the feverish energies of so many interruptions and agitations, meanings and their amplifications.
Acoustic spatiality can be understood to locate one within a temporal flux of perspectives. The energetic, the vibratory and the resonant aspects inherent to sound, for instance, all begin to suggest a spatiality that is oppositional or in supplement to the sightlines of the ocular, wrapping our locational view in atmospheric pressures, echoic reflections, deep absorptions – stirrings.
These sonic or acoustic movements must be taken as indicating a unique paradigmatic frame, lending to recognizing sound as an epistemic and affective matrix that generates specific spatial coordinates, social mixes, bodily perceptions and ways of knowing. It is my view that sound acts as a hinge by bringing into contact diverse forces, scenes, subjectivities and matters. As an example, the performativity of the voice may begin to highlight the particular dynamic of sound. As sounded utterance, the voice can be heard to grant presence to an individual body, figuring as an identifiable sound of personhood, while at the same instant, leaving the body behind; the voice is voice by its capacity to circulate beyond oneself. My voice is therefore always already mine and not mine; it animates the body, it comes from within, while pushing outward, to navigate and nurture relations.
 For more on the seeming paradox of voice, see Steven Connor, Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
The voice thus embodies the contradictory, or rather, “non-dualistic” quality of sound in general: the voice hinges together self and surrounding in an unstable formation – I am in the world only at the moment my voice travels away from me.  Sound more generally occurs in this way, linking together seemingly incommensurate, dichotomous elements or positions, creating spatialities that easily connect interiority and exteriority, that are definite and ephemeral at the same time; sound delivers given situations in all their textured materiality, as animate pressures or movements of intensity, while already diffusing into the ether, as energy that may support or impinge upon feelings of place.
It is my interest to reflect upon sound’s particular spatial behavior, and how acoustic spatiality impacts onto understandings of inhabitation and togetherness. I would argue that acoustic spatiality provides conditions of dwelling by figuring bodily, affective and temporal forms of containment and movement. Subsequently, sound lends to an experimental discourse on architecture, place-making and what it means to be together, explicitly introducing an associative mix that promotes radical sociality – a dwelling in difference.
Sound moves across interiors and exteriors; it animates objects, stirs emotion; it disturbs what may appear static, while also affording moments of proximity and deep connection. It flows through the environment as temporal matter, lending dramatically to the experiences we have of being in particular places, and with particular people. Sound gives to location a force of punctuation, contingency, ephemerality; it envelopes all that we see with an unsteady propagation, as a continual coming forward and receding. It is the near and the far in perennial oscillation; the under and the above as an interweave of perspectives. It latches together concrete reality with all the murmurings of the unconscious, memory, imagination – an animate ghosting of the material plane.
From such acoustical understanding, it is evident that sound’s relation to space is extremely pertinent to a study of spatiality in general. As we know, the acoustical interplay between sound and architectural form delivers an important inflection to experiences of hearing and listening. The character of a given sound is radically influenced by its material, acoustical envelope. The particular materiality of a room, for instance, lends dramatically to contouring what we hear, its shape, dynamics, and forcefulness – its voice – through reflection, vibration, ambient tonality. This can be extended to the built environment in general, underscoring the soundscape as a greater acoustic ecology in perennial movement.
Subsequently, it’s important to emphasize how space is integrated into the behaviors and articulations of sound. As a movement that extends away from a source, sound produces a certain acoustic reciprocity with space; the two are interlocked, whereby sound is only itself by propagating from a particular source, to reverberate out there: to spatialize. At the same time, space is brought into a certain vitality and realization by way of ambient tonalities and auditory stirrings: the room tonalities that impart a sense of “life” to places.
