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Table of contents :
Acknowledgments
Contents
List of Figures
1: Introduction
The ‘Problem’ of Ambient Sound
The Concept of Ambient Sound
Sonic Environmentality
Surroundability
Onto-aesthetics
Perspectives and Aims
Bibliography
Part I: Fields
2: Effects of Being-in
Toward a Material Morphology of Ambient Sound
Sound as Furniture
Centralization and Decentralization
Bibliography
3: Environmental and Surrounding Sounds
From Environmental to Surrounding Sounds
Objectivity and Environmentality
Objectlessness
The A-figurative Continuum
Bibliography
4: Field Effects
Univocity and Consistency
Ubiquity
Immanence and Immersion
Toward the Ground
Groundlessness
Continuous Variation
Bibliography
Part II: Strategies
5: Sonic Mediatization
Environmentality Without Ecology
What Is Mediatization?
Mediation and Mediatization
Acousmatics and Mediatization
Medium Effects, Phonogeny and Mediatization
Bibliography
6: Synthetic Strategies
From Reproduction Sensibilities to Production Sensibilities
Synthetic and Organic Matter
Synthetic Sound and Technology
Sound Masses
Generalized Pop
Bibliography
7: Ambient Sound Design
Sound Design and the Production of Audiovisual Immanence
The Sonic Environment in Classic Cinema
The Contemporary Audiovisual Scene
The Emancipation of Ambient Sound
Sonic Intensification of Audiovisual Space
Bibliography
Part III: Frames
8: Staging Ambient Listening
Technology and Listening
The Synthetic Production of the Listening Environment
The Double Mediality of Technological Listening
Staging the Ambient Listening Environment
Bibliography
9: Architectures of Acoustic Immanence
Mediatization of Acoustic Space
Enhanced Reverberation
Acousmatization and Mediatization of the Acoustic Interior
Anti-reverberatory Purification
Bibliography
10: Amplified Surrounds
Amplified Expansion and Centralization
Cinematic Surround Sound
Non-cinematic Surround Sound
Bibliography
11: Mobile Infrastructures of Everyday Listening
Headphone Bubbles and Their Surroundings
Inside the Cocoon
Infrastructures of Environmental Distribution
Streaming Infrastructures and Bubbles of Ubiquity
Bibliography
12: Epilogue: Generic, Inattentive, Asocial
Bibliography
Bibliography
Index
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PALGRAVE STUDIES IN SOUND

A Philosophy of Ambient Sound Materiality, Technology, Art and the Sonic Environment

Ulrik Schmidt

Palgrave Studies in Sound

Series Editor

Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard, Musik Aalborg University Aalborg, Denmark

Palgrave Studies in Sound is an interdisciplinary series devoted to the topic of sound with each volume framing and focusing on sound as it is conceptualized in a specific context or field. In its broad reach, Studies in Sound aims to illuminate not only the diversity and complexity of our understanding and experience of sound but also the myriad ways in which sound is conceptualized and utilized in diverse domains. The series is edited by Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard, The Obel Professor of Music at Aalborg University, and is curated by members of the university’s Music and Sound Knowledge Group. Editorial Board: Mark Grimshaw-Aagaard (series editor) Martin Knakkergaard Mads Walther-Hansen Editorial Committee: Michael Bull Barry Truax Trevor Cox Karen Collins

Ulrik Schmidt

A Philosophy of Ambient Sound Materiality, Technology, Art and the Sonic Environment

Ulrik Schmidt Roskilde University Roskilde, Denmark

ISSN 2633-5875     ISSN 2633-5883 (electronic) Palgrave Studies in Sound ISBN 978-981-99-1754-9    ISBN 978-981-99-1755-6 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: © oxygen This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. The registered company address is: 152 Beach Road, #21-01/04 Gateway East, Singapore 189721, Singapore

In memory of Henrik Schmidt

Acknowledgments

This book is the result of my year-long interest in the cross-disciplinary fields of media philosophy, environmental sound and material aesthetics. I am very grateful to the many people who have shared their perspectives with me over the years, and for their continuous belief in the beauty of a critical and dedicated exchange of thought. I wish to thank Mark Grimshaw, the series editor of the Palgrave Studies in Sound, for his encouragement and invaluable support in the early stages of the project. Thanks to Marion Duval, Connie Li and the whole editorial staff at Palgrave Macmillan for enabling a smooth, flexible and truly joyful process. A special thanks to Holger Schulze and Jordan Lacey for kindly supporting the project, and to Jordan for rich and valuable critique. Thanks to my wonderful colleagues and students at Roskilde University. And thanks to my dear friends and collaborators in the field of sound, media and art for stimulating collaborations, passionate discussions and a lot of fun, including Anja Mølle Lindelof, Anita Mašková, Anette Vandsø, Jacob Lund, Jacob Ørum, Jakob Sand, Jens Hjortkjær, Henrik B. Andersen, Henrik Oxvig, Honza Hoeck, Inger Berling Hyams, Macon Holt, Mads Walther-Hansen, Martin Søberg, Morten Søndergaard, Rasmus Holmboe, Rune Søchting, Sanne Krogh Groth, Tobias Kirstein, Torben Sangild, Thomas Bitsch Jørgensen and everyone at Seismograf. Thanks also to Annette Hauer, Paul Bridgwater and Jørgen I. Jensen. vii

viii Acknowledgments

A dear thanks to my mom and dad, Lone and Henrik Schmidt, for their lifelong support. And above all, thank you to Vera and Kristiane for patiently living with the loneliness of the project, and for continuously reminding me of the joys and wonders of everyday life outside of it. The book is generously supported by a research grant from the Carlsberg Foundation, for which I am truly thankful. I dedicate the book to the memory of my father, Henrik Schmidt.

Contents

1 I ntroduction  1 The ‘Problem’ of Ambient Sound    3 The Concept of Ambient Sound    5 Sonic Environmentality   8 Surroundability  11 Onto-aesthetics  16 Perspectives and Aims   19 Bibliography  31

Part I Fields  35 2 E  ffects of Being-in 37 Toward a Material Morphology of Ambient Sound   37 Sound as Furniture   41 Centralization and Decentralization   44 Bibliography  49 3 Environmental  and Surrounding Sounds 51 From Environmental to Surrounding Sounds   51 Objectivity and Environmentality   52 ix

x Contents

Objectlessness  59 The A-figurative Continuum   65 Bibliography  73 4 F  ield Effects 77 Univocity and Consistency   77 Ubiquity  80 Immanence and Immersion   81 Toward the Ground   89 Groundlessness  92 Continuous Variation  96 Bibliography 104

Part II Strategies 107 5 S  onic Mediatization109 Environmentality Without Ecology  109 What Is Mediatization?  112 Mediation and Mediatization  115 Acousmatics and Mediatization  118 Medium Effects, Phonogeny and Mediatization  124 Bibliography 131 6 S  ynthetic Strategies133 From Reproduction Sensibilities to Production Sensibilities  133 Synthetic and Organic Matter  137 Synthetic Sound and Technology  139 Sound Masses  144 Generalized Pop  148 Bibliography 156 7 A  mbient Sound Design159 Sound Design and the Production of Audiovisual Immanence  159 The Sonic Environment in Classic Cinema  160

 Contents 

xi

The Contemporary Audiovisual Scene  165 The Emancipation of Ambient Sound  168 Sonic Intensification of Audiovisual Space  170 Bibliography 178 Part III Frames 181 8 S  taging Ambient Listening183 Technology and Listening  183 The Synthetic Production of the Listening Environment  185 The Double Mediality of Technological Listening  188 Staging the Ambient Listening Environment  194 Bibliography 199 9 Architectures  of Acoustic Immanence203 Mediatization of Acoustic Space  203 Enhanced Reverberation  205 Acousmatization and Mediatization of the Acoustic Interior  207 Anti-reverberatory Purification  211 Bibliography 214 10 A  mplified Surrounds215 Amplified Expansion and Centralization  215 Cinematic Surround Sound  218 Non-cinematic Surround Sound  223 Bibliography 234 11 Mobile  Infrastructures of Everyday Listening237 Headphone Bubbles and Their Surroundings  238 Inside the Cocoon  242 Infrastructures of Environmental Distribution  245 Streaming Infrastructures and Bubbles of Ubiquity  247 Bibliography 252

xii Contents

12 Epilogue:  Generic, Inattentive, Asocial255 Bibliography 263 B  ibliography265 I ndex281

List of Figures

Fig. 6.1 Schematic summary of Gilles Deleuze’s conceptualization of organic and inorganic matter 139 Fig. 6.2 The three techno-aesthetic paradigms of sonic space 140 Fig. 8.1 The double mediality of technological listening between audile and ambient techniques 193

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1 Introduction

The production of surroundability is a basic condition of modern life and its effects have only increased—for better or for worse. Today surroundings are designed more meticulously, promoted more forcefully and desired more passionately than ever before. Everything is, to a growing extent, being connected and shaped to attract attention, and even the most mundane, peripheral and indiscernible event can have the greatest environmental impact. Every aspect of the environment, foreground and background, center and periphery, important and less important parts, are rendered simultaneous, ever present and co-affective. Overarching societal and cultural processes of Western modernity—urbanization, industrialization, mediatization, globalization, commercialization, aestheticization—are in large part environmentally constituted. “Modernity means,” as Peter Sloterdijk puts it, “that also the background becomes a product.”1 Processes of environmental expansion, connectivity, synchronization, compression and consolidation and of environmental enhancement, management, investment, acceleration—they all contribute to bringing forth and rendering sensible that which used to linger imperceptibly and unattended somewhere beyond the horizon in the premodern world of familiarity, proximity and tangibility. With an ever-growing © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_1

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intensity, the surrounding environment of modern life was expanded and promoted as an aesthetic, economic and social matter, which increasingly encouraged its inhabitants to select and design their environments and to direct their attention and desires toward them for meaning, security, comfort and extraordinary experiences. We, the inhabitants of modern habitats and habits, communicate in the surroundings, and we develop new technologies and materials for the sole purpose of designing, redesigning and controlling them. The surrounding environment has become a dominant vehicle in the current global societies of risk and control, affective capitalism, attention ecology and aestheticized governmentality, providing a common nest for the ongoing production of new regulations, new spectacles, new behaviors, new fears and new desires.2 The invention of technical media, one of the key manifestations and symbolic expressions of modernity, has a particular role in promoting this sociocultural and ethico-aesthetic turn toward the environment. This process, however, is not simply about media becoming more environmental. It is also about the environment becoming more operative as a form of medium, and technical media just make this general mediality of the environment more evident, more habitual, more manipulatable and more aggressively affective. As Erich Hörl argues in a pertinent passage, we have, since around 2000, witnessed: the emergence of an environmental culture of control that, thanks to the radical environmental distribution of agency by environmental media technologies, ranging from sensorial to algorithmic environments, from bio- to nano- and geotechnologies, renders environmentality visible and prioritizes it like never before. It thus ends the longstanding forgetting and denial of the environment and, moreover, raises it to the status of a new universal principle. This phase is the first to be genuinely environmental. In other words, it is only with this phase that environmentality in the widest sense becomes problematic and takes the form of a new […] mode of governmentality; its main problem is the capture and the control, the management, the modulation of behavior, of affects, of relations, of intensities, and of forces by means of environmental (media) technologies whose scope ultimately borders on the cosmic. (Hörl 2017, p. 9-10)

In the most general sense, then, media technologies have developed into encompassing environments—and environments have in turn begun

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to operate as encompassing mediums—which condition our worldly sensations, perceptions and conceptions. Environments and media have become habitual and inhabitable world-making medium-environments, providing and conditioning the elemental frameworks we live in and from where we make sense of and connect with the world around us.3 As John Durham Peters notes, media “are vessels and environments, containers of possibility that anchor our existence and make what we are doing possible” (Peters 2015, p. 2). And according to Mark B.N. Hansen, “twenty-first-century media are largely environmental in their scope, which means that they affect the materiality of experience at a level more elemental than that of perception […] in favor of sensation—or rather what I shall call ‘Worldly sensibility’” (Hansen 2015, p. 46). Crucially, this worldly, often imperceptible but usually highly sensible, environmentalization of media, this mediatization of the sensible environment, is not essentially technological, although it is often radically intensified by technology. Whether the surrounding environment becomes more surrounding and environmental because of media technologies or not is not the question. What is important is how the surroundability of the surrounding environment increases because it becomes more mediatic, controllable and designable as medium—and what it means for our being, thoughts, experiences and desires that it does. What this means and how this comes about must necessarily be examined and grasped beyond definite distinctions between the ‘natural’ and the ‘artificial’—between natural and artificial environments and between natural and artificial mediums.4 Surroundability and environmentality are everywhere—for better or for worse.

The ‘Problem’ of Ambient Sound Sound arguably plays a crucial role in this general turn toward the environment as a desirable, manipulatable, inhabitable and habitual medium. Again, this process is not just about inventing and using more sonic media technologies more often, and nor is it about their increased environmentality alone (although the pervasiveness of phenomena such as background music, sonic streaming, mobile listening devices, surround

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sound and audiovisual social media are obviously important factors). Sound is mediatic and environmental independent of and beyond the invention and use of specific technologies. Hence, the possibility of technological sound (re)production does not essentially alter the ontological status of sound as mediatic and environmental but only expands its operative and affective potentials. Taking a realist and materialist ontological perspective, we can characterize sound as a complex, fundamentally ecological event that connects partly dissociated instances (a sound’s cause, source and effect) to stir an elemental medium into vibration throughout the environment. Furthermore, each sound is (in)formed according to the material conditions of the environment, including its potential interference with other sounds. A sound is thus defined in part by the complex distribution of energy and information between its cause, source, effect and medium that generates ecological disturbance in an environmental, vibrant medium, the vibration of which in turn is the sound as material event.5 This perspective, in other words, entails a conception of sound as the potential becoming operative, effective, affective and audible of sonic matter in and as an environmental matter-medium.6 With sound being a central factor in the general environmentalization of culture and society, the study of sonic environments and their impact on aesthetic and sociocultural practice thus possesses an enormous analytical and critical potential. Environmental issues have for obvious reasons become of general concern in recent years, in the humanities, social sciences and the arts and in society at large. The role of sound and the sonic environment in this ‘environmental turn’ has accordingly continued to gain new relevance. In addition, the increase in the techno-­ aesthetic environmentalization of sound and media stresses the need for a more extensive clarification of the intimate relations between sound, medium and environment: How can we think the equation sound = medium = environment and what does it entail to do so? To embark on such an exploration in thought is the main ambition of this book. It builds on the general conjecture that understanding how we engage with our sonic surroundings as a mediatized environment and environmental matter-medium can provide fundamental insight into what it’s like to live, communicate, sense and make sense in a hyper-aestheticized culture of environmental affectivity, intensification and control. What does it

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mean for our relationship with the world—with sounds, things, information and people around us—when they are felt, and wanted to be felt, as something we are surrounded by? How do we relate to sounds when they mainly affect us as accumulative parts of a larger mass of generalized environmentality? What does it mean, in a sociocultural and philosophical perspective, when things, signs and information are no longer seen as individual occurrences that occupy an independent, particular and delimited position in time and space, but are brought together and spread out into the environment as a heterogeneous all-encompassing whole? Taking such questions as a guiding framework, the book proposes and explores ambient sound as a key issue and basic philosophical ‘problem’ in sound studies, media philosophy and the aesthetics of sound. I pose ambient sound as a ‘problem’ not only to stress its inescapable, yet still partly ignored, formative and affective influence in the general history of sound and listening: from the aesthetic impact of technological (re)production on ambient listening to ambient sound’s role in the general production of subjectivity and sociocultural relations to leading ambient trends in artistic practice to the sociopolitical implications of a spectacular ambient aestheticization and environmentalization of everyday auditory life. Moreover, ambient sound also constitutes a key problem in and for sound studies and sonic thinking. Most notably, the theorization of ambient sound and the sonic environment is for the most part conceptually obscured by ambiguity and ambivalence. As a consequence, there still doesn’t seem to be much scholarly consensus about what precisely constitutes the ambient dimension of sound and sonic environments—and thus how and to what extent this dimension has influenced the history and aesthetics of sonic technology, music and sound art, listening practices, and the general sociopolitical impact of environmental sound on modern and contemporary auditory life.

The Concept of Ambient Sound Ambient is a basic concept for the surroundings and how we produce and experience them. In a remarkable text from 1942, “Milieu and Ambiance,” the Austrian-American philologist Leo Spitzer maps out, in staggering

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detail, the development of the concept of ‘ambient’ from the pre-Socratic philosophers over the first Latin uses and further throughout the Western history of ideas to the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. According to Spitzer, the term ‘ambient’ (and its modern derivation ‘ambiance’/‘ambience’) is rooted in the Latin ambire, which means to ‘go around’ (Spitzer 1942b, p.  186). Ambire, in turn, derived from the Latin translation of the Greek term periēchon, the meaning of which Spitzer defines as “that which surrounds, encompasses.”7 Accordingly, the adjective ‘ambient’—observable in common terms such as ‘ambient air,’ ‘ambient space’ and, of course, ‘ambient sound’—denotes a basic surroundability of a phenomenon; its capacity and tendency to expand, pervade, circulate, encircle and encompass in time and space. Throughout history this general ambient feature of surroundability has taken quite different meanings in various contexts. As a term, ‘ambient’ has thus etymologically been closely connected—in some cases almost synonymously—with a wide range of other key concepts such as air, ether, cosmos, atmosphere, envelopment, embrace, enclosure, circulation, periphery, middle, inbetweenness and, perhaps most important in this context, medium and environment.8 In a sense, to be ambient has always implied a simultaneous capacity and propensity to be mediatic and environmental—in medias res, environing. Perhaps due to this long, winding history and utter complexity of the term, the meaning and terminological application of the very word ‘ambient’/‘ambience’/‘ambiance’ is notoriously confused and tangled up in a mesh of conceptual ambiguity. And the field of sound studies is certainly not an exception to the case. Key terms such as environmental sound, sonic environment, soundscape, ecology, atmosphere, ambiance and ambient sound tend to be used almost interchangeably—as if all we needed was a general idea of sonic environmentality. The tendency to conflate the different environmental terms (especially ambient/ambience/ ambiance/atmosphere) is thus widespread, and examples are far too numerous and differentiated to allow for a satisfactory overview here.9 Instead, I wish to call attention to one notable example, in the field of sound studies, of an explicit conflation of atmosphere and ambiance by considering the influential work on urban ambiance by Jean-François Augoyard (2004) and, in particular, Jean-Paul Thibaud (2011a, b, c, 2015, 2017a).