Following such perspectives, sound can be understood to support notions of “event-architecture” articulated, for instance, by the architect Bernard Tschumi. In an essay on architecture and violence, Tschumi elaborates ideas of eventness by underscoring the ways in which bodies and spaces exist in a rather agonistic relation. As he writes: “Bodies carve all sorts of new and unexpected spaces, through fluid or erratic motions. Architecture, then, is only an organism engaged in constant intercourse with users, whose bodies rush against the carefully established rules of architectural thought.” 
 Bernard Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1996), 123.
The movements of the body come to intrude upon architecture, rushing against space to figure an intensity, a fluctuating force that cuts into or marks formal design. The usages and behaviors of bodies in space literally impress upon the built, filling volume with their liveliness to deliver the intrusiveness inherent to finding or making place. Yet, in turn, architecture presupposes participation, organizing itself around the anticipated user or inhabitant, locking one into a pre-existing program.
Such performativity may also be said of sound. Sound unfolds in time as an “event-body”, lending dynamic input onto the contours of the built. It may break the seams of space and overwhelm particular borders while also opening up sudden vistas, uses, and connections. Static form, the division of interior and exterior, and the ocular logic of spatial design gain degrees of flexibility or malleability through a range of sonic events and auditory expressions. More than the performative moment of a body moving through space, acoustic spatiality is radically constitutive of architectural eventness, in particular through its ability to bypass or displace the centrality of the human subject, integrating instead an entire range of non-human bodies, material presences, energy forces and ambient tonalities equally wed to the built environment. The event-architecture of acoustic spatiality is a vibratory, hinging process of continual differentiation.
 See Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (Chichester: Wiley, 2007 ).
It is tempting to think of sound strictly as an addition to architecture, lending a particular openness or flexibility to its forms. A sort of continual supplement to the hard edges of the built. While sound moves in and around architecture, as an ambient tonality, it is also possible to appreciate sound as already space itself: that sound is a corresponding figure to the place of its occurrence that equally moves, trespasses, mutates, so as to define a particular ambient form or less-than-material volume; it is not only a subsequent after-effect. Instead, what we hear is fundamentally an acoustic arena, a dimensionality through which habitation takes place, and which is deeply conditioned by the temporal flow of sound. As Juhani Pallasmaa proposes, sound gives to architecture a sense of lived time, a temporal registration of movements and exchanges, sharing and experiences of place.  From such a perspective, acoustic spatiality is an architecture into which listening moves. It offers a form of dwelling within which particular experiences gain traction, particular routes toward each other unfold, and from which views onto the world are revealed. Within this architecture, this event-space, a nuanced, mutable materiality can be found by which to form, over time, connections and relations, occupations and alliances.
To explore questions of sound and space further, I'd like to elaborate what we understand as the behaviors of acoustic spatiality. This will entail shifting from an understanding of sound as air-borne oscillations and toward the more structure-borne. That is, toward energy and vibration.
 Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture (Basel: Birkhäuser,1998), 37.
“If a work of architecture speaks only of contemporary trends and sophisticated visions without triggering vibrations in its place, this work is not anchored in its site, and I miss the specific gravity of the ground it stands on.”  As Peter Zumthor suggests, experiences of architecture are often charged by the flows of energy and atmospheric texture, contributing meaningful force to the hard edges of space. Feelings for a place, in other words, impart great influence onto our sense of being located and of being involved in the shaping of our environments. Jean-Paul Thibaud elaborates upon the sensorial dimensions of space, suggesting that the “ambience” of place functions as an energetic flux bringing forward the temporal and situational details of spatiality. “To put it in a few words, an ambience can be defined as a time-space qualified from a sensory point of view. It relates to the sensing and feeling of a place. Each ambience involves a specific mood expressed in the material presence of things and embodied in the way of being of city dwellers. Thus, ambience is both subjective and objective: it involves the lived experience of people as well as the built environment of the place.” 
 Jean-Paul Thibaud, “The three dynamics of urban ambiances”, in Site of Sound: of architecture and the ear, Vol. II, eds. Brandon LaBelle and Claudia Martinho (Berlin: Errant Bodies Press, 20012).