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7

While Thibaud has recently discussed the etymological complexity of the term ‘ambiance’ (Thibaud 2020), he explicitly connects, in several other writings, ambiance (and secondarily ambient sound) with the embodied ‘attunement’ to a specific place, and to particular qualities of site-specific situatedness and emotional presence typically associated with Stimmung and atmosphere. “For instance,” he notes, “an ambiance can be specified by its ‘tone’ (an affective tonality), it involves our ability to be ‘in tune’ with the place, it has something to do with ‘sympathy’ and ‘harmony’ ... We speak sometimes of ‘a vibrant atmosphere’” (Thibaud 2011a, unpaginated). This understanding of ambiance as associated with a sympathetic presence and situatedness stems in part from the notion of atmosphere developed by Gernot Böhme (1995, 2001, 2017), who has been a crucial reference and inspiration for several key thinkers of sonic ambience, including Jean-Paul Thibaud (2017b). As I will seek to substantiate throughout the book, the concept of ambient sound I develop and theorize here differs quite considerably from, and at times poses a direct challenge to, the atmospheric notion of sonic ‘ambiance’ as employed by Böhme, Thibaud and many others. Indeed, as I will argue, ambient sound and ambiance/atmosphere in fact and effect denote two distinct and separate dimensions of the sonic environment, each with their own aesthetic potentials and implications. Such a clear and unequivocal differentiation is in part supported by the etymological development of the terms. While the term ‘ambient,’ as mentioned, stems from early Latin translations of Aristotle to denote notions of surroundability and envelopment, ‘ambiance’ is an entirely modern term, intimately connected to the more emotional or ‘spiritual’ notion of atmosphere. Hence, when the term ambiance, as Spitzer notes (1942b, p.  186), was first introduced in French in 1891, and shortly after in English as both ‘ambiance’ and ‘ambience’, it was “a word evocative of a spiritual climate or atmosphere, emanating from, hovering over, a milieu—or even a thing” (ibid., p. 188). In essence, atmosphere/ambiance/ ambience is a form of “spiritual περιέχον [periēchon]” (ibid., p. 199). The emotional attunement and site-specific presence, which Thibaud associates with the notion of sonic ambiance, thus accords finely with the term’s etymological origins. Yet, at the same time, the ‘spiritual’ or emotional connotations of ambiance is precisely what makes the term

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unsuitable for describing distinctly ambient effects such as surroundability, ubiquity, decentralization and unobtrusiveness—effects which have less, if anything, to do with either tone, place, attunement, harmony or sympathy. And more importantly, it prevents entirely any comprehensive conceptualization of other key components of ambient sound that are in direct conflict with any ‘spiritual’ notion of sonic environmentality, including effects of deterritorialization, dehumanization, massification, synthetization, sensory isolation and many others. In short, to properly understand the immense influence of the specifically ambient dimension of the sonic environment on modern sonic art, technology and auditory life, we need a non-atmospheric concept of ambient sound. In addition, we need a broad and general concept of ambient sound. As Thibaud notes, he limits his understanding of sonic ambience to include the sound of urban public space: “when I speak of ambiance, I am referring to architectural and urban ambiances. The idea is not to explore ambiance or atmosphere in general, as a generic notion, as a wide and vague term. On the contrary, the notion refers to various specific sensory experiences always situated and spatially contextualized” (2011a, unpaginated). By contrast, I will insist on the necessity of a general conception and conceptualization of ambient sound and listening across specific historical and sociocultural contexts, musical and artistic genres, lived practices and theoretical perspectives. To be ambient, and to want to be ambient, is both a technological, artistic, socio-material and experiential matter. And I take this wide and general approach precisely to avoid the conceptual vagueness of a too fragmented, local and specific theorization. Wide and general phenomena need wide and general concepts.

Sonic Environmentality If environmental sound is the property of a sound as being in and of the environment, a sonic environment is the collection and merging of environmental sounds into a heterogeneous vibrant whole, which provides a potentially meaningful, affective and environing medium for a potential listener. Consider the environmental sounds of, for instance, an air conditioning unit; a big plane flying over the house; the wind in the trees; the

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voice of a news reporter on television; the sound of your own feet walking on the pavement; a dog barking somewhere in the distance; music playing or neighbors quarreling next door; or the sudden vibrant sound of an incoming phone call. These different forms of environmental sound point to different environmental processes, functions and activities with different signifying and affective potentials. Some environmental sounds are indicators of a specific event occurring in a specific moment and a specific location, whereas others fill the space as constants permeating the entire environment. Some sounds are closely related to other sounds (by shape, proximity, contextual meaning, etc.), others are not. Some sounds are technologically mediated, others are not. And some sounds express subjective and social relations, states and emotions, others do not. In this way, each sonic environment is defined by the specific ways in which it combines different forms of environmental sound with different signifying and affective potentials. However obvious this observation may be, it arguably pinpoints some of the most intricate difficulties with how to conceptualize the functions, meanings and aesthetic potentials of the sonic environment—and thus of ambient sound more specifically. R. Murray Schafer, a pioneer in sparking the interest in sound environments and sonic ecology, famously introduced the term soundscape as a general, all-embracing term denoting “any acoustic field of study” (1994, p. 7). He proposed a simple compositional structure for the soundscape centered around a few significant features: keynote sounds, sound marks and sound signals. However, as I will discuss in more detail later, this conception implies a hierarchical understanding of what a sonic environment is and how it conditions listening, which is arguably limited and, on crucial points, thoroughly misconceived. Furthermore, the term ‘soundscape’ is, as Jonathan Sterne, Christine Guillebaud and many others have argued, notoriously imbued with analogies of visuality, musicality, frontality, flatness, distance, structural stability and cultural privilege.10 The legacy and quality of Schafer’s work notwithstanding, we thus arguably need other—less hierarchical, distant, static and musical—conceptualizations of sonic environmentality to truly grasp the sociocultural impact, functioning and aesthetic potentials of the sonic environment in general and of ambient sound in particular. We need, to paraphrase John Cage’s famous dictum with a small alteration, to let ambient sounds ‘be

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themselves’ rather than vehicles for hierarchical structurization, musical analogies and cultural valuations of taste. In addition, as I have argued in more detail elsewhere (Schmidt 2019), Schafer’s theory of the soundscape implies, in contrast to his general intentions, the promotion of an analytic approach to sonic environments in which the very environmentality of the soundscape, its very potential to affect as an environment, is outshined by an essentially ‘non-­ environmental’ listening to individual (categories of ) sounds in the environment.11 Although sonic environments have been of scholarly concern since at least the 1960s, where Schafer published his first writings, the very environmental properties and capacities of the sonic environment, the way it functions and affects as environment, has arguably been somewhat neglected. With a Heideggerian phrase, we might even speak of a partial ‘forgetting’ of the very environmental nature of the sonic environment. To insist on the environmental qualities and affective potentials of the environment, I will, in line with Hörl’s general ecology, propose the term sonic environmentality to describe the material, performative and affective capacities of the sonic environment as environment. The notion of sonic environmentality is adapted from a phrase in Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit (1927) where he, inspired by the writings of Jakob von Uexküll, speaks of “environmentality” (Umweltlichkeit) as “the worldliness of the surrounding world” (Heidegger 1996, p. 62). To insist on the environmentality of sound is to insist on the need to raise general questions regarding the very relation between sound, listener and environment: What are the material conditions and onto-aesthetic implications of listening to and staging sound as environment? What does it mean to be affected by the sonic environment as environment and not as a set of individual sounds in the environment? And what perspectives and conceptual frameworks will allow us to distinguish between different types of sonic environments and different ways of being affected by them? I propose a distinction between three basic aspects of sonic environmentality, three key dimensions of the way sound performs and affects us as environment: sonic ecology, sonic atmosphere and ambient sound. In sound studies specifically and in aesthetic analyses of environmental phenomena more generally, there is, as we have just seen, a widespread tendency to use and understand the three terms as generic, all-embracing

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and, to some extent, synonymous concepts. To enable a more consistent and nuanced conception of sonic environmentality and its affective potentials, I suggest, by contrast, to make a clear and explicit distinction between ecology, atmosphere and ambient sound as constituting three separate, yet interrelated, affective dimensions of the sonic environment. They each express different ways in which an environment can perform and affect as environment, each with its own distinct aesthetic potential, and each with a specific role in the general environmentalization of sound, auditory perception and sociocultural exchange. The three dimensions are not mutually exclusive but co-constitutive factors in the overall production of sonic environmentality. A sonic environment can thus be characterized by the way it combines, articulates and performs its ambient, atmospheric and ecological dimensions in a specific event. Ecological environmentality emphasizes the environment’s relational properties of sonic interconnectivity and of being mutually involved and entangled with all its parts in a dehierarchized relationship. Entanglement, interconnectivity and resonance are keywords of sonic ecology. Atmospheric environmentalities, on the other hand, designate the environment’s production of a spatially distributed, social and site-­ specific presence. An atmosphere is something that radiates from material things, people and events to generate a particular situation of affective environmental attunement. Atmospheres can therefore tell us something about how it feels to be present and emotionally engaged in a specific material environment as a site- and context-specific situation.12 Attunement, sociomaterial radiance and site-specific presence are keywords of sonic atmosphere.13 In conjunction with sonic ecologies and atmospheres, ambient sound, in turn, activates yet another register of the affective relationship between sound, listener and environment. This relationship is expressed in the surroundability of the sonic environment.

Surroundability As James J. Gibson writes, “to be ambient at a point means to surround a position in the environment that could be occupied by an observer. The position may or may not be occupied” (Gibson 1986, p. 65). Accordingly,

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to have an ambient experience is to occupy a position in the environment, from which the world exposes its environing properties. In this basic expression, sound not only exposes the environing properties of the environment. It also entails a certain way in which this environmentality is experienced, potentially or actually, as a form of surround. With ambient sound, in other words, the environment emphasizes its environing properties to stimulate sensations of being surrounded in and by the environment as a sonic surround. This intimate relationship between environmentality and surroundability is stressed by key thinkers of the environment from Hippolyte Taine, Jakob von Uexküll and Martin Heidegger to James J.  Gibson, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari.14 As Spitzer notes, during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the term ‘milieu’ developed, with the thoughts of Taine, Uexküll and others, from Newton’s classical notion of ambient medium (translated into French as milieu ambiant)—in Newton a purely physical term designating “that which surrounds a given body” (Spitzer 1942b, p. 175)—to become a term for the immediate surroundings of living beings. The environment started to entail a complex, enveloping field in which an individual senses, recognizes, understands and is exposed to its world as an affective surround. As Uexküll famously conceived it, the environment constitutes an inner world, a spheric Umwelt, surrounding the individual animal as if in a “soap bubble” of environmental interiority.15 Thus, with the modern concept of the environment, the milieu regains its original ‘middle’ meaning as “the place surrounding us, in the middle of which we are.”16 In this surrounding world in the middle of which we are, however, some phenomena will be perceived as more surrounding and encompassing and others as more isolated and individuated. While all environments surround, some environments tend to expose their surroundability more than others. Certain configurations, arrangements and distributions of elements, certain material properties and certain perceptual modes will thus emphasize the inherent ambient potentials of the environment more than others. Sound and listening have often been distinguished as having an intrinsic capacity for spatial envelopment: sound, obviously, is a vibratory material that propagates, reverberates, circulates and fills our surroundings.17 This capacity for propagation and envelopment should not, however, lead to essentialist conclusions about ambient surroundability as

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13

something that applies exclusively to sound, nor that envelopment is the most basic and primordial dimension of sound, as it is often the case. Light, gas, water, air—or for that sake snow, trees, screens, commodities, crowds, cars, information, fancy odors and a vast amount of other material phenomena—obviously have similar surrounding capacities, and sound is expressive, communicative, informational, distinct, individuated and locative as much as it is surrounding. The ambition to escape the widespread tendency to idealize the surrounding aspects as the essence of sound is precisely the reason for Jonathan Sterne’s well-known critique of what he calls the “audiovisual litany”—an ideological scheme of the senses, with “theological overtones,” that has haunted modern auditory culture and sound studies. Sterne thus takes a stand against romantic notions of hearing as “the sense of affect” and “the enveloping sense” (Sterne 2003, p. 95). In the audiovisual litany he lists a set of clichés and popular assumptions about essential differences between sound and vision by which sound is idealized as primordially interior, spherical and immersive in opposition to vision’s distance, directionality and perspective.18 Obviously, to avoid and navigate around this essentialist pitfall comprises an indispensable task, and a fruitful challenge, for any exploration of ambient sound, including this one. Yet, the visual and auditory systems do obviously differ in important respects. In his classic phenomenological analysis of listening, Don Ihde argues that while the visual field is relatively limited and inclined to a “forward oriented directionality”, the auditory field as a shape does not appear so restricted to a forward orientation. As a field-shape I may hear all around me, or, as a field shape, sound surrounds me in my embodied positionality. […] My auditory field and my auditory focusing is not isomorphic with visual field and focus, it is omnidirectional. In the shape of the auditory field, as a surrounding thing, the field-shape ‘exceeds’ that of the field-shape of sight. Were it to be modeled spatially, the auditory field would have to be conceived of as a ‘sphere’ within which I am positioned, but whose ‘extent’ remains indefinite as it reaches outward toward a horizon. But in any case as a field, the auditory field-shape is that of a surrounding shape. […] The auditory field surrounds the listener, and surroundability is an essential feature of the field-­ shape of sound. (Ihde 2007, p. 75-76)

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Hence, compared to vision, the auditory system does, after all, arguably possess some inclination toward ambient sensibilities. On the other hand, though, audition is very far from being exclusively or primordially ambient. Frontality, directionality and focus on isolated objects, events and streams are obviously as essential to auditory perception as are sensations of envelopment and surroundability, learned as they are throughout evolution and refined and promoted in modern cultural history as a general “audile technique” of everyday mediated listening (Sterne 2003). Learning to direct auditory attention to specific environmental events for spatial and semantic analysis is not only a central part of the evolution of perception. It also constitutes a crucial component in numerous technicized forms of modern communication such as telegraphy, acoustic design of theaters, concert halls, cinemas and other sonic architectures, in telephony, and in acoustic military observation and sonic warfare (Ouzounian 2020). Hence, while there may be some evidence in describing sound and listening as more ambiently oriented than vision, this week inclination does not explain to any important degree the actual functioning and impact of ambient sound as a cultural phenomenon, nor ambient listening as cultivated, aestheticized practice. In audition, as in other perceptual registers, ambient effects are but one dimension of a general environmentality, and ambient sensations but one dimension of a general system of environmental sensibility. Again, some surroundings are more surrounding than others, and some forms of listening are more oriented toward this surroundability than others. But, if auditory perception does not to any essential extent constitute an exclusive domain for ambient sensibilities compared to other registers, what is ambient listening then? While the audiovisual litany is obviously reductive from an ontological perspective, it sketches a set of general distinctions that are still of great importance for the study of ambient sound and listening. Beyond the essentialist opposition between vision and audition, its implied opposition between directionality and surroundability thus entails a legitimate general distinction between two basic forms of environmental affectivity and awareness that arguably applies to multimodal perception on a broad level. Perception—and listening more

1 Introduction 

15

specifically—is in other words not either directional or surroundable but both at the same time. For example, as James J. Gibson argues in his ecological psychology of perception, visual perception is fundamentally characterized by a continuous wavering between sensations of directionality and surroundability: “looking-at and looking-around” comprise two basic forms of visual perception “that naturally go together” (Gibson 1986, p. 209) in our perception of the environment.19 In specific regard to listening, Pauline Oliveros, Don Ihde and others have made similar arguments for a close relationship between directionality and surroundability. Oliveros thus distinguishes between “focal attention” and “global attention” as basic components in her idea of deep listening and sonic awareness: “Focal attention, like a lens, produces clear detail limited to the object of attention. Global attention is diffuse and continually expanding to take in the whole of the space/time continuum of sound. Sensitivity is to the flow of sounds and details are not necessarily clear. […] The practice of Deep Listening encourages the balancing of these two forms of attention so that one can flexibly employ both forms and recognize the difference between these two forms of listening” (Oliveros 2005, p. 13). As we just saw, Ihde may tend to associate directionality and surroundability with properties inherent in the visual and auditory systems respectively. He makes no further attempt, though, at essentializing the connection. On the contrary, and in line with Oliveros, he clearly distinguishes auditory perception as being characterized by a “‘double’ dimensionality” (Ihde 2007, p. 77) in which directionality and surroundability are intimately connected and coexisting, yet potentially conflictual, dimensions of environmental listening that in combination shape the act of environmental listening in different ways in each specific situation. As Ihde writes, “both the global, encompassing surroundability of sound, which is most dramatic and fully present in overwhelming sounds, and the often quite precise and definite directionality of sound presence, which is noted in our daily ‘location’ of sounds, are constantly copresent. For the description to be accurate, both surroundability and directionality must be noted as copresent” (ibid.).

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Onto-aesthetics As Ihde acknowledges, directionality and surroundability are not simply variations in perceptual attitude. They must equally be understood as properties and qualities of the environment.20 The ambient dimension of sonic environmentality thus both denote a surrounding property of the world and a sensation of being in that surround: ambient surroundability is both a specific ontological property that some environmental phenomena possess, and a potential aesthetic effect that can be actualized in specific acts of listening. This understanding of a deep and intimate relationship between ontological and aesthetic registers have often been summarized in the concept onto-aesthetics, especially to describe the rethinking of aesthetics, non-representational being and non-subjective, affective sensation in Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy. However, the very notion of onto-aesthetics has also been an object of critique in current sound studies. For instance, discussing the recent material and ontological turn in sound studies (exemplified by Christoph Cox, Steve Goodman and Greg Hainge), Brian Kane explicitly takes a critical stance against onto-aesthetics and what he regards as its implied defense of “a theory of the work of art as a disclosure of its ontological condition” (Kane 2015, p. 11). Eventually, he argues, this position risks promoting a “sound studies without auditory culture” (cf. the title of his essay), since the “arguments developed by proponents of the ‘ontological turn’ in sound studies neglect the role played by auditory cultures in shaping affective responses to sound and in ‘ontological’ claims about sound” (ibid., p.  16). Will Schrimshaw expands on Kane’s argument and takes it in a slightly other direction, criticizing what he sees as a widespread tendency, in ontological thinking about sound and sound art, to equate non-representational materialism with an aesthetics of immanence and immersion. This equation builds, Schrimshaw argues, on an unhealthy “conflation of aesthetics and ontology” (Schrimshaw 2017, p. 110). However, although Kane and Schrimshaw both draw on Deleuze, their notions of onto-aesthetics arguably differ in important respects from the Deleuzian approach I wish to pursue here.21 Most importantly, onto-aesthetics, in the sense I will use the term, does not entail a “conflation” of being (ontology) and sensation (aesthetics). It merely stresses the

1 Introduction 

17

intimate relations between them as separate, yet coupled and co-­ determining registers, by acknowledging that ontological properties have aesthetics potentials, while not being reducible to them, just as aesthetic effects are, partly and to different degrees, products of ontological, material circumstances and therefore must be taken into account as such. Thus, as Stephen Zepke notes, the Deleuzian “co-implication of ontology and aesthetics” primarily “involves a redefinition of experience by which its objective and subjective conditions are dissolved in the real, the reality of the world as it becomes nothing else than itself. Art in these terms is an autogenesis expressing the world (its real conditions) by constructing experience (its real experience)” (Zepke 2005, p. 4). The world as material ontological being is potentially sensible (but never only sensible) and the sensible is in the world, which may or may not include a sensing subject.22 To have an aesthetic experience, then, is in essence to take the role of a miner in worldly affectivity and dig out the dormant sensible potentials of the environment, to actualize its real but virtual effect, and unfold them—consciously and intentionally, or utterly unawares—in a specific act of aesthetic experience. The world as onto-aesthetic is the material world as virtual sensation, laid out for us to actualize. In other words, ontology and aesthetics are not conflated in an onto-­ aesthetics of ambient sound, but merely co-implicated in a mutual relationship, which is a critical difference. Ontological properties produce ambient sound as a virtual or potential aesthetic condition for its actualization in a specific sensation of being surrounded by sound. The production of ambient sound as surroundability does not include an actual listener, but its actualization as ambient, the actual sensation of being surrounded, does. An onto-aesthetic approach, in these terms, exposes the field of investigation for a general philosophy of ambient sound as an aesthetic relation between ontological being as sonic expression and effect and its affective potentials for listening. We must, then, consider the ontological aspects related to ambient sound as material event: What elements constitute and produce the specifically ambient aspects of sound? How and why can some sounds be considered more ambient than others? And we must consider the closely related affective potentials and implied listening modes constructed in and by ambient sound: What are the specifically ambient effects and affects of sound and how are they expressed,

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artistically and non-artistically, in specific aesthetic events? How is ambient sound distinguished as a material construction that conditions specific forms of aesthetic engagement with sound? In short: What is ambient sound?—how does it sound, and how is it produced? And what is ambient listening?—what affective conditions for listen are produced by ambient sound and what does it entail to listen ambiently? While these questions indicate different philosophical problems (ontological and aesthetic), only by seeing them as correlated can we grasp ambient sound as an onto-aesthetic problem, characterized by the co-­ implication of morphological, material and technological registers and senso-perceptual registers. And only by seeing them as correlated can we fully address ambient sound as a key problem in modern auditory culture and begin to mine its social, cultural and artistic implications. To practice such a thinking of sound as an onto-aesthetic potential is arguably similar to what Mark Grimshaw and Tom Garner, inspired by Deleuze and Brian Massumi, describe with the term “sonic aggregate.” Sonic aggregates are “all the components that together create the potential for the perception of sound to emerge” (Grimshaw and Garner 2015, p. 166). Mack Hagood also emphasizes sound as an affective potential, especially when mediated by technologies. As he notes, this idea of sound as potential perception is closely associated with a ‘post-phenomenological’ approach, not only as it is explicitly outlined in and in relation to Don Ihde’s later writings, but also as it is implied in a Deleuzian onto-aesthetics (Hagood 2019, p.  81–84). By insisting on the active role of the material world in the production of sensation and subjectivity, Deleuze’s onto-aesthetic philosophy can thus be regarded as a profound contribution to what Mark B.N. Hansen calls “the post-phenomenological afterlife of phenomenology” (2015, p. 27). This materialist, onto-aesthetic and post-phenomenological approach, which I, inspired by Deleuze, will take toward sound and listening and their intimate relations, differs from classical phenomenology on some crucial points. Most importantly, it redirects the focus of classical phenomenology on perception and consciousness toward the material environment and its senso-perceptual potentials. It is a phenomenology no longer founded on the perceiving subject but on the material worldly being as (virtual/potential) sensation. Consequently, it recognizes: a) that

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19

environmental phenomena often challenge the idea of intentionality and directionality; b) that subjects do not autonomously constitute their environments, as if thrown into the world from somewhere beyond, but are entangled and co-produced with them; and c) that vibrating environmental phenomena, such as sounds, do not per se provide or privilege a ‘natural’, horizonal, locational and bodily grounded form of spatial perception, which is often taken for granted in classical phenomenology. An onto-aesthetic, post-phenomenological approach to ambient sound, then, is not so much interested in subjects and their general forms of intentional perception (including their culturally specific and often privileged perspectives). Rather, it is concerned with the potential of ambient sound for conditioning specific forms of affective engagement and the onto-aesthetic production of subjectivity it entails.

Perspectives and Aims This onto-aesthetic perspective, I will argue, is not in any way opposed to a cultural and historical understanding of ambient sound. Quite the contrary, it can help to emphasize the role of ambient sound in the general cultural-historical shaping of perception, sensibility, desires and mediatized attention in modernity.23 As I will seek to substantiate throughout the book, ambient sound has developed into a norm or standard in many of the most central and dominant parts of modern and contemporary auditory culture, including the design and use of sonic technologies, artistic practices with sound and the general aestheticization of everyday auditory life, all of which, in both scope and impact, far exceeds ‘ambient music’ as a genre in recent music history. I thus regard ambient sound not so much, or not only, as a form of specialized musical expression. It is, on a much more general historical and cultural level, a material, onto-­ aesthetic condition of sonic environmentality, produced through the implementation of and engagement with a number of generalized technologies and cultural techniques for producing and experiencing sound, which in turn shape and condition our particular expressive and affective engagements with sound.

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This is evidently the case when ambient sound and listening become explicit goals in their own right, as in the commercial sound industry’s promotion of remarkably, and increasingly more, ambient listening technologies (e.g., surround sound and noise cancelling headphones), streaming infrastructures and portable distribution formats. Or in the full embrace, within certain parts of contemporary sound art and museum exhibits, of immersive sound and spectacular audiovisual installations. But it also applies, albeit more subtly, in the pervasive tendency to employ mediatizing and massifying strategies as a standard approach in postwar electro-acoustic music, pop music and sound art since the early 1960s, and in cinematic sound design, especially after 1970. This widespread, multi-facetted influence of ambient sound in even the farthest corner of auditory culture is, I will maintain, not in itself neither good nor bad. To be ambient and have ambient experiences is a fundamental part of sound and modern auditory life. Yet, it can of course be criticized, and arguably should be, in the many cases where ambient practices settle for unimaginative, standardized and uncritical forms of cultural expression. For example, Schrimshaw raises critique of how generic, immersive practices in recent sound art have “become increasingly prevalent” and developed into “a new orthodoxy,” especially since the introduction of digital and interactive artforms (Schrimshaw 2017, p.  1). And in his 2013 essay “Against Ambiance,” Seth Kim-Cohen makes a similar critique. “I’m not inclined,” he writes, “to let the ambient off the hook by calling it something as easily slipped as ‘escapist.’ I think the dangers are far stickier than that. What troubles me about López’s performances, about Aitken’s pavilion, about Turrell’s installations, are their implications—that is to say, their knock-on effects—on the audiences and the discourse they attract and simultaneously produce” (Kim-Cohen 2013, p. 13). I by and large share Schrimshaw’s and Kim-Cohen’s critical stances toward the reduction of ambient sound to ‘sensationalism’ and sonic spectacles of immersivity in recent sound art. However, as I have already suggested and will substantiate extensively below, ambient sound is a much more complex phenomenon than a mere trend in recent sound art can represent to any fair degree, however dominant it may be. First, the use of ambient sound in the history of sound art since the 1960s is considerably more widespread, significant and multi-facetted than suggested

1 Introduction 

21

by Schrimshaw and Kim-Cohen, both in regard to its artistic, material, historical, technological and institutional implementations and its highly diverse forms of expressions. Second, and more importantly, ambient sound is a considerably more fundamental philosophical problem than a limited focus on a specific artistic style of practice alone can satisfactorily embrace. The ambient dimension inevitably influences our basic conceptions of what sound is and how it affects us. It involves and exposes sound’s intimate role in shaping our perception of basic categories such as space, time, environment, medium and materiality. And, more specifically, it points to the deep ambient implications of overarching historical developments in auditory culture such as the use of technologies of sound (re)production and mediated listening, developments in infrastructures of sonic distribution, the introduction of sound design, the dehumanization and de-anthropomorphization of sonic expression in music and sound art, the sonic commercialization of public space, the emergence of pop matter as generalized sensibility and so on. By being a driving force in these developments, and many others, ambient sound, again, raises key questions concerning the basic philosophical, psychological, cultural and social significance and implications of sound in modern culture. And if considered on this level of significance and influence, it no longer makes much sense to be ‘against ambiance.’ Rather, we should seek to develop new concepts and gain deeper knowledge about its multiple implications, potentials and conditions—whether these are considered fruitful or problematic, amiable or detestable, healthy or contagious. “There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons” (Deleuze 1990, p. 4). The aim of the book is thus double. It is both to provide a general philosophical conceptualization of ambient sound and its onto-aesthetic implications and to distinguish its various cultural-historical manifestations, developments and sociocultural implications. My ambitions are philosophical and aesthetic in the sense that I want to investigate the basic notion of what it means to be and feel surrounded by sound, how this surroundability is shaped by new strategies and technologies for sonic production and listening, and what the deeper implications of this development are for sonic philosophy, for sound studies, for listening and

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auditory life, and for our conceptions of sound, materiality, technology and the sonic environment. At the same time, and in direct dialog with the philosophical analysis and conceptualization, I wish to identify central events and historical changes that can help to illuminate the complex influences of ambient sound on art, music, film and sonic media, on central developments in sound technology, and on everyday practices with sound and listening in modern culture. I hope thereby to demonstrate and clarify how the material and onto-aesthetic development of modern auditory culture in many respects can be seen as a development toward an increasingly more ambient culture. In most part, my historical analysis is informed by a conventional and probably quite unsurprising selection of material; it undoubtedly includes some of the most well-known, well-described, widespread and influential phenomena in the history of Western music, sound art and auditory culture. The aim, in other words, is not to dig out the forgotten niches and individual particularities of ambient innovation in the history of art, music and technology. By contrast, by examining some of the most widespread, defining and influential parts of its history, I wish to substantiate ambient sound’s deep and pervasive influence on modern auditory culture on a general scale. Hence, the role and influence I wish to elucidate of ambient sound as a dominant cultural factor is simultaneously a critical-aesthetic exploration of sound design as an overarching paradigm in auditory culture, of generalized pop as ambient sound, of sonic mediatization and pervasive ‘synthetic sensibilities’ in auditory culture, and of the ‘spectacular’ everyday aestheticization of listening, advanced by commercial industries and technological innovation. The general onto-aesthetic shaping of culture, sensibility and subjectivity may often start in the avantgarde and the singular, individual experiment, but it works its deepest influence in and through the mainstream. The book is structured in three parts. Part I, ‘Fields’ (Chaps. 2, 3, and 4), provides an analysis of the basic morphological and material characteristics of ambient sound. It starts out, in Chap. 2, by exploring the proto-ambient principle of unobtrusiveness in Erik Satie’s musique d’ameublement, Heidegger’s notion of being-in and effects of aesthetic centralization as key aspects of ambient sound. Chapters 3 and 4 investigate in more detail how sound can expose its inherent ambient properties

1 Introduction 

23

and intensify sensations of being surrounded through basic morphological principles such as objectivity, objectlessness, consistency, ubiquity, immanence and a-figurative field effects. Finally, I argue that ambient sound and music—beyond established genre conventions, cultural spheres and historical periods—are characterized by a simple morpho-­ material principle expressed in the dynamic combination of repetition and continuity. In Part II, ‘Strategies’ (Chaps. 5, 6, and 7), I explore the techno-­ material conditions and onto-aesthetic strategies that guide the production of ambient sound in art and culture. Central to the argument is the concept of sonic mediatization, introduced in Chap. 5. In general terms, sonic mediatization designates the morphological and material adaption of an event to the medium in which it unfolds. In Chaps. 6 and 7, I subsequently analyze and demonstrate how mediatization comprises an aesthetic ideal and leading design principle for the material production of sound in avantgarde music, popular music and film sound since 1945. This principle is, among other things, connected to a general shift in sensibility from a reproduction aesthetics to a ‘production aesthetics’ centered around synthetic strategies for the material merging of sound, medium and environment into a groundless total field of surrounding sound. In Part III, ‘Frames,’ I analyze how ambient strategies and ideals have shaped the spatio-material design and aestheticized use of listening technologies in modern auditory culture. In Chap. 8, I argue that listening technologies are basically characterized by a complex double mediality between directional and surroundable techniques, which potentially engage listeners in sensations of simultaneously being-in a mediatized, interior immanence and being-connected to an extra-medial environment through transmission of sonic energy and information from the outside. In Chaps. 9, 10, and 11, I explore the ambient aspect of this double mediality in more detail by focusing on three key areas for the techno-material staging of listening: architectures for the acoustic production of ambient environments (Chap. 9); amplified environments of surroundability in music, art and cinema from mono to digital surrounds (Chap. 10); and the current environments of everyday ambient listening in headphones and infrastructures of sonic streaming (Chap. 11).

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Notes 1. Sloterdijk (2004, p. 521); my translation from German of “Modernität, das heisst: Auch der Hintergrund wird Produkt.” 2. For example, the experience-oriented economic perspective that still suffuses today’s cultural industries is, as B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore argued in their influential book from 1999, in large part distinguished by the commercial tendency to think and stage its products as an “environmental relationship” (Pine and Gilmore 1999, p. 31). “No wonder,” they noted, “so many companies today wrap experiences around their existing goods and services to differentiate their offerings. […] They can enhance the environment in which clients purchase and / or receive the service, layer on inviting sensations encountered while in that company-­ controlled environment, and otherwise figure out how to better engage clients to turn the service into a memorable event” (ibid., p. 15). Taking another approach, Yves Citton has more recently argued how contemporary societies have moved from attention economy to a broader and more affectively complex “ecology of attention.” The current “ecosystem,” in which media, communication, entertainment and commerce take place and blend, Citton argues, “functions as an echo chamber, whose reverberations ‘occupy’ our minds (in the military sense of the term): most of the time, we think (in our ‘heart of hearts’) only what is made to resonate in us in the media vault by the echoes with which it surrounds us. In other words, media enthralments create an ECHOSYSTEM, understood as an infrastructure of resonances conditioning our attention to what circulates around, through and within us” (Citton 2017, p. 29). 3. For an analysis of the basic, yet contradictory, habituation demanded and nurtured by contemporary media between the new and the same, the exciting and the boring, control and addiction, see Chun (2016). For a discussion of media as elemental habitats, see Peters (2015). As Peters argues: “In the life sciences, ‘media’ already means gels and other substances for growing cultures, a usage growing from the older environmental meaning of medium, and in a similar spirit we can regard media as enabling environments that provide habitats for diverse forms of life, including other media. […] We are back to the age-old […] communication environment in which media have become equipment for living in a more fundamental way” (2015, p. 3–5).

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4. According to John Durham Peters, the idea “that media are message-­ bearing institutions such as newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet is relatively recent in intellectual history. […] The elemental legacy of the media concept is fully relevant in a time when our most pervasive surrounding environment is technological and nature […] is drenched with human manipulation. In a time when it is impossible to say whether the nitrogen cycle or the Internet is more crucial to the planet’s maintenance, I believe we can learn much from a judicious synthesis, difficult though it be, of media understood as both natural and cultural. If media are vehicles that carry and communicate meaning, then media theory needs to take nature, the background to all possible meaning, seriously” (Peters 2015, p. 2). 5. As Casey O’Callaghan argues, “sounds are distal events in which a medium is disturbed or set into motion by the activities of a body or interacting bodies” (O’Callaghan 2017, p.  3). And later: “Sounds are public occurrences in which a moving object or interacting bodies disturb a surrounding medium” (ibid., p. 8). While I am in general agreement with O’Callaghan in his realist (and implicitly ecological) understanding of sound as distal mediatic disturbance, his general philosophy of sound, however, is arguably somewhat weakened by the ignorance of (the use of ) technology and the mediatic complexity it brings forth. By contrast, Brian Kane (2014), discussing the ideas of Pierre Schaeffer, also argues for an understanding of sound as an evental relationship between cause, source, effect and medium, but he does so precisely to stress the complex role of technology in mediating, and potentially disturbing, this very relationship. As we shall see, the ‘ecological’ relations between a sound’s cause, source and effect are, in a media-ecological perspective, always also potentially synthetic, phantasmagoric and deceptive, and artificial operability and manipulability is part of its nature. In other words, all aspects of a sound—cause, source, effect, medium—are ‘effects’ and can be deployed and manipulated as such to control the affective potentials of sound. Following Mack Hagood, we can thus distinguish three different sonic potentials: “(1) sound is mediated as mechanical waves in an environmental medium, such as the air; (2) sound can also be mediated and altered as a signal through electroacoustic and digital processes of transduction and signal processing; and (3) sound is also mediatic in itself, a sensory-spatial process of interaction though which subjects and objects emerge in modes

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of affective relation. Through the first potential, subjects and objects make sound. Through the third potential, sound makes subjects and objects. Using technologies we call electronic media, subjects leverage the second potential of signal processing as they attempt to control the modes of affectivity enacted through the first and third potentials” (Hagood 2019, p. 27). 6. I introduce the term matter-medium, a concept I will develop further throughout the book, in order to stress the coupling of the elemental materiality of environmental mediums and the mediatic environmentality of elemental matter. The elemental dimension of matter-medium indicates the flexible, dynamic properties of environmental mediums. It is in this respect somewhat similar to what Deleuze and Guattari call the ‘molecular’ (versus the stable, rigid properties of the ‘molar’) (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). The elemental and molecular, of course, do not designate any ‘naturalness’ of media. Rather, it refers to a state of granular dynamics and flexibility in a world in which “any distinction between nature and technology is becoming blurred.” (Deleuze 1995, p. 155). As Alexander Galloway and Eugene Tacker argue, following Deleuze, the ambient and environmental aspects of contemporary networked media technologies and informational protocols are in part a direct result of their basic elemental nature. “The elemental,” they write, “is this ambient aspect of networks, the environmental aspect—all the things that we as individuated human subjects or groups do not directly control or manipulate. The elemental is not ‘the natural’, however (a concept that we do not understand). The elemental concerns the variables and variability of scaling, from the micro level to the macro, the ways in which a network phenomenon can suddenly contract, with the most local action becoming a global pattern, and vice versa. The elemental requires us to elaborate an entire climatology of thought” (Galloway and Thacker 2007, p. 157). For a more elaborate analysis of space as elemental matter, see also Schmidt (2017). 7. Spitzer (1942a, p. 2). To be more exact, ambire was used as a translation of the Greek verb periēchein, which means to ‘contain’ or ‘go around’ (peri ~ around + ēchein ~ to hold; the latter, ēchein, also being the root of the word ‘echo’). Periēchon—a word that was never continued directly in other languages—was a central concept in antique philosophy, first of all in Aristotle’s cosmology where it referred to the cosmic all-­ encompassing space, and to surrounding space more generally.