 Luis Fernández-Galiano, Fire and Memory: On Architecture and Energy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000), 5.
In this regard, elements of light, sound, smell, and texture, along with weather, the rhythms of social energy, and the fluctuations of mood, significantly add dynamic presence to the concrete structures of space, and for Thibaud, the experiences of inhabitation.
Luis Fernández-Galiano further provides an extremely rich examination of architecture through the lens of energy. As he proposes, “Architecture can be understood as a material organization that regulates and brings order to energy flows; and, simultaneously and inseparably, as an energetic organization that stabilizes and maintains material forms.”  Fernández-Galiano elaborates such a view by underscoring a deep memory (or mythology) to architecture found within the warmth of the home, and the first fires at the center of space, highlighting the developments of thermodynamics as a scientific model that draws an altogether different sense for what constitutes space. Architecture, as the stabilization of energy, fully integrates aspects of expenditure and entropy into its forms; rather than fixed or inert materiality, architecture is full of force. From thermodynamic expenditure to the material transubstantiation occurring in construction itself, aspects of energy are fully embedded within built form.
From Fernández-Galiano’s analysis questions of the ambient, or what is generally located undercover, alongside, in the background, or within the passing of time, take on a vital presence within architecture to impart a suggestive link between architectural forms and animate force. This is furthered in the work of architect Kisho Kurokawa, and his theories of Metabolist architecture. For Kurokawa the separations of inside and outside often promoted by architecture create too sharp a distinction, and ultimately undermine the greater metabolism at the core of spatial design and experience. In contrast, his work seeks to insert what he calls “intermediary” spaces “unobstructed by any dualistic division between inside and outside, a space free from the divisions of walls.” 
 Kisho Kurokawa, The Philosophy of Symbiosis (London: Academy Editions, 1994), 156.
The energetic and metabolistic models of architecture come to highlight the built as a gathering of forces into momentary stability; even our own bodies, in their exertions, heat fields and social performances can be situated within an ecology of energy surrounding and defining buildings. A field of pressures bending, sculpting and impressing upon built form, in the flows and punctuations of time, and granting the vibratory anchor Zumthor seeks.
Questions of acoustic spatiality can thus be elaborated beyond sound as changes in air pressure, and toward that of structure-borne energy. In other words, sound in the form of vibrations passing through walls and floors, as well as bodies and things. Vibration extends our listening experiences to that of felt energy, that is, a tactile sound that we sense more than hear. As an expenditure of energy, vibration passes through materials and structures. In doing so, it radically forces connection between things and bodies, objects and their energetic stabilizations. As Shelley Trower suggests, “Vibration, not itself a thing or matter, can move simultaneously through subjects as well as objects, bridging internal and external worlds.” 
 Shelley Trower, Senses of Vibration: A History of the Pleasure and Pain of Sound (New York: Continuum Books, 2012), 8-9.
It thus elaborates a perspective onto acoustic spatiality that accentuates the energetic, to reorient understandings of built form through more haptic connections or constructs. Vibration reveals a spatial configuration that overrides and displaces the visual geometry of architecture, instead forming space by way of material linkages and ambient force. Yet, vibration does more than bridge, it also figures conductions and transductions; in passing through it resonates, in linking it provokes – it is transfigurative, giving way to exchanges across material and affective states.
The field recording work of the artist Toshiya Tsunoda captures such perspectives, rendering an evocative sonic picture of existing environments. The audio works from his Solid Vibration CD (1999) highlight how vibration phenomena not only extend the listening ear to that of tactility, and a feeling body, but also how materials such as concrete, asphalt, fencing, doors and other solid forms act as resonating objects. For example, track 8 focuses on the recording of a scrap of iron located in the industrial yards of Yokohama port in Japan. Using small transducers placed directly onto the iron object, the recording captures vibrations occurring from a number of distant sources, such as ships anchored on the outskirts of the bay, and is heard as a stable humming sound.