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8. Spitzer (1942a, b). In the later history of the concept of the ambient, Spitzer notes, “this word cannot be separated from that of medium = milieu” (Spitzer 1942a, p. 2). As an example, Spitzer describes how Isaac Newton’s concept ‘ambient medium’ was translated into French as milieu ambient (ibid., p. 1). He later concludes that ambiens and medium “have come to have a strange and indissolvable relationship: indissolvable purely, yet never constant or restful. They have met from time to time (even in Greek the περιέχον [periēchon] was the μέσον [méson ~ middle, medium] of perception), perhaps just to touch each other, and as if electrified by this contact, each starts anew in a direction of its own” (Spitzer 1942b, p. 199). 9. To highlight just a few prominent examples, we can consider the implicit, partial blurring of the terms environmental, ambient, ambience and atmosphere in Timothy Morton’s Ecology without Nature (2007); for instance in his description of the book’s key term “ambient poetics” as “a way of conjuring up a sense of a surrounding atmosphere or world” (Morton 2007, p. 22). A more direct and explicit equation of ‘atmosphere’ and ‘ambience’ in environmental aesthetics is found in Yuriko Saito’s Everyday Aesthetics (2007). And as an example of a consistent translation of the French ambiance into the English ‘atmosphere’ in a key philosophical text, see Jean Baudrillard’s Le système des objets (1968) and The System of Objects (1996). For an extended discussion of the distinctions between ambient, ambience and atmosphere in relation to sound, see Lacey (2022, p. 87–96). And for a discussion of the same conceptual distinction in relation to aesthetic culture in general, see McCormack (2018, p. 140, 223n). 10. Sterne (2013); Guillebaud (2017, p. 3). Schafer’s work has been widely criticized beyond the scope of my present argument. For example, Sterne (2003) and several others have drawn attention to Schafer’s contempt of technological reproduction because it, according to Schafer, promotes a state of ‘schizophonia’, and to his anti-modern preference for acoustic hi-fi sounds (conceptualized, at least in part, with a wittingly intended ­contradiction in terms). Schafer has also been criticized for promoting a bias towards special types of soundscapes observable in, for instance, his “personal aversion to urbanism” (Toop 2004, p. 62), or in what Dylan Robinson describes as a latent racism and cultural appropriation in Schafer’s work (Robinson 2020, p.  1). In addition, mainly because of soundscape’s connotations to visuality, flatness and distance, Guillebaud

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proposes a distinction between soundscape and sonic “ambiance/milieu/ Umwelt” (Guillebaud 2017, p. 3–5). Although my perspective and aims are more philosophical and aesthetic compared to Guillebaud’s ethnographic approach, I will maintain a similar distinction between soundscape and ambient sound. Although soundscape was indeed intended by Schafer as a broad concept for the sonic environment in all its aspects, and despite the fact that “the term is everywhere in sound studies” (Sterne 2013, p. 181), I prefer for the most part to use and develop other concepts in order to avoid the ambiguities and undesirable connotations surrounding the term. 11. As Schafer suggests: “What the soundscape analyst must do first is to discover the significant features of the soundscape, those sounds which are important either because of their individuality, their numerousness or their domination” (Schafer 1994, p. 9). 12. According to Jürgen Hasse, atmospheres are perceived “as an affective tone of a place. [...] They communicate something about the distinct qualities of a place in a perceptible manner, they tune us to its rhythm” and “let us comprehend without words how something is around us. Therefore, atmospheres are also indicators of social situations” (Hasse 2014, p. 215). 13. I have explored and developed this understanding of sonic atmosphere in more detail in Schmidt (2019). 14. For an excellent comparative analysis of the environment in Uexküll, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze/Guattari, see Buchanan (2008). Gibson summarizes his idea of environmental perception as something which takes place in, and is in part conditioned by, a surrounding material medium in Gibson (1986, p. 16–19). 15. As Uexküll writes, “the space peculiar to each animal, wherever that animal may be, can be compared to a soap-bubble which completely surrounds the creature at a greater or less distance. The soap-bubble of the extended constitutes for the animal the limit of what for it is finite, and therewith the limit of its world; what lies behind that is hidden in infinity” (Uexküll 1926, p. 42). See also Uexküll (2010, p. 69–70), where Uexküll further expands upon the soap bubble image. Interestingly, Susanne K.  Langer later translates Uexküll’s Umwelt into “ambient” (Langer 1967, p.  282–284). Langer’s notion of Umwelt as ambient denotes, in Eldritch Priest’s words, “a monadic surround or vital territory

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defined by the way an organism’s activities filter out deleterious or irrelevant influences” (Priest 2013, p. 50n). 16. Spitzer (1942b, p. 194). With the biological and sociological notions of the milieu/environment in the nineteenth century by Comte, Taine and others, Spitzer argues, the “‘surrounding element’” becomes “that which environs, not an inert substance, as in physics, but a living being; milieu ambiant represents the element in which an organism lives and upon which it depends for sustenance” (ibid., p. 175). And as he later concludes: “Also important, however, is the new emphasis on the mi of milieu: this now reflects a subjective attitude of being ‘in the midst of, surrounded by’ […]. What was once itself ‘in the middle,’ ‘a middle place,’ now becomes a place in-­the-­middle-of-which one is! After all its various cycles [middle place → intermediate point → place → ‘golden means’ → medium of communication → element considered as a factor → surrounding element → environment considered as a factor → the place surrounding us, in the middle of which we are], the word has come again to have a ‘middle’ meaning. The circle is completed” (ibid., p. 193–194). 17. To accentuate a few examples: Douglas Kahn notes how sound “is not only experienced as occurring in between but as surrounding the listener, and the source of the sound is itself surrounded by its own sound. This mutual envelopment of aurality predisposes an exchange among presences. […] Moreover, sounds can be heard coming from outside and behind the range of peripheral vision, and a sound of adequate intensity can be felt on and within the body as a whole, thereby dislocating the frontal and conceptual associations of vision with an all-around corporeality and spatiality” (Kahn 1999, p. 27). And in a similar vein, Karen Collins describes how sound’s enveloping capacities have been used “to refer to the sense of sonic spaciousness, the subjective immersion of the listener, the fullness of sound images around a listener, the sense of being enveloped by reverberant sound, and the sense of being surrounded by sound. I define envelopment as the sensation of being surrounded by sound or the feeling of being inside a physical space (enveloped by that sound)” (Collins 2013, p. 54). For a further discussion of the historical conception of sound as inherently spatial due to its vibratory, propagative and reflective nature, see Gascia Ouzounian (2020, p. 3–7). 18. Sterne (2003, p. 15). I will return to Sterne’s audiovisual litany in more detail later and discuss its implications for the notion of ambient sound.

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19. Yet, since evolution has in part predisposed humans to frontal vision (in contrast, for example, to animals with omnidirectional vision like deer, horses and rabbits), visual physiologists have, according to Gibson, mainly studied the act of looking-at and tended to overlook acts of looking-­around. This, Gibson argues, is in part due to habits of cultural practice since “we modern, civilized, indoors adults are so accustomed to looking at a page or a picture, or through a window, that we often lose the feeling of being surrounded by the environment, our sense of the ambient array of light” (Gibson 1986, p. 203). This claim, however, is arguably challenged, and quite distinctly so, by historical developments in modern urbanized and mediatized culture (Schmidt 2013; Crary 1990, 2001, 2013). 20. Directionality and surroundability are not only noetic acts of the intentional mind, to use the phenomenological vocabulary Ihde adopts from Husserl, but possess a noematic correlate in the phenomenal world: “Both these dimensional aspects of auditory presence [directionality and surroundability] are constant and copresent, but the intentional focus and the situation varies the ratio of what may stand out. There is also a noematic difference in relation to what kind of sound may most clearly present itself as primarily surrounding and primarily directional without losing its counterpart” (Ihde 2007, p. 77–78). 21. The term ‘onto-aesthetics,’ it should be noted, is not originally coined by Kane (as he claims, taking inspiration from Nelson Goodman). It is a term that is applied widely by Deleuze scholars and in Deleuzian inspired scholarship—along with similar terms such as ‘onto-ethics,’ ‘onto-­ epistemology’ and ‘onto-ethology’ (Alliez 2004; Zepke 2005; Buchanan 2008; Hetrick 2019)—to emphasize the aesthetic potentials implied in Deleuze’s realist, materialist, non-subjective, non-representational, and in some respects anti-phenomenological, philosophy. 22. For Deleuze, sensation and the sensible is not a capacity of the sensing subject, but something which transcends it as a potential (onto-aesthetic) ‘effect’, embedded in the empirical fabric of worldly being: “It is strange that aesthetics (as the science of the sensible) could be founded on what can be represented in the sensible. True, the inverse procedure is not much better, consisting of the attempt to withdraw the pure sensible from ­representation and to determine it as that which remains once representation is removed (a contradictory flux, for example, or a rhapsody of sensations). Empiricism truly becomes transcendental, and aesthetics

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an apodictic discipline, only when we apprehend directly in the sensible that which can only be sensed, the very being of the sensible: difference, potential difference and difference in intensity as the reason behind qualitative diversity. It is in difference that movement is produced as an ‘effect,’ that phenomena flash their meaning like signs” (Deleuze 1994, p. 56–57). 23. Ambient sound, and the tension between directionality and surroundability, is thus arguably a central part of the general historical development of modern Western culture, which includes key issues related to the onto-aesthetic management and regulation of attention. For instance, as Jonathan Crary argues, since the nineteenth century “Western modernity has demanded that individuals define and shape themselves in terms of a capacity for ‘paying attention,’ that is, for a disengagement from a broader field of attraction, whether visual or auditory, for the sake of isolating or focusing on a reduced number of stimuli. That our lives are so thoroughly a patchwork of such disconnected states is not a ‘natural’ condition but rather the product of a dense and powerful remaking of human subjectivity in the West over the last 150 years. Nor is it insignificant now at the end of the twentieth century that one of the ways an immense social crisis of subjective dis-integration is metaphorically diagnosed is as a deficiency of ‘attention’” (Crary 2001, p. 1).

Bibliography Alliez, Eric. 2004. The Signature of The World: Or, What Is Deleuze and Guattari’s Philosophy? London: The Athlone Press. Augoyard, Jean-François. 2004. Vers une esthétique des ambiances. In Ambiances en débats, ed. Pascal Amphoux, Jean-Paul Thibaud, and Grégoire Chelkoff, 17–30. Bernin: À la Croisée (Collection Ambiances, Ambiance). Baudrillard, Jean. 1968. Le système des objets. Paris: Gallimard. ———. 1996. The System of Objects. London: Verso. Böhme, Gernot. 1995. Atmosphäre. Frankfurt a.M: Suhrkamp Verlag. ———. 2001. Aisthetik. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag. ———. 2017. The Aesthetics of Atmospheres. Edited by Jean-Paul Thibaud. London: Routledge. Buchanan, Brett. 2008. Onto-Ethologies: The Animal Environment of Uexküll, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze. Albany: State Univerxity of New York Press.

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Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong. 2016. Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Citton, Yves. 2017. The Ecology of Attention. Cambridge: Polity Press. Collins, Karen. 2013. Playing with Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Crary, Jonathan. 1990. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ———. 2001. Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ———. 2013. 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London and New York: Verso. Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. Postscript on the Societies of Control. October 59: 3–7. ———. 1994. Difference and repetition. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1995. Negotiations 1972–1990. New York: Columbia University Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Galloway, Alexander, and Eugene Thacker. 2007. The Exploit: A Theory of Networks. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. Gibson, James J. 1986. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Grimshaw, Mark, and Tom Garner. 2015. Sonic Virtuality: Sound as Emergent Perception. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Guillebaud, Christine. 2017. Introduction: Multiple Listenings: Anthropology of Sound Worlds. In Toward an Anthropology of Ambient Sound, ed. C. Guillebaud, 1–18. New York and London: Routledge. Hagood, Mack. 2019. Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Hansen, Mark B.N. 2015. Feed-Forward: On the Future of Twenty-First-Century Media. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Hasse, Jürgen. 2014. Atmospheres as Expressions of Medial Power. Lebenswelt 4 (1): 214–229. Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Hetrick, Jay. 2019. Lazzarato’s Political Onto-Aesthetics. In Videophilosophy: The Perception of Time in Post-Fordism, ed. Maurizio Lazzarato, ix–xxv. Edited and translated by J. Hetrick. New York: Columbia University Press. Hörl, Erich. 2017. Introduction to General Ecology: The Ecologization of Thinking. In General Ecology: The New Ecological Paradigm, ed. E.  Hörl, 1–74. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

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Ihde, Don. 2007. Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound. 2nd ed. Albany: State University of New York Press. Kahn, Douglas. 1999. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Kane, Brian. 2014. Sound Unseen. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ———. 2015. Sound Studies Without Auditory Culture: A Critique of the Ontological Turn. Sound Studies 1 (1): 2–21. Kim-Cohen, Seth. 2013. Against Ambience. New York: Bloomsbury. Lacey, Jordan. 2022. Urban Roar: A Psychophysical Approach to the Design of Affective Environments. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Langer, Susanne K. 1967. Mind: An Essay on Human Feelings. Vol. 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press. McCormack, Derek P. 2018. Atmospheric Things: On the Allure of Elemental Envelopment. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Morton, Timothy. 2007. Ecology Without Nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. O’Callaghan, Casey. 2017. Beyond Vision: Philosophical Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Oliveros, Pauline. 2005. Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice. New York: Deep Listening Publications. Ouzounian, Gascia. 2020. Stereophonica: Sound and Space in Science, Technology, and the Arts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Peters, John Durham. 2015. The Marvelous Clouds: Towards a Philosophy of Elemental Media. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Pine, B.  Joseph, and James H.  Gilmore. 1999. The Experience Economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Priest, Eldritch. 2013. Felt as Thought (Or, Musical Abstraction and the Semblance of Affect). In Sound, Music, Affect: Theorizing Sonic Experience, ed. Marie Thompson and Ian Briddle, 45–63. London: Bloomsbury. Robinson, Dylan. 2020. Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Saito, Yuriko. 2007. Everyday Aesthetics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schafer, R.  Murray. 1994. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. Schmidt, Ulrik. 2013. Det ambiente [The Ambient]. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press. ———. 2017. Space as Elemental Medium: Architecture, Screen and Topological Space. In Architecture, Drawing, Topology, ed. C.  Dinesen, I.  Hyams, M.  Meldgaard, A.  Michelsen, and H.  Oxvig, 19–30. Baunach: AADR.

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———. 2019. Sound as Environmental Presence: Towards an Aesthetics of Sonic Atmospheres. In The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Imagination, ed. Knakkegaard Grimshaw and Hansen, 517–534. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schrimshaw, Will. 2017. Immanence and Immersion. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Sloterdijk, Peter. 2004. Sphären III: Schäume. Frankfurt a.M: Suhrkamp Verlag. Spitzer, Leo. 1942a. Milieu and Ambiance: An Essay in Historical Semantics [Part 1]. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 3(1): 1–42. ———. 1942b. Milieu and Ambiance: An Essay in Historical Semantics [Part 2]. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 3(2): 169–218. Sterne, Jonathan. 2003. The Audible Past. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2013. Soundscape, Landscape, Escape. In Soundscapes of the Urban Past. Staged Sound as Mediated Cultural Heritage, ed. Karin Bijsterveld, 181–194. Bielefeld: trancript Verlag. Thibaud, Jean-Paul. 2011a. A Sonic Paradigm of Urban Ambiances. Journal of Sonic Studies 1, 1. Unpaginated: https://www.researchcatalogue.net/ view/220589/220590. ———. 2011b. The Sensory Fabric of Urban Ambiances. Senses and Society 6 (2): 203–215. ———. 2011c. The Three Dynamics of Urban Ambiances. In Sites of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear, ed. Brandon LaBelle and Claudia Martinho, vol. 2, 43–53. Berlin: Errant Bodies Press. ———. 2015. The Backstage of Urban Ambiances: When Atmospheres Pervade Everyday Experience. Emotion, Space and Society 15: 39–46. ———. (2017a). Foreword. In The Aesthetics of Atmospheres, ed. Gernot Böhme, and Jean-Paul Thibaud, 1–3. London: Routledge. ———. 2017b. Afterword: The Sonic Attunement of Social Life. In Toward an Anthropology of Ambient Sound, ed. C. Guillebaud, 225–232. New York and London: Routledge. ———. 2020. A Brief Archaeology of the Notion of Ambiance. Unlikely, 6. Unpaginated: https://unlikely.net.au/issue-06/notion-of-ambiance. Toop, David. 2004. Haunted Weather. London: Serpent’s Tail. von Uexküll, Jakob. 1926. Theoretical Biology. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner. ———. 2010. A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Zepke, Stephen. 2005. Art as Abstract Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari. London: Routledge.

Part I Fields

2 Effects of Being-in

 oward a Material Morphology T of Ambient Sound Ambient sound is the onto-aesthetic exposure and emphasis of a sonic environment’s environing properties as environment by which it, potentially or actually, stimulates a listener’s sensation of being surrounded in and by a sonic surround. From this simple and very general assertion, a whole number of questions arise: What is the difference between a sonic environment and a sonic surround? What are the material, morphological and spatiotemporal attributes that are capable of exposing and emphasizing a sonic environment’s surrounding properties? What is the role of the surrounding space and the surrounding medium in the production of sonic surroundability? What is the function and possibility of individual sounds in the production of surroundability? From what perspective is surroundability comprehended as such? What does it entail to have an auditory ‘sensation of being surrounded’? Such basic questions obviously involve a wide range of different factors, culturally negotiated and historically shaped, including morpho-material and technological conditions,

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_2

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aesthetic ideals and strategies and cultural techniques of listening. In this first part, I will consider the morphological and material conditions of ambient sound, before turning to the other factors in later parts. What is it that makes a specific sound or sonic environment affect a potential listener as surrounding? What are the morphological and material properties that afford surroundability? What sonic forms, formations and material processes make a sound sound ambient? First of all, we must readily reject all idealist notions of form as a pre-­ figured, abstract model, which is then applied onto a dormant and essentially unformed sonic matter. This is especially true in the case of environmental sounds, but it arguably applies for all sounds, including exceptionally controlled events such as pitched musical sounds and meticulously shaped sounds in sound design and scientific experiments. The sonic environment, including all its individual parts, is not formed because an ideal shape or scheme has been introduced into a pre-­ constituted, formless space of inert matter, but because complex, intensive forces of sonic energy continuously modulate the environment ‘from within’ so that all parts commingle to layout a common dynamic array of environmental variation throughout the medium. This is the basic proposition behind James Gibson’s ecological approach, which I will also maintain here: that environments are heterogeneous and differentiated and therefore always already ‘structured’, ‘arranged’, ‘textured’ and ‘formed’ in ways that are both specific to the particular environment and in accordance with general principles of environmentality. Gibson—who, arguably against his general ecological intentions, focused almost exclusively on visual perception—presents his argument in specific relation to illumination and the visual structuring of environmental light. He distinguishes between two basic forms of light from a perceptual perspective: radiant light, coming from a source of luminous energy in or outside the animal’s environment; and ambient light, the diffuse, perceptual product of radiant light as it is scattered and reflected throughout the animal’s environment, filling it with various degrees of illumination. This variation in ambient illumination gives the environment a specific structure, which Gibson terms the “ambient optic array”:

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Only insofar as ambient light has structure does it specify the environment. I mean by this that the light at the point of observation has to be different in different directions (or there have to be differences in different directions) in order for it to contain any information. The differences are principally differences of intensity. The term that will be used to describe ambient light with structure is an ambient optic array. This implies an arrangement of some sort, that is, a pattern, a texture, or a configuration. The array has to have parts. The ambient light cannot be homogeneous or blank. (Gibson 1986, pp. 51–52)