Throughout the CD of works Tsunoda records the environment of the port by focusing exclusively on vibrations, revealing direct relations between an object in one part of the bay and another at a distance, where the one produces a set of frequencies while the other resonates in response, marking the environment as an elaborate corresponding field of contact. By tuning into the vibratory linkages and connectivity embedded within a given environment, the artist gives not only an entry point onto a sonic underworld, but a spatial theory that may supplement notions of event-architecture. According to vibratory phenomena, buildings and environments are tuned and detuned by the material interactions, energetic frictions, mechanics and movements of immediate surroundings that, at times, far exceed a sense of knowability. By recognizing the eventness of the built environment as a set of energetic, metabolistic phenomena, the sense of human agency, and the idea of architecture as fundamentally humanistic, takes on other dimensions. Rather, infrastructural and material elements act conductively, dynamically affecting and influencing the world around on the level of the vibrational, the energetic that extend beyond a single building.
Jane Bennett, in her account of vibrant matter and theories of life force as heterogeneous assemblages, underscores the relationships “between persons and other materialities” as horizontal, conductive and distributive. From such a materialist and affective view, Bennett charts out a vitalistic ethical and political dimension by which subjects and surroundings, objects and energies, exchange, align, and affect each other.  This connective, and conductive, perspective finds expression when following vibration – as the energetic movements and transductions that exist not as object or subject, but as a passing between and through, and which comes to demand ways of contending with a broader world of co-existence.
 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: a political ecology of things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), 10.
Messages and voices, articulations and expressions, ambient stirrings and noisy punctuations continually ripple through the environment, drawing and redrawing spatialities that open built forms as energies captured, held and located, and which are always already prone to movement as well. The stabilization of material form Fernández-Galiano speaks of includes the realities of collapse, entropy, rupture, and expenditure. In fact, architecture, as energy held, as motion captured into form, is always already in a process of slow decay: the weathering of building facades, the minute fading of interiors, the slow impingement of dust and dirt, all come to interfere while giving expression to the force embedded within architecture itself. Spatiality is thus a continual movement; it is in fact always already an event in which bodies and subjects participate.
With greater integration of digital technologies, contemporary architecture comes to capture the inherent eventness of space in new ways. An interesting example can be found in the concert hall in Copenhagen designed by Jean Nouvel. Opened in 2009, the concert hall (containing the studios of Danish Radio) features a blue, translucent sheath wrapping the cubic building. This translucent covering veils the interior life of the building as it takes place behind the main glass exterior, while also serving as a projection surface at night, often featuring live images from concerts as well as recorded montages of past performances. In this way, the building expresses a sort of virtual porosity, physically confusing interior and exterior, real and mediated, and blending the movements of occupants with that of recorded imagery. The building in a sense starts to relate to the reality of its energetic features, taking into consideration the materiality found within contemporary network culture, as one shaped by live streaming, internet interactions, mobile devices and social media. Such contemporary conditions dramatically unfix spatiality with a great degree of mobility, transmission, connection – an energetic, affective perspective increasingly inserted into spatial environments.
 Junichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows (Maine: Leete's Island Books, 2010).
Spatiality is thus haunted by movements that suggest dynamic mutability, a mutational force hovering in the ether, as electromagnetic waves, as wireless signals and projections, satellite imaging, an entire range of surveying and monitoring devices that transmit here and there a plethora of renderings and perspectives, routes and readings. From this view, the poetics of shadows outlined by Junichiro Tanizaki must be seen to include the digital shades of technological entities.  The metabolist, intermediary spaces Kurokawa articulates are found in the connective and conductive links now embedded within the environment, whereby internet and satellite signaling open up vast in-between spaces full of multiple voices, shadowy bodies, ghostly presences – currents. The vibrancy of matters, bodies and things mapped by Bennett is dynamically expressed in contemporary spatiality: as a vibrant subject one fully inhabits these shadowy, energetic territories, constructing as a daily practice one’s own event-architecture.