A similar observation can be made in regard to sound and the sonic environment. Sonic differences relate and exchange energy, which give the environment a specific dynamic structure of intensive variation. A sonic environment does not consist of sonic forms plus formless matter but is always already shaped and structured in material ways that condition and specify it as environment. And this emergent, dynamic structure is what, on a basic perceptual level, makes it sound different from other environments as environment. The most dynamic, commingled, ‘formless’ and chaotic sonic environments are thus no less ‘structured’ and ‘formed’ than the most stable, discrete and meticulously ordered. Matter, form and movement are relative in the sonic environment. Material processes are determined by continuous formal configuration and vice versa. All sounds and all sonic environments are in that sense always already both ‘form’ and ‘matter.’ And as a consequence, we must seek a morphological and material understanding of ambient sound, in which form and matter are considered as coexisting and co-conditioning dimensions that together specify the sonic environment as a dynamic ‘ambient auditory array’: the continuous formation of sonic matter equals the continuous materialization of sonic form. Gilbert Simondon proposed, in 1964, a theory of material ontogenesis and individuation, which was a major inspiration behind Deleuze’s philosophy of becoming and difference. Simondon’s understanding of form and matter and their mutual relationship is especially relevant for an exploration of the co-constitutive morphological and material becoming of sound and the sonic environment. He argues for the necessity of abandoning two basic, and to some extent directly opposed, principles that

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have been immensely influential in shaping the philosophical understanding of form and matter and their relation at least since Aristotle: substantialism and hylemorphism. The “substantialist path,” he notes, “considers the being as consisting in its unity, given to itself, founded on itself, not engendered and as resistant to what is not itself.” The “hylemorphic path,” on the other hand, “considers the individual as generated by the encounter of a form and a matter.”1 Against both substantialism and hylemorphism, Simondon in turn argues that “formation” is not to be thought of as “the encounter of a preliminary form and a preliminary matter existing as previously constituted separate terms, but a resolution emerging within a metastable system rich in potentials: form, matter and energy preexist in the system” (Simondon 2020, p. 6). Or as Deleuze and Guattari would later recapitulate Simondon’s ideas: “The couple matter-­ form is replaced by the coupling material-forces” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 95). Applying this idea of morphogenesis beyond definite distinctions between matter and form to the sonic domain, the formation of sound can similarly be understood as a continuous blend or conjunction of matter in formation and formation of matter. Sound involves coexisting and co-constituting processes of formation and materialization in a material and formative ‘system,’ ‘milieu’ or ‘medium’, which can bring them together in the energic emergence of a morpho-material whole. Environmental sound is simultaneously formation, materialization and mediatization in the production of a common, formative and material medium-environment. The form of environmental sound is already its materialization as environmental medium, and its materialization as mediatic event is already a becoming of environmental form. Form, matter and energy preexist in the system as a form of sonic matter-medium. Consequently, ambient sound is not a simple result of a morphological scheme, an ‘ambient form’, that is, introduced into or laid out over the environment. Neither is it a mere product of immanent material properties of sound—e.g., vibrant matter in flux—that can be generalized into an ambient principle of enveloping sonic affectivity. Such assumptions tend to presuppose either a substantialist or a hylemorphic understanding of being, in which one state is privileged for another (either form over matter or the opposite). By contrast, ambient sound must be

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distinguished as neither the result of a surrounding sonic form that is being projected onto the sonic environment, nor a pure flux of formless sonic matter, but a continuous matter-formation of sound into potential surroundability. It is a complex onto-aesthetic becoming ambient of sound that emerges from the mediatic event as material formation. Now, the basic question is: what morpho-material characteristics, what mediatic-­environmental energies, what types of matter-formation have the capacity to produce sonic surround effects? How can we describe the onto-aesthetic surroundability of ambient sound beyond hylemorphism and substantialism? What morpho-material properties make some sounds sound more surrounding than others? And how can we approach such issues in the first place? To open a first, and perhaps a little less abstract, path into these pertinent questions, I will start by revisiting a key event in the cultural history of early twentieth-century music: Erik Satie’s infamous idea of musique d’ameublement, ‘furniture music’ or ‘furnishing music.’ Undoubtedly, their anecdotical ambiguity notwithstanding, Satie’s short and playful descriptions have often been regarded as a prominent early articulation of what we might call a ‘proto-ambient’ aesthetics of sound in modern culture.

Sound as Furniture Satie initially introduced his idea of furniture music in connection with a musical performance in Galerie Barbazanges in Paris in 1920, made in collaboration with Darius Milhaud. The now famous event consisted of a small musical composition that was performed as an interlude for a play by Max Jacob; a short four-bar piece, stitched together out of fragments from other compositions, which was repeated, over and over again, in a continuous loop by a group of musicians scattered around the room. By discreetly accumulating a soothing musical environment, it was Satie’s explicit hope to induce the guests into a state of diverted social conduct. Musique d’ameublement was music as function. And in the music’s demonstrative awareness of its own functionality, it was also function as artistic concept; a form of performative pop conceptualism avant la lettre, decades before the emergence of either commercialized functional music,

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pop art and sonic conceptualism. To underline the meta-performative nature of the event, the overall concept and its functionalist intentions were famously set forward in advance in the performance program: We are presenting today for the first time a creation of Messieurs Erik Satie and Darius Milhaud, directed by M. Delgrange, the ‘musique d’ameublement’ which will be played during the intermissions. We urge you to take no notice of it and to behave during the intervals as if it did not exist. This music, specially composed for Max Jacob’s play, claims to make a contribution to life in the same way as a private conversation, a painting in a gallery, or the chair in which you may or may not be seated. (Templier 1969, p. 45)

Later, in a conversation, referred by the artist Fernand Léger, Satie elaborated on his idea of musique d’ameublement and its aesthetic potentials: Obliged to put up with unbearable vulgar music, we left the room [of the restaurant] and Satie said to us: ‘Nevertheless, furniture music is something that should be created, a music, that is, which would be part of the ambient noises, would take them into account. I think of it as melodious, softening the noises of the knives and forks without dominating them, without imposing itself. It would furnish the occasional heavy silences between the dining guests. It would save them from everyday banalities. And at the same time, it would neutralize the street noises which enter into the play of conversation without discretion.’ It would, he said, respond to a need.2

Together the two short passages, excessively quoted in writings within sound studies, music history and art history, constitute a key reference for the general genealogy of twentieth-century experimental music and sound art. However, Satie’s ideas have also been influential in creating a more specific image of thought around the idea of environmental sound and the social use of music associated with everyday auditory practice, including sound design in public spaces, sonic atmospheres, the aesthetics of background music and the genres of functional and ambient music. However, to get a clearer idea of the potential ambient aspects of furniture music, I would like to delve a little further into the sonic characteristics that are decipherable from Satie’s brief descriptions. Is Satie’s

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furniture music mostly suggesting a general idea of functional or environmental music or can we see it as an early articulation of a specific ambient aesthetics? And what, if so, are the specific ambient aspects of furniture music? The meaning and significance of the term musique d’ameublement differs greatly depending on whether we regard it as referring to the series of compositions Satie made under that title, or we think of it as a general idea, a form of casually sketched design concept, for a future type of environmental music. Apart from the distinct use of repetition, reciting short musical fragments over and over again for as long as necessary, Satie’s compositions themselves do not possess much of the ambient qualities for which his furniture music was later praised by prominent figures such as Cage, Eno and others.3 Indeed, Satie’s historical influence on later practices with ambient sound is dominated almost entirely by his imaginary prospects of furniture music, rather than on his actual realizations of it. Of special importance in this context, however, is the fact that Satie, albeit somewhat vaguely and ambiguously, articulated his idea of furniture music around a set of specific morphological characteristics, which he thought could potentially induce the desired state of diverted listening and social musicking he was looking for. Some sounds, Satie seems to think, are more furniture-like than others. The morpho-material scheme of Satie’s musical concept can be summarized in the principle of sonic unobtrusiveness produced by a ‘furniture effect’ of non-particular sonic ordinariness.4 The becoming furniture of sound arguably entails a becoming generic, anonymous, receding into a common system or ground in the same way as other commonplace objects and activities tend to merge with their surroundings (“a contribution to life in the same way as a private conversation, a painting in a gallery… and chairs”). Furniture sounds withdraw into the indistinctive in-between, filling out pauses between individual events and neutralizing their salient impact to create a sense of non-hierarchical, all-­encompassing environmental wholeness (“furnish the occasional heavy silences between the dining guests”; “would be part of the ambient noises, would take them into account […] softening the noises of knives and forks”; “neutralize the [indiscreet] street noises”). In this softened, common space, no sounds will ideally stand out, dominate or attract individual attention

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(“without dominating… without imposing itself ”). The furniture effect, in other words, is not an effect of individual furniture—sound as, say, an individual ‘chair’ or ‘table’—but rather of an ensemble of ‘furniture items’ accumulating to produce an overall effect of the sonic environment as a massive, ‘furnished’—yet soft, discreet and non-imposing—space. It is sound as a form of mundane artificial habitat, a living room of generic sonic masses, a home without a home. And in this generic, massive and unobtrusive sonic habitability, Satie seems to think, lies the foundation for a new form of listening: an unfocused, dispersed and essentially inattentive listening, bordering on ignorance (“take no notice of it”; “behave […] as if it did not exist”).

Centralization and Decentralization With the specific historical context of Satie’s furniture music as point of departure, I now wish to expand the perspective and consider what is perhaps the most immediately evident of all ambient effects: the sensation of being in an environment. As we shall see, this effect is to some extent related to the effect of unobtrusiveness. Yet, it also highlights other crucial aspects of ambient sound that are more directly connected to the effect of surroundability. As discussed earlier in relation to Uexküll’s notion of Umwelt, and as it has been stated continuously in phenomenological and psychological writings on perception, living beings perceive their environments as if from inside a surrounding bubble that expands from the body and out toward the horizon as a ubiquitous sensible whole. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, for example, continually stresses the primordial spatial interiority of embodied being. “Space,” he writes, is “reckoned starting from me as the null point or degree zero of spatiality. I do not see it according to its exterior envelope; I live it from the inside; I am immersed in it. After all, the world is around me, not in front of me” (Merleau-Ponty 1993, p.  138). As environmental surround, ambient space thus implies an engagement with interiority, with being inside, quite similar to when, for instance, Brian Eno describes his ambient music as music “to be experienced from the inside” (1982). Yet, listening to ambient sound not only entails a sensation of interiority, as if crossing

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the border between outside and inside were sufficient to intensify the sensation of being surrounded. Depending on the power and intensity of the surround effect, ambient sounds will create a feeling of being drawn toward the middle of the environment, the mi-lieu, as the null point around which everything revolves.5 Ambient sound, in other words, implies an effect of centralization, of being a solitary ‘me’ surrounded in the middle of ‘everything else.’ On a general level, we can distinguish two levels in which effects of centralization are being produced: a techno-spatial and a morpho-­ material level. On the level of techno-spatial centralization, the listener’s sensation of being installed, virtually or actually, in a center position is produced by properties associated with the frameworks of sonic production—the mediums, the spaces, the architectures—and their shaping of the listening environment. By building specific ambient affordances into the very machinery of sonic production, space itself is potentially experienced as centralizing the listener in a privileged position. Conversely, morpho-material centralization denotes the production of centralizing effects due to properties associated with the configuration and distribution of the sonic material alone (which may of course take place within a techno-spatial framework). The sensations of being in the middle produced on the two levels of onto-aesthetic centralization are admittedly quite similar, and they often tend to blend in specific events. Yet, the means by which they are produced differ considerably, and they point to distinct and independent aspects of ambient surroundability. I will explore the mechanisms and strategies of centralizing the listening environment by techno-spatial means extensively in Part III. For now, I will focus on the morpho-material aspects of aesthetic centralization. Reflecting on the relation between being and environment, Martin Heidegger distinguished the basic ontological principle of “being-in as such” (das In-Sein als solches) as a primordial sensation of environmentality and surroundability. Being-in as such is being before the sensible presence of and attention to other beings and thus before the surroundability of being is constituted as a sense of being-in a specific position, location, place or ‘world.’ Being-in as such, he writes, is “being-in in contradistinction to the objectively present insideness of something objectively present ‘in’ an other; being-in not as an attribute of an objectively present subject

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effected or even initiated by the objective presence of the ‘world’; rather, being-in essentially as the kind of being of this being itself ” (Heidegger 1996, p.  124). Relations between beings, between subject and object, between subjects and between objects, are constituted on the existential background of being-in as such, which binds them together and enables any meaningful exchange between them. Being-in as such thus differs entirely from the objective being of other material entities ‘in’ the world. It is being before the surroundings are divided into objects, subjects, sections, worlds—anything that can phenomenally disrupt the radical continuity of the surrounding environment; it is being, as Heidegger notes, before any sense of “between” that “splits the phenomenon” of enveloping surroundability.6 As an implied consequence of Heidegger’s argument, the ambient sensation of being-in as such is thus opposed to another basic—but essentially non-ambient—form of environmental being: that of relationality, or what Heidegger call “being-with” or “being-together-with.” Being-in as such, Heidegger argues, ontologically precedes (or renders ineffective onto-aesthetically) any ‘ecological’ sensation of entanglement, interconnectivity and togetherness as an essentially non-relational, disconnected wholeness.7 Heidegger’s latent essentialism notwithstanding, we can thus acknowledge, from the onto-aesthetic domain of morpho-material effects, how his analysis of being-in offers important perspectives on the ambient auditory sensation of being surrounded. More specifically, it indicates how the onto-aesthetic presence of other beings in the environment, of individuated objects, subjects and their interrelations, may potentially constitute a basic challenge to the morpho-material production of sonic surroundability. Ambient sound, in other words, becomes ambient and produces ambient effects precisely in the moment it dissolves the onto-aesthetic significance of otherness, individuation and relationality in favor of a pre-objective, pre-individual and ultimately decentered ‘total effect.’ In a full and radical sonic surroundability, nothing in the environment confronts or attracts the listener from a particular position or with a particular identity. Nothing stands out, nothing has an individual effect or significance, and nothing calls for special attention. Everything merges, everywhere and all the time.

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Otherness, individuation and relationality, in other words, first and foremost constitute a problem, from the position of ambient sound, because of the negative influence they have on the effects of aesthetic centralization. Relational sensations of being-with pose a fundamental challenge to the subject’s sensation of being (in) the center of the event by transferring the sense of centralization, and consequently of surroundability, out into the environment, out toward other subjects and objects, other centers. All this indicates with particular clarity how ambient sound indeed has an ambiguous relationship with the very principle of centralization. Ambient sound gains an important part of its effect by effectively centralizing the listener within the environment; yet this effect is in part produced by a morpho-material decentralization of the environment. The environment will only produce strong sensation of being centralized when all other centers are effectively reduced or eliminated. Effects of centralization and effects of decentralization are, in other words, complimentary components in a simultaneous process of ambient centralization-­ decentralization. Decentralization as the non-relational, non-individuated morpho-material configuration and distribution of the ambient environment; centralization as the associated onto-aesthetic effect of being-in-­ the-middle. Ontologically and morphologically decentralized, aesthetically centralizing. Or to pose it as a general principle: morpho-­ material decentralization affords aesthetic centralization.

Notes 1. Simondon (2020, p. 1). Although my focus is not on individuation—if anything, it is, as I will discuss later, rather on opposite: de-­individuation—I will largely adapt Simondon’s ontogenetic understanding and regard the sonic environment as a metastable system in which matter, form and energy are coexisting forces in the general production of ambient sound. 2. Léger is quoted from the English translation in Potter (2016, p.  144), with my alterations on the basis of the French original quoted in Myers (1952, p.  137). Another, again slightly different, English translation is quoted in Cage (1973, p. 76).

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3. The actual music pieces Satie made under the title Musique d’ameublement (1917–23), each composed for a particular location, mostly appear today as Satie’s musings in the divertissement style of his time. According to Rollo Myers, the music “consisted of fragments of popular refrains from Mignon and Dance Macabre and isolated phrases repeated over and over again, like the pattern of wallpaper” (quoted in Lanza 2004, p. 18). For further discussions of Satie’s specific Musique d’ameublement compositions, see Kahn (1999, p. 179–181), and Potter (2016, p. 146). 4. As Kahn comments on Satie’s first performance of musique d’ameublement, to “put music in the intermission required an unobtrusive music—otherwise it would be another performance and not an intermission at all” (1999, p. 180). 5. As discussed earlier, the term milieu is etymologically associated with a sense of ‘middle place’ or ‘place in the middle’ (French, mi: middle + lieu: place). This meaning, going back to a combination of the Latin words medium and locus, is in turn directly linked to and derived from the concept of the ambient (Spitzer 1942a, b). 6. Hence, according to Heidegger, to state that “Dasein is the being of this ‘between’ [would] be misleading” since it “colludes unawares with the ontologically indefinite approach that there are beings between which this between as such ‘is.’ The between is already understood as the result of the convenientia of two objectively present things. But this kind of approach always already splits the phenomenon beforehand, and there is no prospect of ever again putting it back together from the fragments. Not only do we lack the ‘cement,’ even the ‘schema’ according to which this joining together is to be accomplished has been split apart, or never as yet unveiled. What is ontologically decisive is to avoid splitting the phenomenon beforehand, that is, to secure its positive phenomenal content” (Heidegger 1996, p. 124). 7. Heidegger’s analysis of being-in is, of course, part of the much broader, and much more well-known, analysis of Being-in-the-world based on attunement and understanding. Being-in-the-world is not reduceable to being-in. Besides ‘being-in as such,’ it also includes the ‘in-the-world’ and the ‘being’ of being-in-the-world. Yet, according to Heidegger, the existential worldly entanglements of being-in-the-world and being-together-­ with are still founded upon a more basic sensation of being-in: “‘Being together with’ the world, in the sense of being absorbed in the world, […] is an existential which is grounded in being-in” (1996, p. 51).

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Bibliography Cage, John. 1973. Silence: Lectures and Writings. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Eno, Brian. 1982. On Land, Ambient 4. Cover notes. EG Records Ltd. Gibson, James J. 1986. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany: State University of New York Press. Kahn, Douglas. 1999. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Lanza, Joseph. 2004. Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1993. Eye and Mind. In The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, ed. Galen A.  Johnson, 121–150. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Myers, Rollo. 1952. Erik Satie: son temps et ses amis. La Revue musicale. Paris: Éditions Richard-Masse. Potter, Caroline. 2016. Erik Satie: A Parisian Composer and His World. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. Simondon, Gilbert. 2020. Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information. Translated by Taylor Adkins. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. Spitzer, Leo. 1942a. Milieu and Ambiance: An Essay in Historical Semantics [Part 1]. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 3(1): 1–42. ———. 1942b. Milieu and Ambiance: An Essay in Historical Semantics [Part 2]. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 3(2): 169–218. Templier, Pierre-Daniel. 1969. Erik Satie. Translated by E.L. French and D.S. French. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

3 Environmental and Surrounding Sounds

From Environmental to Surrounding Sounds Two basic concepts have informed my analysis so far without being given a proper amount of attention: environmentality and surroundability. They are both key components in a general aesthetics of ambient sound and thus intimately related. Yet, they must be clearly distinguished since they each express a different level of requirement for the production of ambient sound. Environmentality entails that ambient sound must be environmental, that it must sound as being of and coming from the surrounding environment. Surroundability, in contrast, entails that ambient sound must be surrounding, that it must render audible the environment as an encompassing, enveloping whole. The two notions are clearly linked to effects of unobtrusiveness, centralization-decentralization and being­in, but they also point to a whole range of other morpho-material issues, especially concerning the relation between ambient sound and the sonic environment. If we first consider the principle of environmentality, we can distinguish two forms of sonic environmentality. On the one hand, environmentality denotes the onto-aesthetic effects associated with the cause or

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source of a sound by which it exposes its origin as being of this environment. On the other hand, it entails the effect associated with certain morpho-material qualities of a sound (or a group of sounds) that make it sound environmental. Environmental sounds thus sound environmental either because they sound as if they come from the environment or because they sound as environments in their own right, or both at the same time. While being related, the two forms of sonic environmentality point to quite different aspects of ambient sound. The former is associated with ontogenetic notions of environmental immanence, causality and material presence, the latter with morphological and material characteristics. Still, however, taken together the two forms comprise a first general morphogenetic principle of ambient sound: to make sounds environmental. Yet, to produce proper surround effects—and not simply environmental effects—environmental sounds must furthermore expose and intensify their environing capacities. Ambient sounds produce surround effects precisely because they appear to surround a listener in a different way, to a different extent and with a different intensity than they surround everything else in the environment. In other words, ambient sounds are configured and distributed in ways that in effect give them an inherent centripetal quality of being directed inward toward the center of the environment, that is, toward the centralized ambient listener. To become truly ambient, from an onto-aesthetic perspective, environmental sounds must expose their environing properties in a potential surround effect. The production of this basic effect comprises a second general morphogenetic principle of ambient sound: to turn environmental sounds into surrounding sounds.