Ecologies of strangeness
Following these understandings and references, I’d like to draw out a number of perspectives. One would be that acoustic spatiality is a blending or mesh of the material and the immaterial. The reciprocity between sound and space can be heard to couple together the material conditions of the built, and its concrete properties, with the oscillations of sound. Sound is, in this sense, the result of a spatial relation; it requires the resonating or reflective sympathy of a surrounding. This performative interplay passing between sound and space begins to suggest a less dichotomous relation, and more a vibrant interweave where sound and space are coupled, fitted to each other as an exchange of material force. Sound’s impact onto the materiality of the built expends energy onto its forms while gaining momentum, reflection, by way of architecture’s volumes. Subsequently, acoustic spatiality is constituted both by the material and the immaterial, by the matters of the built and the energies of sonic events, lending to its particular geometries and ambiences a complex force.
A second perspective would be that acoustic spatiality displaces the conventional view of a fixed border between interiors and exteriors. Given sound’s vitality, its propagating verve, it readily puts into play a less clear distinction between rooms or spatial areas. Rather, we can understand acoustic spatiality as zones of intensity, or as timbral identities by which differences are brought into play. What is inside then, as an architectural space, is less defined by sightlines or by the function of walls. Rather, sound ripples through space to easily occupy multiple areas, immediately bridging one space with another, and often spilling across lines between in and out, back to front, below from above. This is not to overlook how sound and acoustic design can also work at instating territorial lines, affirming segregations, or instituting scenes of violence, as in the use of sonic weapons and other forms of acoustic or auditory violence. Such enactments and traumas often draw upon the qualities of sound behavior, for instance, by repositioning and flexing spatial borders through the implementation of certain frequencies or noises: to penetrate walls, to tremble the demarcations of self and other, to weaponize reverberations.
Following these complex perspectives, the spatiality of sound often shifts or agitates the borders of the private and the public. If we can appreciate acoustic spatiality as an interweave, a material and immaterial hinging, I would add to this conceptualizations of the private and the public, where what is held to be private and public interpenetrate, producing a less fixed distinction. Instead, one often overhears, accentuating the sense of connectedness and interference, commingling and confrontation intrinsic to acoustic spatiality. I would extend this toward thinking acoustic spatiality as what puts into play questions of community, and what being-in-common may be. Acoustic spatiality can be considered to instantiate the making of a crowd, a plurality constituted by an ongoing process of radical movement, agitation, vibrancy and transduction, and that confronts the particularities of cultural identities, the markings of ethnicity, the force of images, and the sign systems of an ideological apparatus. The politics of acoustic spatiality is dramatically informed by the connective and hinging procedures of sonic events, which interrupt while also inciting a path toward relations. While the capacity to hear and be heard are deeply informed by cultural backgrounds, and the positionality of listening subjects, an acoustical paradigm is equally suggestive for ways of attuning positively to greater ecologies of contact, encounter, relation. As Anna Tsing suggests, listening might be what enables paths toward a sharing of the planet.  Acoustic spatiality, as I’m keen to consider, may be posed as that form of spatiality in which greater sensitivity or scene of biodiversity may take shape.
 Anna Tsing Lowenhaupt, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).
 Mladen Dolar, “The Phonetic Burrow”, in Parole #2: The Phonetic Skin (Cologne: Salon Verlag, 2012).
As I’ve tried to suggest, an acoustical approach to space enhances an event-architecture precisely by the ways in which sound and sonic events come to life here and there, as so many oscillations and vibrations passing across interiors and exteriors, material and less-than-material things, to promulgate a zoned spatiality, an ambient or tonal ecology. The temporality and intrusiveness of this event, along with its rather unseen nature, also lends a powerful uneasiness to space, literally displacing the apparent fixity that surrounds with what Mladen Dolar claims as sound’s uncanny or enigmatic disposition.  Such a “ghosted” quality must also include a sense for hearing beyond the human or the recognizable – how movements of sound hint at the promise of strangeness.