Objectivity and Environmentality The principles of environmentality and surroundability are obviously strongly related and their effects are often not easily distinguished. Yet, while being environmental is an essential feature of ambient sound, environmental sounds are not necessarily ambient. For instance, environmental sounds such as the sound of the doorbell or a dog barking in the

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distance will typically not produce a simultaneous effect of surroundability. Sonic environmentality is often packed with effects of site-specificity, situatedness and localizability, while sonic surroundability is not. Moreover, environmentality often implicates a sense of sonic immediacy, presence and causality, which in turn supports onto-aesthetic effects of being-with and coming-from the same environment in which the listener is situated. As we shall see, this claim for sonic environmentality as an aestheticization of causal immediacy and immanence is central to much contemporary sound art, not least because of its decisive role in Cagean and post-Cagean aesthetics. For the moment, however, the basic onto-­ aesthetic question still remains: What distinguishes environmental sounds from non-environmental sounds? What makes them sound environmental? One of the most elemental criteria in the onto-aesthetic production of environmental sound is the principle of sonic objectivity. Various understandings of objectivity and objective aesthetics have been proposed in and outside sound and music studies. It has been a common tendency, here, to associate objectivity with a reduction of expressivity and, more generally, human involvement in the production and shaping of the sonic material, in favor of a more literal, unequivocally material and non-­ human form of environmental being. This objective environmental being is to some extent comparable to the “mode of being” that Heidegger associates with the “objective presence which determine innerworldly beings unlike Da-sein” (Heidegger 1996, p.  171). Accordingly, sonic objectivity can be distinguished as the quality of a sonic event that it emerges, unfolds and affects listeners independently of any guiding intentionality or communicative desire. It thus entails a sonic being that is in direct opposition to sensations of human communication, intersubjectivity, expressivity and illusionism, void of signifying references and subjective connotations—whether imitative, symbolic or anthropomorphic, anything that will bind the sonic event to an intentional, communicative or expressive origin and thereby separate it from anything else in the environment. Subjectivity centralizes. It draws attention to itself as a demarcated unity and draws a line between the subject and the surrounding environment, which in turn is reduced to a background for intentional acts of expression and communication. Sonic objectivity thus

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constitutes a prerequisite for the very production of environmentality. It is that which exposes, onto-aesthetically, that a sound is coming from the environment as a whole, and not from a particular, subjective, intentional and communicative entity enclosed within and segregated from the environment. Objectifying and dehumanizing tendencies have obviously influenced music and visual art for decades. In 1925, Ortega y Gasset famously argued that the work of Claude Debussy introduced a rupture in modern music history by initiating a “conversion of the subjective attitude into the objective,” which created “the ground of the new ultra-worldly world” (Ortega y Gasset 1968, pp.  29–30). Several directions in twentieth-­ century art and aesthetics express similar affinities with sonic objectivity, from Futurism, Bauhaus and Neue Sachlichkeit to the neo-avantgarde practices of the 1960s.1 The artistic affinity with aesthetic objectivity in modern art arguably culminates in 1960s minimalist music and visual art. Minimalism—in both its musical and its sculptural articulations— thus stands out as the pivotal historical embracement of aesthetic objectivity as a total principle that guides all aspects of the artwork, from its methods of production to its intended effects. Most notably, objectivity was instrumental in minimalism’s well-known staging of the artwork as a fundamentally environmental situation, characterized by the vital performative co-presence of the work as material entity and the embodied beholder. In a central, often-quoted passage from 1966, minimalist sculptor Robert Morris described what he saw as the new aesthetic potentials of an orientation toward objects and objectivity as simultaneously an orientation toward the situation of perception and its environmental conditions: The better new work takes relationships out of the work and makes them a function of space, light, and the viewer’s field of vision. The object is but one of the terms in the newer aesthetic. It is in some way more reflexive because one’s awareness of oneself existing in the same space as the work is stronger than in previous work, with its many internal relationships. One is more aware than before that he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial context. (Morris 1993b, p. 15)

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Michael Fried’s lamenting critique of minimal art (or “literalist art,” as he preferred to call it), “Art and Objecthood,” first published in 1967, is still a seminal text which has had an immense influence on minimalism’s art historical reception and its legacy as a defining movement in the development of contemporary art. Commenting on the quoted passage and other writings by Morris, Fried argued that minimal sculpture introduced a fundamental change in aesthetic orientation toward materiality precisely due to the object’s non-representational and non-expressive effect of letting “the material itself confront one in all its literalness, its ‘objectivity,’ its absence of anything beyond itself ” (Fried 1998, p. 143). Or as the philosopher Sheldon Nodelman noted in 1967, minimal art stakes out a new aesthetic plane “of intense immediacy” in which the “spectator is no longer invited to contemplate a proffered world of fictive contents which are deployed in front of him as on a stage,” but is instead “confronted with formal events which take place in his own life-space— his Umwelt as Husserl called it—on the same terms, claiming to affect his life with the same ‘real’ force as do the objects of that world” (Nodelman 1967, p. 74). Although the minimalist principle of objectivity has mainly been articulated in relation to visual art, sonic objectivity was arguably of similar importance in the aesthetics of minimalist music—from the non-­ expressive configuration of the singular notes, sounds and phrases to the non-narrative, anti-teleological flow of the musical event.2 Whereas the geometric monoliths of minimalist sculpture highlighted the art experience as an embodied environmental situation, the non-expressive, non-­ communicative and non-illusionist manifestation of repetitive or droning sonic processes placed the listener in an intensified bodily presence with the vibrant sonic material and the surrounding space in which it unfolded as a total environmental situation. As Steve Reich stated in 1969, setting up gradual musical processes without further interference from the composer “can give one a direct contact with the impersonal […] where one hears the details of the sound moving out away from intentions, occurring for their own acoustic reasons” (Reich 2002, p.  35). Whether we take the machine-like, repetitive automatism and self-generating systems of composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Charlemagne Palestine or the literalist exposure of sonic matter in the sustained drones

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of La Monte Young, Tony Conrad and Pauline Oliveros, they all gain their basic effects from the objective production of sonic processes from which musical expression and teleological tension are expelled in order to expose and stage the sonic event as an environmental situation. Due to the profound objectification of the sonic material alone, we can thus identify a deep environmental propensity in the heart of early minimalist music. One of the key expressions of this is found in the minimalist revolt against anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism, the tendency to invest non-human phenomena with human characteristics, was one of the central points of criticism by minimalist artists such as Frank Stella, Donald Judd and Robert Morris.3 Anthropomorphism, and the differentiation between anthropomorphic and non-anthropomorphic sonic qualities, also comprises, however, a central, albeit more implicit, aesthetic reference in the production and experience of sound and music in musical minimalism specifically and in modern and contemporary music and sound art in general. We can distinguish between two basic forms of sound according to their degree of anthropomorphic qualities and connotations: On the one hand, what we may call phonic sounds (gr. phōnḗ: voice), denoting sounds that are shaped in accordance with an underlying morphological scheme of human vocation, including specific forms of timbre formation, vocal filtering, syntax, gestural expressions and speechlike, linguistic articulation. On the other hand, we have the pure sonic events (lat. sonus: sound, noise), connoting the a-phonic, non-human, non-­articulated, non-syntactic sonic matter-formations that emerge and affect without morphological and onto-aesthetic reference to the voice and human expression.4 This simple distinction between phonic and sonic events is to some extent informed by the plain ontological difference between sounds produced by the human voice and sounds that are mechanically, instrumentally or technologically produced. However, the distinction, let alone its effect on musical and sonic aesthetics, goes far beyond the simple ontological differentiation between vocal and non-vocal sound sources. It concerns broader morphological properties, affinities and onto-aesthetic effects that are often produced independently of a sound’s natural origin. It thus goes without saying that non-vocal musical forms (i.e., instrumental music) are equally capable of producing phonic sensations and

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voice-like expressions that stimulate and encourage spontaneous auditory anthropomorphism—as if the instrument or the sonic material ‘speaks’ or ‘sings’ in ‘its own voice.’ Or that whole musical structures are often infused by anthropomorphic forms of syntactic organization centered around directional, narrative patterns of tension and release. Besides, technologically produced sounds can be made to sound phonic, voice-­ like, due to a particular morpho-material modulation of sonic matter, where anatomical features of the human vocal system function as a general model for the tonal design—from vocoders and wah-wah pedals to synthetic speech generators. Either way, anthropomorphism and human expression remain guiding references for the onto-aesthetic configuration, distribution and perception of phonic events. More importantly, however, this anthropomorphism, and its orientation around the intentional, expressive and communicative human subject, is precisely the reason why phonic events, from the perspective of onto-aesthetics, must also be considered less environmental. They centralize, and are centered around, the human subject, ontologically and aesthetically. Anthropomorphism thus entails an aesthetic decoupling of the phonic event from its objective surrounding environment by constituting it as an individual act of expression. In contrast, a-phonic events are, to a much larger extent, simply there, objectively and dispassionately detached from human patterns of communication and intentionality. They merely happen, without obvious intent, without communication. Rather than being the product of an original subjectivity, they ‘originate’, onto-aesthetically, in the environment itself as the material, surrounding world of objective sounds. In short, phonic events are subjective and individual, whereas sonic, a-­phonic events are objective and environmental. The differentiation between the phonic and the sonic is, of course, never absolute and their effects are not mutually exclusive. For instance, phonic events can easily turn into environmental sonic events without losing their phonic qualities altogether, like the quiet atmospheric chatter of people in a restaurant or the massive roar of fans at a football match. More precisely, the two forms compose a dynamic onto-aesthetic axis of morpho-material configuration between the phonic and the sonic, which in turn set up a whole diagram of artistic possibility and aesthetic

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preference in regard to the sonic relation between the human and the environmental. Hence, Cage’s famous call for musical practices that “let sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories or expressions of human sentiments” (Cage 1973, p. 10)—a defining stylistic and poietic reference for much postwar experimental music and sound art—arguably constitutes the most direct, let alone the most influential, articulation of a material aesthetics of music as an objective, a-phonic event centered around a critique of sonic anthropomorphism. Moreover, Cage’s general conception of silence discloses his strong, resilient desire for the aesthetic emancipation of an objective non-human world of environmental sound that has been veiled and detained behind a phonic world of musical anthropomorphism: Formerly, silence was the time lapse between sounds, useful towards a variety of ends, among them that of tasteful arrangement, whereby separating two sounds or two groups of sounds their differences or relationships might receive emphasis; or that of expressivity, where silence in a musical discourse might provide pause or punctuation. […] Where none of these or other goals are present, silence becomes something else—not silence at all, but sounds, the ambient sounds. (Cage 1973, p. 21)

To Cage, silence in music conventionally comprised an acoustic void or non-sound that enabled syntax-like divisions, thematic groupings and expressive contrasts by highlighting relational, expressive and essentially phonic tensions between separate, individual sounds. Silence, too, was, in this conventional sense, part of a general anthropomorphic scheme of phonic sound. Cage instead wanted to explore the opposite situation that emerges when sounds are no longer thought of and listened to as intentional expressions balanced in a hierarchical system of syntactic and gestural relations. Undoubtedly, 4′ 33″ (1952) remains the quintessential example of this reorientation toward environmental sound. By bringing, in a conventional performance setting, the sociomaterial acoustics of the specific concert space forward and back to life from the silenced background of a sedimented conventional music culture, Cage invited listeners to perceive the whole situation as a total musical event of objective, a-phonic

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environmental sound. As Kahn notes, 4′33″ “silenced music to hear the unintended, surrounding sounds, the noises, and ultimately the total environment” (Kahn 1999, p. 183). Cagean anti-anthropomorphic aesthetics can, in other words, be summarized in the call for an emancipation of silence through its emergent transformation into objective, environmental sound: “not silence at all, but sounds, the ambient sounds” (although what Cage here calls ‘ambient sound’ is not necessarily ambient in the onto-aesthetic sense of producing surround effects, but first and foremost environmental). Cage’s environmental aesthetics, however, is not a total abolition of a human perspective. The shift of focus from silence to background noise to environmental sound merely denotes, as Kahn argues, a shift from human production to human perception. “Cage explicitly sought to subvert tactics based in human centeredness, yet all he did was shift the center from one of utterance to one of audition. He simply became quiet in order to attract everything toward a pair of musical ears” (Kahn 1999, p. 197). Cage’s reorientation toward environmental sound, in other words, seems to epitomize the basic morphogenetic principle of ambient sound: that morpho-material decentralization (by desubjectification) affords aesthetic centralization (of the listening subject). The phonic centralization of music around the human subject as composer-producer and morphological effect is abandoned for an intensified aesthetic inclusion of the human subject as listener within the sonic environment as an objective, musical event.5

Objectlessness Whereas sonic environmentality comprises an onto-aesthetic precondition for the production of ambient surroundability, objectivity in turn comprises a precondition for the production of environmentality. It is, in other words, possible to draw a direct line of causality from sonic objectivity to environmental sound to ambient sound. Now, what characterizes this move from environmental to ambient sound? What is it that is capable of turning objective, environmental sounds into ambient sounds? More than anything, the move from environmental to ambient sound has to do with the status of the object.

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To further explore this, I will return to the role of objectivity in 1960s minimal sculpture and compare it to that of musical minimalism from the same period. It is evident here that minimal sculpture and minimal music claim objectivity on quite different terms precisely because of their different relationships with the object. Due to its objective, environmentally situated aesthetics, in which the material space and the embodied viewer’s field of vision become of key concern, minimalist sculpture may at first glance seem to involve a distinctive form of ambient aesthetics. The celebrated ‘inclusion of the beholder’ that minimal art introduced, a feature that would later become a defining characteristic of contemporary art in general, builds, however, on an underlying sensory scheme of object-oriented opposition and confrontation, which is in direct conflict with the situation’s ambient potentials. Indeed, minimalist sculpture is arguably one of the most profound and direct manifestations of an object-­ oriented aesthetics in the history of art, most unambiguously expressed in the iconic cubes, bricks, slabs and boxes by sculptors like Donald Judd, Carl André, Robert Morris, Tony Smith and Robert Bladen. By virtue of its uniform, geometrically abstract shapes, which spontaneously separates it from its immediate surroundings, the singular object was intended to appear the “more intense, clear and powerful” (Judd 2017, p. 142) and to create “strong gestalt sensations” (Morris 1993a, p. 6). It lies in the very concept of the object that it opposes and confronts. It is placed ‘in front of ’ and ‘thrown against’ the subject (from lat. ob [against, in front of, toward] + jacere [to throw]). The inclusion of the viewer in the experience of the minimal object is, in other words, essentially an inclusion in a front-to-front relationship with the physical object and its intense, clear and powerful environmental presence within the same space as the embodied beholder. The sensation of the surrounding space, and indeed the whole situation in which the beholder is supposed to be included, is thus ultimately defined by and centered around the object and its confrontational relationship with the subject. The potential sense of being surrounded in minimal art succumbs to the primacy of object-oriented directionality. If there ever was an ambient spirit in minimal art’s inclusion of the beholder, then, the very surroundability of the situation remains, also in the most literal sense, nothing but a mere side effect.

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Hence, while the objective and performative presence of the object was a key factor in minimal art’s environmental inclusion of the beholder and the surrounding space, it is the exact same attributes that splits the ambient sense of surroundability and being-in by centralizing the perceptual energy around the object as a form of being-with. This very difference between object-oriented directionality and ambient surroundability arguably comprises the main difference in the aesthetic agendas of minimal sculpture and minimal music: The visual aesthetics of stark confrontation and obtrusiveness in minimal sculpture is opposed by a proto-ambient aesthetics of non-confrontation and unobtrusiveness in minimal music. As I have argued elsewhere, as far as the question of anti-­ illusionist and anti-expressionist objectivity is concerned, the sustained drones and serial repetitions of early minimalist music are directly comparable to the geometric objects and grid-based structures of early minimalist sculpture (Schmidt 2007). Yet, in regard to the morpho-material production of environmentality, they are radically opposed. Compared to the geometric, unified objects, the minimal drones and gradual repetitive processes are rather ‘non-objects,’ inhabiting and filling the entire space in a non-confrontational manner. While the sculptural object is taking a confrontational position in the environment to activate it as part of the viewer’s situation, minimal music produces environmentality as a sonic objectivity without objects. Musical minimalism, in other words, is a form of objectless minimalism. While being actively defied in the confrontational aesthetics of early minimal sculpture, the ambient unobtrusiveness, so central to Satie, is retained and refined in the objectlessness of minimal music. Early minimalism—especially the early repetitive works of Reich and Riley—was in turn an explicit major inspiration (together with Satie and Cage) for Brian Eno’s promotion of non-confrontational objectlessness as the cornerstone of his aesthetics of ambient music in the 1970s. “As the listener,” he writes, I wanted to be situated inside a large field of loosely-knit sound, rather than placed before a tightly organised monolith (or stereolith, for that matter). I wanted to open out the aural field, to put much of the sound at a considerable distance from the listener (even locating some of it ‘out of

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earshot’), and to allow the sounds to live their lives separately from one another, clustering occasionally but not ‘musically’ bound together. (Eno 1982)

To recapitulate, from the broader perspective of ambient sound, the problem with the object is thus in many respects similar to the problem of subjectivity: It challenges the listener’s position as the center of the event. For this reason, anti-anthropomorphic reduction of subjectivity is a necessary but not a sufficient component in the production of surround effects. Objectivity merely exposes and intensifies a sound’s environmental properties, not its capacity for environmental decentralization and unobtrusiveness. To intensify surroundability, objective environmental sound must abandon the object and nullify its confrontational potentials. To state it in general terms, the move from environmental to ambient sound presupposes objectlessness. While Fried’s critique of minimal art is usually interpreted as a defense of the autonomy of the artwork against the ills of material objectivity, art historical scholarship has mostly ignored that his critique is actually, to a large extent, based on what he saw as minimalism’s disgraceful—albeit largely unacknowledged (then as now)—engagement with an aesthetics of objectlessness. The problem with the literal object, to Fried, was not so much the object itself as it was the way it activated a dormant field of untamable and unrestricted environmental processuality. In a central passage, Fried cites a description by the minimalist sculptor and architect Tony Smith of a personal experience he had during a nightly car ride in the late 1950s on the, as yet unfinished, New Jersey Turnpike. Considering the immense influence of Smith’s description in the history of contemporary art—and to allow for a full presentation of its playful articulation of what arguably comprises an early, lucid example of an abstract-concrete aesthetics of artificial environmentality—I quote the full passage: When I was teaching at Cooper Union in the first year or two of the fifties, someone told me how I could get onto the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike. I took three students and drove from somewhere in the Meadows to New Brunswick. It was a dark night and there were no lights or shoulder markers, lines, railings, or anything at all except the dark pavement moving

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through the landscape of the flats, rimmed by hills in the distance, but punctuated by stacks, towers, fumes, and colored lights. This drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn’t be called a work of art. On the other hand, it did something for me that art had never done. At first, I didn’t know what it was, but its effect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. It seemed that there had been a reality there that had not had any expression in art. The experience on the road was something mapped out but not socially recognized. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear that’s the end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that. There is no way you can frame it, you just have to experience it. (Smith in Wagstaff Jr 1968, p. 386)

Smith’s description is for Fried the paradigmatic example of what he famously refers to as the “theatricality” of literalist art—that is, it’s being “concerned with the actual circumstances in which the beholder encounters literalist work […] in a situation—one that, virtually by definition, includes the beholder” (Fried 1998, p. 153). This situated theatricality is especially problematic in Fried’s view because it is in direct conflict with the autonomous abstract painting of the period favored by Fried. More importantly here, though, Smith’s description also confirms Fried that the theatricality of literalist art is in fact not essentially bound to the object at all. The experience of the minimal object, Fried seems to realize, can find a direct counterpart in the experience of driving a car onto a dark, unfinished freeway. “It is as though,” Fried notes, “the turnpike [reveals] the theatrical character of literalist art, only without the object, that is, without the art itself—as though the object is needed only within a room” (Fried 1998, p. 159). In Smith’s description, the object has now merely been “replaced” by something else: And “what replaces the object—what does the same job of distancing or isolating the beholder, of making him a subject, that the object did in the closed room—is above all the endlessness, or objectlessness, of the approach or onrush or perspective”; of the “empty, or ‘abandoned,’ situations”; of “the turnpike itself as something enormous, abandoned, derelict” (Fried 1998, p.  159, my emphasis). According to Fried, then, Smith’s experience on the turnpike is thus essentially of the same character as the experience of the minimal

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object simply because literal objectlessness, in the exact same manner as the literal object, emphasizes the theatrical, situated aspect of the experience, now simply without the object. The radical aesthetic difference between the object’s confrontational objecthood and the non-­ confrontational unobtrusive environmentality of objectlessness seems, however, of no particular importance. In the end, to Fried, the experience of the literal object and the experience of its literal absence are one and the same thing. As a consequence, Fried ends up ignoring the aesthetic potentials that lie at the very center of objectlessness and thus, eventually, the ambient underpinning of minimal art in particular and of contemporary art in general. Somewhat ironically, the development of contemporary art in the years following Fried’s critique was precisely dominated by a dissolution of the art object into an “expanded field” (Krauss 1979) of environmental objectlessness, with new artistic mediums and new fields of practices such as land art, media art, performance and installation art. The emergence of sound art as a quasi-autonomous field of practice is intimately linked to this general development, especially with the introduction of new and more environmental sound practices such as full-­ scale immersive installations, environmental sound sculptures, durational and site-specific performances, field recordings played back in art galleries, and artistic constructions of sonic architectures.6 With this development, however, a number of important, and as yet still largely unanswered, questions arise regarding environmental and ambient sound and their different involvements with sonic objectlessness in the expanded field— and thus also to the particular role and status of ambient sound and ambient aesthetics in the general ‘environmentalization’ of contemporary sound art: In what sense, for example, can we understand sound art environments as specifically ambient manifestations of sonic objectlessness (and not simply of environmental sound)? And is it so straightforward after all to equate visual and sonic objects, as we have just done—and thus, in turn, to equate visual and sonic objectlessness? Are sonic objects obtrusive, centralizing and confrontational in the same way that visual objects are? What, after all, is a ‘sonic object’?

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The A-figurative Continuum One of the most well-known and influential notions of the sonic object in modern music and auditory aesthetics is undoubtedly Pierre Schaeffer’s conception of l’objet sonore. Inspired by the phenomenology of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, Schaeffer conceives of the sound object as an “intentional unit” (Schaeffer 2017, p.  207). In his Guide to Sound Objects, Michel Chion expands Schaeffer’s concept to include “every sound phenomenon and event perceived as a whole, a coherent entity” (Chion 2009, p. 32). Moreover, Schaeffer distinguishes, somewhat remarkably, the sound object from its mere empirical being. The sound object, in his conception, is not so much an object because it appears as a specific and distinctly individuated unit of sonic matter, morphologically differentiated from its immediate surroundings. It is, Schaeffer writes, first and foremost an object because it “present[s] itself as transcendental, inasmuch as it remains the same, throughout the flux of impressions and the diversity of modes.”7 Schaeffer’s sound object is therefore not to be confused with the singular empirical event unfolding in a specific environment. It is, according to Brian Kane, an “ideal object […] ontologically distinguished from the realm of empirically sounding events in that its ideal ‘being’ guarantees infinite empirical identification and reidentification without divergence” (Kane 2014, p. 33). The sound object, in short, is the ideal unit or abstract identity that appears when a sonic event— through an act of reduced and repeated listening—is stripped down to its core attributes.8 Schaeffer’s focus was primarily guided by what he saw as the new possibility of establishing the sound object as the foundation for a general transcendental morphology of sounds. He was neither particularly interested in describing the morpho-material characteristics of sonic objecthood nor in the conception and aesthetic effects of individual sonic events as objects. This transcendental understanding of the sound object complicates a direct comparison to onto-aesthetic notion of the sonic object in relation to ambient sound. For what its morphological principles are concerned, ambient effects of sonic objectlessness are not so much opposed to the object as an abstract, transcendental unity, but to

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the confrontational split, tension and perceptual hierarchies that are introduced into the environment by the empirical presence of a sensible object. For this reason, the morphological-perceptual division of the environment into object and (surrounding) objectlessness arguably better resembles another, much more widespread and tremendously influential, principle of hierarchical organization: that of figurativity. The problem with the sound object, from the perspective of ambient sound, thus lies first and foremost in its effect as a figure, in the form of an enclosed and demarcated unit that is spontaneously isolated in perception from the rest of the environment as from a secluded ground of sounding or non-­ sounding objectlessness.9 Introduced by Gestalt psychologists Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler and Kurt Koffka in the 1920 and 1930s, the idea of figurativity is based on the general hypothesis that human experience is determined and organized by a perceptual tendency to spontaneously segregate enclosed figures, forms and objects from a formless, open and surrounding field or (back)ground. Figurativity thus not only denotes the existence and perceptual construction of figures. It refers to a whole “framework” of perception based on the fundamental division of the “environmental field” into parts that are organized in a dynamic hierarchical relationship with one another (Koffka 1936). The perception of the environment, according to Gestalt psychology, is thus always in a state of tension between parts that are perceived as solid, enclosed, important and central and parts that are not. As Schaeffer would later describe it in specific relation to sound, figure and ground “are at war” (Schaeffer 2017, p. 217). Although the Gestalt psychologists were almost exclusively visual in their argumentation and experimental orientation, they nevertheless insisted that the figure-ground distinction holds for all sensory domains.10 Countless attempts have ever since been made to think of sound and the auditory perception of the environment in terms of Gestalt principles and figurative segregation (Bregman 1990). An often referenced and, in this context, highly relevant example of this is found in R.  Murray Schafer’s conception of the soundscape. Schafer conceived of the soundscape as an environmental arrangement organized around a few central

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categories—‘keynote sounds,’ ‘sound signals’ and ‘sound marks’—the functions and internal relations of which he explicitly defined in Gestalt psychological terms.11 In this way, Schafer ends up misidentifying the soundscape as primordially and essentially hierarchical, structured around central parts in relation to which all other elements will be perceived as withdrawn, peripheral and less important, bordering on imperceptibility and ignorance. Of course, empirical sonic environments are often perceptually split into hierarchies of more and less salient events, even into figures and grounds in the Gestalt theoretical sense.12 And, as Schafer himself also acknowledges, there are indeed situations, both unintentional and intentionally composed, where the auditory perspective can be disturbed by reversing the hierarchical relation between figure and ground so that the ground becomes figure and vice versa. However, taking the Gestalt framework of figurative perspective as a general model for environmental sound and listening inevitably and per definition renders objectless sounds as but a contrasting, secondary supplement to the primacy of enclosed, emphasized and in essence more important foreground sounds. The sonic environment without figurative tension, segregation and perspective—and, in consequence, the whole idea of unobtrusive, non-confronting and objectless ambient environments—becomes a sonic curiosity, pushed out into the periphery of auditory culture. In his ecological approach, James Gibson strongly objects to the hypothesis of figurative segregation as a primordial organizing principle in environmental perception. Instead, he builds his theory on the idea that visual perception of the surrounding environment is direct and non-­ representational in nature, organized, as discussed earlier, by an objectless yet differentiated, varied and dynamic continuum he calls the “ambient optic array.” To “put it radically,” Gibson argues, the environment does not consist of objects. The environment consists of the earth and the sky with objects on the earth and objects in the sky, of mountains and clouds, fires and sunsets, pebbles and stars. Not all of these are segregated objects, and some of them are nested within one another, and some move, and some are animate. But the environment is all these various things—places, surfaces, layouts, motions, events, animals, people,

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and artifacts that structure the light at points of observation. The [ambient optic] array at a point does not consist of forms in a field. The figure-­ ground phenomenon does not apply to the world in general. (Gibson 1986, p. 66)

Gibson’s focus on visual perception notwithstanding, his argument arguably opens for another conception of the sonic environment, and of ambient sound in particular, beyond figurative organization. The objectlessness of the ambient environment does not, in this conception, entail a void of non-sound, lurking imperceptibly behind salient and pregnant sonic figures. In line with Simondon’s aforementioned theory of morphogenesis beyond hylemorphism, it rather comprises a dynamic, material continuum of environmental variation, audible in its own right as a heterogeneous ambient auditory array. We perceive the surrounding world “in a medium instead of in a void,” as Gibson notes, and the environment is not “a homogeneous field with no differences of intensity in different parts. An array cannot be homogeneous; it must be heterogeneous. That is, it cannot be undifferentiated, it must be differentiated; it cannot be empty, it must be filled; it cannot be formless, it must be formed” (1986, p. 65). This is a crucial observation for the understanding of ambient objectlessness and its onto-aesthetic implications, since it poses a strong argument against the environment—and, by implication, sonic environments and soundscapes—as primordially hierarchical and figurative. Furthermore, it enables a conception of ambient sound that goes against the common understanding—already popularized in the critical reception of Eno’s first ambient records—that ambient sound is first and foremost a ‘background’ phenomenon.13 Conversely, ambient sound could, and indeed must, be conceived as an environmentality that can autonomously produce and comprise a ‘total’ field in which hierarchical distinctions between foreground and background are no longer valid, relevant or aesthetically significant.14 We can, in other words, begin to listen to the environment as a full, complex, dynamic and highly material field of a-hierarchical surroundability, which exists and affects—not behind or around but—beyond objects, beyond segregation between more and less important elements, and beyond the relational and confrontational sense

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of being-with. With such a perspective, it is now possible to pose a general principle for the difference between sonic environmentality and surroundability: environmental sound becomes surrounding sound when hierarchical relations between figure and ground, foreground and background, dissolve to produce the environment as a total, a-figurative continuum.

Notes 1. For example, in essays from the early 1920s, the neo-plastic painter Piet Mondrian proposed a mechanical and electric “neo-plastic music” built on the morphological principle of non-human objectivity. The old aesthetics of the “human touch,” he claimed, “always involves the individual to some degree and prevents the perfect determination of sound.” The neoplastic artist must instead free himself of his “animality” and “achieve pure exteriorization of his deepest ‘self.’ ” After this “there will be no need either for the old plastic means or for the vocal organs of man. Man will prefer sounds and noises produced by inanimate […] materials. He will find the noise of a machine more sympathetic (in its ‘timbre’) than the song of birds or men” (Mondrian, quoted in Kahn 1999, p. 109). For an elaborate discussion of the historical interest in sonic objectivity among 1920s visual artists, including Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky, see Kahn (1999, pp. 105–109). 2. For instance, Wim Mertens describes minimal music as “an objective music […]. The music exists for itself and has nothing to do with the subjectivity of the listener” (Mertens 1983, p. 90). 3. In a radio interview by Bruce Glaser, made in 1964, Stella and Judd thus describe how they see anthropomorphism as a guiding principle in most painting until the 1960s and how this principle is intimately connected to an idea of relational tension between parts and elements in the painting (Glaser 1968). The fact that earlier painting and sculpture were essentially perceived as consisting of parts, and that these parts were inevitably placed in relation to each other, either by the artist or by the beholder, create, they argue, a tension in the very surface of the work. This tension is seen as of the same basic nature as the tension between body parts in painterly and sculptural depictions of the human body. The determination of a work’s aesthetic effect by its relational tensions thus means, for the minimalists, that an anthropomorphization of the

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visual form is inevitable. “Surfaces under tension are anthropomorphic,” wrote Robert Morris in 1967, “they are under the stresses of work much as the body is in standing. Objects which do not project tensions state most clearly their separateness from the human” (Morris 1993c, p. 38). 4. According to Online Etymology Dictionary (etymonline.com), phonic etymologically comes from gr. phōnḗ: ‘voice,’ which again comes from Proto-­Indo-­European root bha-: ‘to speak, tell, say.’ Sonic comes from lat. sonus: ‘sound, noise,’ which again comes from Proto-Indo-European root swen-: ‘to sound.’ 5. Cage’s insistence on the general musicality of the sonic environment— also a prominent feature in several other thinkers of the sonic environment before and after Cage, from Uexküll to Schafer—is based on an underlying identification of the sonic environment with nature and the natural environment. As Douglas Kahn has observed, this identification of environmental sound with musical sound is not an innocent choice and has important consequences for an aesthetics of sound in general and for a truly environmental aesthetics of environmental sound in particular. Cage, writes Kahn, “was known for stepping outside the usual confines of Western art music to usher noise and worldly sounds into music and for proposing a mode of being within the world based on listening, through hearing the sounds of the world as music. […] When questioned from the vantage point of sound instead of music, Cage’s ideas become less an occasion for uncritical celebration, and his work as a whole becomes open to an entirely different set of representations. What becomes apparent in general is that while venturing to the sounds outside music, his ideas did not adequately make the trip. The world he wanted for music was a select one, where most of the social and ecological noise was muted along with other more proximal noises. […] Moreover, his ideas did not make the trip at a time when the social conditions of aurality and the nature of sounds themselves, in Cage’s term, were continuing to undergo major transformations not immediately amenable to music as practiced […]; the sheer number of sounds increased as they became freighted with multiple, shifting allusions and meanings. Sounds themselves took on multiple personalities, and the nature of sound became less natural. Through the redundancies trafficked by means of mass culture, many sounds became naturalized and were capable of being perceived with greater speed. Under the guise of a new aurality, an opening up to the sounds of the world, Cage built a

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musical bulwark against auditive culture, one founded on a musical identification with nature itself ” (Kahn 1999, pp. 161–162). 6. Defining instances in this historical development into sound art environments include iconic works such as Maryanne Amacher’s City-links series (1967–), in which environmental sounds are transmitted in real time from distant urban sites into gallery spaces; Bernhard Leitner’s Sound Cube (1969, realized 1980) and Sound Tube (1973) in which speakers are installed “on the floor, above and to the sides of a room, so that the visitor walking through the installation would feel encircled by sound” (Licht 2019, p.  37); La Monte Young’s and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House (1977/1993–), a permanent installation in which an apartment in Tribeca, Manhattan, is bathed in a loud uninterrupted standing wave of sine-tones in various frequencies, violently transforming the walls, floors, objects and listening bodies into a common resonating field of total vibration; and Max Neuhaus’s Times Square (1977–1992/2002– ), a permanent installation of soft ringing drones discreetly emanating from an underground subway grate in a triangular pedestrian island in Times Square, Manhattan. For a much more elaborate description of the complex and multifaceted development of the sonic environment as a leading format in sound art and its place in the general history of contemporary art, see LaBelle (2015, pp. 54–68 and 147–241), and Licht (2019, pp. 30–61). 7. Schaeffer (2017, p. 207). The sound object is, according to Brian Kane, “a particular type of transcendental object, the typing of a sonic token defined by the possession of certain invariant features” (Kane 2014, p.  33). Schaeffer’s transcendental notion of the object is based on his notorious connection of the sound object with a specific ‘reduced’ mode of listening—an idea he adapted from Husserl’s ideas of the epoché and phenomenological reduction. Reduced listening is the intentional mode of listening that is capable of stripping a sonic event of its empirical particularities to give access to a ‘reduced’ variation of the sound as a transcendental unity. For an elaborate discussion of Schaeffer’s transcendental notion of the sound object and its relation to reduced listening, see Kane (2014, p. 15–41). 8. This transcendental understanding necessarily involves technology and the possibility of capturing a sonic event for repeated listening. The sound object as transcendental unit must be repeatable in order to enable the listener to expose its ‘hidden’ identity by a phenomenological reduc-

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tion to its transcendental qualities. “For sound to become object—since it could not be observed like a static visual object—required a chartable consistency enabled only by repetition: something to master or, at least, temper its temporal flux and ephemerality. This was accomplished [by Schaeffer] by fixating and isolating a sound with a looped magnetic tape or a locked groove on a record. This process not only wrenches a sound from its source and context; as the loop or groove repeats a sonic event, the sound becomes an object for the listener” (Steintrager and Chow 2019, p. 8). 9. For this same reason, Albert Bregman has suggested that what he calls an “auditory stream” is a better and direct pendant to the visual object, compared to the notion of the sound object (Bregman 1990). 10. Koffka (1936, p. 200). While insisting on the generalizable potentials, Koffka also admitted, though, that there were some unsolved problems when transferring the idea to other senses—for example, and most interestingly in this context, when “the auditory ground is ‘stillness’ ” or in relation to the “‘atmosphere’ of a room.” Such “backgrounds are more comprehensive than the purely visual ones,” Koffka says, “since they are grounds for the Ego as well as for the things with which it finds itself confronted. Our conclusion then is that the figure-ground distinction, though it is applicable to all senses, offers new problems when we go beyond vision, problems which are of great significance for the theory of behaviour, but which as yet are in too embryonic a state to deserve further discussion” (Koffka 1936, p. 201). 11. Hence, “the figure,” Schafer notes, “corresponds to the signal or the soundmark, the ground to the ambient sounds around it—which may often be keynote sounds—and the field to the place where all the sounds occur, the soundscape” (Schafer 1994, p.  152). And later: “In soundscape studies sound signals are contrasted by keynote sounds, in much the same way as figure and ground are contrasted in visual perception” (Schafer 1994, p. 275). 12. For example, as Theo van Leeuwen argues, instances of auditory perspective not only comprise a common feature of environmental audition in general but have also become an important design parameter in much contemporary music and cinematographic sound design (1999, pp.  15–23). Adapting Schafer’s distinctions, van Leeuwen thus argues for a similar basic differentiation between figure, ground and field: “The semiotic system of aural perspective divides simultaneous sounds into

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groups, and places these groups at different distances from the listener, so as to make the listener relate to them in different ways. […] The sound may either be divided into three groups (positioned as Figure, Ground and Field) or two groups (positioned as Figure and Ground or as Figure and Field). When there is no perspective, there is only a Figure” (van Leeuwen 1999, pp. 22–23). 13. As Eno noted in 1982, his conception of ambient music involves “the idea of music that allows you any listening position in relation to it. This has widely been misinterpreted by the press (in their infinite unsubtlety) as background music. I mean music that can be background or foreground or anywhere, which is a rather different idea” (Eno quoted in Tamm, pp. 53–54). The idea of the ambient as background, however, is still prevalent also in research literature. For instance, discussing ambient sound and media, Paul Roquet suggests that a “key function of ambient media is to provide an absolute background” (2016, pp. 51–52). 14. Timothy Morton makes a similar case in relation to aesthetic experiences and what he calls “ambient poetics” as the creative attempt “to undermine the normal distinction between background and foreground” (Morton 2007, p. 38): Background and foreground, he says, “rely upon distinguishing between here and there, this and that. We talk about ‘background noise,’ while music appears as in the foreground, terms indicating distinct political and historical bearings. Background music, Muzak, or specifically ambient music, attempt to […] undo the difference between a perceptual event upon which we can focus, and one that appears to surround us and which cannot be directly brought ‘in front of ’ the sense organs without losing its environing properties” (Morton 2007, p. 47).