 Steen Eiler Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1962).
In Steen Eiler Rasmussen's Experiencing Architecture, the author draws upon musical composition as a metaphor for appreciating architecture, underscoring the communicative dynamic of the built environment.  For Rasmussen, buildings signify precisely through aspects of rhythm, harmony, and particular formal orchestrations. Through considering the interplay between sound and space, Rasmussen's view may be extended, to register the dynamics of the acoustical as not only a metaphoric device, as aesthetics, but also as spaces of inhabitation – as what grants a scene of events.
Is it possible to think of acoustic spatiality as a place for inhabitation? An actual shelter that provides comfort, or a place for meeting? Might we think of sound as an energetic architecture whose eventness modulates the material edges of the built? To produce form and volume, a time and space for dwelling – to conduct ways of co-existing? Sounds of traffic, the footsteps of passers-by, the turning of pages of a book, all such sonorities appear to open up the material conditions around us, to expand and contract conventional notions of the architectural.
Acoustic spatiality opens up and closes down, with each instant of sound creating a dynamic passage across a source and a listener: in hearing I am immediately occupying the particular spatiality of this event. In this way, I am continually brought into contact – with the seagulls whose distant calls enter my room to interweave with my voice, or the footsteps from outside the door introducing the echoes of an unseen body. Thus, as a listening subject I am immediately enmeshed within a greater environment of animate forces whose effects elaborate a form of place always already multiple, temporal, and contoured by others.
What I’m after then is to expound a general theory of sound which can enable spatial and relational thinking and understanding, how sound as a spatial event gives particular means for relating to where we are. I take acoustic spatiality as always already the beginning of a crowd, where new encounters are constantly provoked, conversations are continually generated, and a sense for how we might share in this architecture are endlessly suggested. For sound readily grants a sense of duration through the unfolding of verbal conversations, the fluid and feverish passing of auditory events and messages, and the general flux of background noise that creates an organic sheath to the flow of experience. What sound may come to support, through a radical flexibility and intensity, are modes of habitation that remain in tune with the often ambiguous yet concrete material and immaterial, familiar and unfamiliar exchanges taking place in everyday life. From this perspective, acoustic spatiality may suggest structures or geometries within the built environment specifically for locating points of contact, zones of sensation and sociality, even withdrawal, that also fully situate us amidst animals, objects, signals, languages: that is, a global ecology.
If sound, as I’m pursuing, creates such an energetic architecture, hinging together material and immaterial matter, it does so by also creating a stage or scene for the unnamable and the nameable, the unrecognizable and recognizable to occupy the same space. Acoustic spatiality creates an active arena by which strangers come to encounter each other, figuring temporary contacts and conversations, to hinge together an emergent community (which may never know itself, and which may never identify).
To hear is to immediately come close to relation – it is to approach the relational, even if by force. Sound’s ability to move in and out of focus, flowing as an indefinite rush and then, at times, figuring into meaningful exchange, lends to a sense for being in a certain place, at a certain time. Yet it does so by integrating into the field of listening what is beyond or distant from ourselves. In other words, sound, as that which crosses over, which forces into proximity one and the other, conducts a scene of contact across the represented and the non-represented – what has a name and what is yet to be named. It brings together without necessarily cohering into any traditional form of community, affording instances of collectivity that mostly includes something or someone beyond the perimeters of a given identity. It is an architecture onto which claims are continually made. In this way, I take sound as the means by which we learn to negotiate the challenges between presence and absence, the real and the virtual, the known and the foreign, to continually influence the fixity of what we know as difference and commonality – of what is mine and what is yours.
Originally published in SIC - Journal of Literature, Culture and Literary Translation, No 4 (2012), Zadar. It appears here with revisions.