Bibliography Bregman, Albert S. 1990. Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Cage, John. 1973. Silence: Lectures and Writings. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Chion, Michel. 2009. Guide to Sound Objects. Translated by John Dack and Christine North. Electronic Resource: https://monoskop.org/images/0/01/ Chion_Michel_Guide_To_Sound_Objects_Pierre_Schaeffer_and_Musical_ Research.pdf. Eno, Brian. 1982. On Land, Ambient 4. Cover notes. EG Records Ltd.

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Fried, Michael. 1998. Art and Objecthood. In Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews, ed. M. Fried, 148–172. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Gibson, James J. 1986. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Glaser, Bruce. 1968. Questions to Stella and Judd. Radio Interview, WBAI-FM, New York, February 1964. In Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock, 148–164. New York: E.P. Dutton. Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany: State University of New York Press. Judd, Donald. 2017. Specific Objects. In Donald Judd Writings, ed. Flavin Judd and Caitlin Murray, 134–145. New York: Judd Foundation. Kahn, Douglas. 1999. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Kane, Brian. 2014. Sound Unseen. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Koffka, Kurt. 1936. Principles of Gestalt Psychology. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. Krauss, Rosalind. 1979. Sculpture in the Expanded Field. October 8: 30–44. LaBelle, Brandon. 2015. Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. 2nd ed. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Leeuwen, Theo van. 1999. Speech, Music, Sound. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire and London: Macmillan Press Ltd. Licht, Alan. 2019. Sound Art Revisited. London and New  York: Bloomsbury Academic. Mertens, Wim. 1983. American Minimal Music. Translated by J.  Hautekiet. London: Kahn & Averill. Morris, Robert. 1993a. Notes on Sculpture, Part 1. In Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, ed. Robert Morris, 1–10. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ———. 1993b. Notes on Sculpture, Part 2. In Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, ed. Robert Morris, 11–21. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ———. 1993c. Notes on Sculpture, Part 3: Notes and Non Sequiturs. In Continuous Project Altered Daily: The Writings of Robert Morris, ed. Robert Morris, 23–39. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Morton, Timothy. 2007. Ecology Without Nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Nodelman, Sheldon. 1967. Sixties Art: Some Philosophical Perspectives. Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal 11: 72–89.

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Ortega y Gasset, José. 1968. The Dehumanization of Art and Other Essays on Art, Culture, and Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Reich, Steve. 2002. Writings on Music 1965–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Roquet, Paul. 2016. Ambient Media: Japanese Atmospheres of Self. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Schaeffer, Pierre. 2017. Treatise on Musical Objects. Translated by Christine North and John Dack. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. Schafer, R.  Murray. 1994. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. Schmidt, Ulrik. 2007. Minimalismens æstetik [The Aesthetics of Minimalism]. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum. Steintrager, James A., and Rey Chow. 2019. Sound Objects: An Introduction. In Sound Objects, ed. James A. Steintrager and Rey Chow, 1–19. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Wagstaff, Samuel, Jr. 1968. Talking with Tony Smith. In Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock, 381–386. New York: E.P. Dutton.

4 Field Effects

Univocity and Consistency By combining non-anthropomorphic objectivity and a-figurative objectlessness, the sonic environment is produced as an unobtrusive continuum of potential surroundability. I will refer to this general effect of desubjectified, a-figurative continuity as a field effect. Field effects are the most direct audible indicator that environmental sounds have started to turn into surrounding sounds. But why conceive of field effects as specifically ambient, and not simply as environmental? What is it about the field that makes it especially capable of producing surround effects? In modern and contemporary physics, a field is understood as a state of space where a physical quantity is attached to all points in a larger or smaller area, resulting in an undivided spatiotemporal continuity between all parts of the field.1 Hence, no ontological distinction is made between different parts of a field as it was the case, for instance, in distinctions between substance and void in antique metaphysics or between a body and the surrounding “ambient medium” in Isaac Newton’s classical mechanics.2 Of particular relevance here is the conception of the relationship between object and space in Albert Einstein’s field theory. As Einstein © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_4

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argued in 1934, Euclid’s geometry, which still comprised the basis for the Western understanding of space well into the nineteenth century, was limited “to the concept of the object, and the spatial relations between objects […]. Space as a continuum does not figure in the conceptual system at all” (Einstein 1999, pp. 254–55). In contrast, Einstein’s field is extended and full; it covers all space as an undivided continuum. In 1941, the physicist Leopold Infeld, Einstein’s longtime collaborator, described how the fundamental divergences in the understanding of space and object became especially apparent in the transition from mechanical and particle physics to modern field physics: I see an object; how can I understand its existence? From the point of view of a mathematical theory the answer would be obvious: the object consists of small particles held together by forces. But we can look upon an object as upon a portion of space where the field is especially dense. The mechanist says: here is the object localized at this point of space. The field physicist says: field is everywhere, but it diminishes outside this portion so rapidly that my senses are aware of it only in this particular portion of space. (Infeld 1980, p. 257)

The physical conception of space as field involves, in other words, a basic dissolution of the object as a separate, autonomous unity into a radical continuum of all-encompassing objectlessness: “field is everywhere.” Yet, as we saw in Gibson’s conception of space as environmental medium, the shift in orientation from object to field does so simultaneously reduce space to a totality of undifferentiated nothingness. While being objectless and decentralized, fields are also radically differentiated, dynamic and materially full. This ontological quality of being heterogenous and differentiated yet decentralized and continuous, and in which no part of the field is claimed to exist on another level than others, is comparable to what Deleuze describes as univocity. “In effect, the essential in univocity,” Deleuze says, is not that Being is said in a single and same sense, but that it is said, in a single and same sense, of all its individuating differences or intrinsic modalities. Being is the same for all these modalities, but these modalities are not the same. It is ‘equal’ for all, but they themselves are not equal. It is said of all

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in a single sense, but they themselves do not have the same sense. […] Being is said in a single and same sense of everything of which it is said, but that of which it is said differs: it is said of difference itself. (Deleuze 1994, p. 36)

There are not two basic ontological levels of being—for example, object and field, subject and object, nature and culture, reality and simulacrum—but “a single ‘voice’ of Being” (ibid.), an “ontologically single substance” in which all elements “have at once identity of being and distinction of formality. Ontologically one, formally diverse, such is their status.”3 Translating Deleuze’s monist idea of univocity from the ontological perspective of being to the onto-aesthetic perspective of affectivity and effect, it is possible to observe a close similarity between univocity and the objectless, a-figurative quality of the ambient field. Onto-aesthetically, univocity can be understood as the morpho-material quality that all sounds and all sonic differences appear as being of the same environmental ‘substance’, while simultaneously allowing for a radical differentiation between them. The ‘single voice’ of univocal being becomes an onto-­ aesthetic effect, a ‘univocal effect’, of objectless material wholeness, characterized by the capacity of all sounds in the field to affect the listener on the same level of perception, without hierarchy and without privilege. As univocal effects, all sounds merge into a single “plane of consistency,” where no individual events stand out as isolated and particular, where nothing expresses itself in a unique and singular way that distinguishes it ontologically from everything else, and where nothing is of another order or significance than anything else. Consistency is precisely the univocal “synthesis of heterogeneities as such” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 330). It is the force of univocity that onto-aesthetically binds all environmental sounds together in a single, a-phonic voice of decentralized ambient matter. Field is everywhere.

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Ubiquity ‘Field is everywhere’ means that all sounds are a univocal part of the same diverse, a-figurative, consistent continuum of material forces that fill out the entire surrounding environment. It entails, in other words, a potential onto-aesthetic production of ubiquity. In sound and music studies, ubiquity has often been associated with difficulties in locating the source of an environmental sound. For instance, as Jean-François Augoyard and Henri Torgue argue in their guide to everyday sounds and sonic effects: “For the ubiquity effect to occur, we must consciously look for the source location of the sound, and fail, at least for a moment, to identify it.”4 In a similar vein, Anahid Kassabian argues that what she calls “ubiquitous music” relies “on a kind of ‘sourcelessness.’ […] It comes from everywhere and nowhere. Its projection looks to erase its production as much as possible, posing instead as a quality of the environment.”5 As I will argue in more detail later, sourcelessness is indeed a crucial factor in ambient sound’s overall capacity to produce sensations of being surrounded. Nevertheless, the specific conception of ubiquity as an effect of sourcelessness is inaccurate. Undoubtedly, sonic ubiquity may easily involve the inability to locate the source of a sound. Yet, conceiving of ubiquity effect as a mere lack of locatability would make it but a function of a general acousmatics of veiled sound sources. It does not explain the essence of being ubiquitous. Or, for that matter, of experiencing ubiquity effects. Instead, ubiquity must first and foremost be conceived of as a particular form of presence: of omnipresence, of being everywhere. Ubiquity can, in other words, be seen as the ultimate field effect; it is the direct affective correlate of ‘field is everywhere’. And this effect is not so much produced by the perceptual absence of sound sources, but by the unrestricted material presence of sound. Ubiquity is the onto-aesthetic effect of a continuous, consistent environment, vibrating all-over and throughout the entire field of audition, leaving no parts empty and unaffected. Whereas the ‘field is everywhere’ of quantum physics is said univocally as an ontological property of the material world, and field effects are the onto-aesthetic expressions of this property, ubiquity is the, essentially ambient, actualization of these effects in a specific sensation of being

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surrounded by an all-encompassing field of sound. Ubiquity is the actualized being-in of ‘field is everywhere’. We move from a basic field effect (‘field is everywhere’) to a basic surround effect (‘field surrounds me’). Hence, instead of being an effect of sourcelessness and lack of locatability, ubiquity is essentially a quantitative effect. It is a matter of sheer size and number. We can distinguish two basic types of ubiquity effects from the way in which sound is quantified: expansion and accumulation. Whereas expansion is quantity in a sound’s spatiotemporal dimensions characterized by continuity, accumulation is quantity in the number of sounds characterized by repetition. A sonic environment can thus produce ubiquity effects either by expanding a sound in time and space to the extent that it comprises a spatiotemporal field of surrounding sound, or by multiplying discrete environmental sounds until they—afiguratively and univocally—accumulate into a consistent continuum of sonic omnipresence. Ubiquitous sounds are thus either wide (expansion in space; volume), sustained (expansion in time; duration) or massive (accumulation in number; multiplicity, mass)—or a combination. Such expansions and accumulations into ubiquity effects comprise one of the key principles in the morpho-material transformation of environmental sound into surrounding sound. Ambient sounds, to put it simple, are in this respect nothing but environmental sounds when they are big, long and many.

Immanence and Immersion Ubiquity’s expansion and accumulation of the sonic environment into an all-encompassing, a-figurative continuum—and, by extension, surroundability itself—raises a basic question regarding the relation between inside and outside, interior and exterior, in the production of ambient sound. To what extent does it apply when a ubiquitous field of sound is experienced as ‘being everywhere’? Being said of all sound, univocity is in principle indifferent to distinctions between inside and outside, here and everywhere. As Deleuze writes, “univocal being is understood as neutral, neuter, indifferent to the distinction between the finite and the infinite, the singular and the universal, the created and the uncreated” (1994,

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p. 39). How does ubiquitous sound negotiate the obvious paradox that its ‘being everywhere’ is in fact, and often quite obviously, relative to the specific aesthetic situation, which always has an ‘outside’? What, in other words, are the relations between an onto-aesthetics of ‘total’ univocal immanence and the onto-aesthetic obliteration of the outside to induce an immersive sensation of ‘total’ interiority?6 In his excellent book, Immanence and Immersion (2017), Will Schrimshaw explores the implications of sonic immanence and immersive aesthetics for contemporary sound art practice. Central to Schrimshaw’s argument is a critique of what he sees as a leading tendency in recent sound art to embrace a “logic of interiority” (ibid., p. 2). He associates this logic with a misconception of sound as essentially ambient and immersive. This misconceived essentialism, in turn, enables a dubious “conflation of immanence and immersion [with] the consequence of constraining the former within the limits of the latter” (ibid., p. 17). The problem with an ambient “aesthetics of immersion from the perspective of immanence” is thus that immersion renders immanence relative to the immersed subject through the positing of a primacy and centrality of experience. If immanence is to be absolute then immersion cannot be allowed to constitute a sufficient aesthetics of immanence. Immersion posits a plane of immanence, a plane within which there is no externality, nothing beyond a realm of affective appearances. (ibid.)

Indeed, as discussed earlier, ambient sound has no special or essential privilege in claiming an ontology of immanence and univocity compared to other (non-ambient) sounds. From an ontological perspective of immanence, all sounds are univocal. No sounds are ‘more interior’ than others. However, while immanence must be claimed ontologically for all sounds, ambient sound is still arguably one of the most direct onto-­ aesthetic expressions of sonic immanence (although ambient aesthetics is, as Schrimshaw rightly argues, certainly not “sufficient” for a general aesthetics of sonic immanence). Furthermore, contrary to Schrimshaw’s argument, the relation between immanence and immersion does not necessarily entail a “conflation” of the two, with immanence being

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constrained within a logic of immersion. Quite the opposite, ambient sound and immersivity rather involves a shift in domain from that of an ontology to that of an onto-aesthetics of immanence, from material being to material effect. And moreover, to be ambient and immersive is always relative to a perspective, while immanence is not. As Gibson notes, in a passage I have already quoted, “to be ambient at a point means to surround a position in the environment that could be occupied by an observer. The position may or may not be occupied” (Gibson 1986, p. 65). Surroundability and immersivity include, per definition, a virtual position in space and time, from which the sensation of being-in and being surrounded can be actualized by a perceiver. Surroundability and immersivity presuppose that something or someone is surrounded and immersed, virtually or actually. One way of expressing this shift from an ontology of immanence to an onto-aesthetics of immanence as a form of (potential) immersion is the ambient configuration of the sonic environment as an a-figurative, ubiquitous and consistent continuum. As a-figurative, ubiquitous and consistent the sonic environment potentially becomes sensible as an enveloping and all-encompassing ‘total field,’ exclusively and effectively cut off from any reference to an outside. This is the “logic of interiority” as a general onto-aesthetic principle of ambient sound. Yet, all onto-aesthetic expressions of sonic immanence are not necessarily and essentially ambient. Another, very different—and in this respect essentially anti-ambient— expression of sonic immanence is ecology. In ecological aesthetics, immanence does not encourage sensations of exclusivity and interiority. On the contrary, it gains its effect by onto-aesthetically exposing and configuring the environment as a desubjectified, material continuum of interconnectedness and entanglement. Hence, whereas an ambient aesthetics of immanence entails an exclusive, interior aesthetics of sonic ubiquity as all-encompassing being-in, an ecological aesthetics of immanence entails a non-exclusive, exterior aesthetics of sonic ubiquity as all-encompassing being-with. Indeed, any onto-aesthetics of environmental sound arguably entails an onto-aesthetics of sonic immanence, but some expressions of this aesthetics are more ambient than others. To further explore this crucial relation between ambient fields, sonic immanence and ubiquity effects, let us compare the sonic aesthetics of

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John Cage and La Monte Young, two of the most prominent figures in American postwar experimental music and sound art. The two composers embody quite different expressions of sonic ubiquity, and of environmental and ambient sound more generally; a difference which in many respects is informed by their different approaches to an aesthetics of immanence. As Branden W.  Joseph argues, the “production of an aesthetic of immanence” comprised a crucial, but somewhat overlooked, framework for artistic practice in the early history of sound art. He distinguishes two key approaches to immanence, exemplified precisely by the aesthetic practices of Cage and Young. From a general perspective, Joseph argues, Cage’s anti-representational appeal to let objective sounds be themselves can in itself be seen as an unequivocal plea for an aesthetics of sonic immanence. Throughout his oeuvre, from the early chance pieces to the late environmental performances, Cage sought to “disarticulate any and all abstract or transcendent connections between sounds” and to “detach sound from preestablished meaning” (Joseph 2007, p. 60). Cage’s intention with this particular approach, Joseph notes, was to “eliminate from the acoustical experience—as much as possible—creation of any form that could be received as existing on a level above what Deleuze and Guattari, discussing Cage among others, would term ‘a plane of immanence’ ”7 In addition, a general attraction to field effects and sonic ubiquity informs Cage’s celebrated expansion of the assortment of sonic materials available for musical purposes to include, in Cage’s own expression, “any and all sounds that can be heard […] the entire field of sound” (Cage 1973, p. 4). Instead of “confronting the composition as a unit or whole,” Joseph notes, “listeners were to encounter sonic events as a ‘field’ or ‘constellation’ (Cage’s terms) that not only potentially surrounded them but opened onto and interpenetrated with random acoustical occurrences ‘outside’ and therefore beyond any single intentionality” (Joseph 2007, p. 61). Cage’s opening of the entire field of all sound goes, as Douglas Kahn has argued, hand in hand with a temporal extension of musical sounds into the radically continuous spatiotemporal field of always sound (Kahn 1999, p.  158). As Cage himself admitted in 1967, he was “constantly telling” (Cage in Kahn 1999, p. 190) the now famous story about the moment of serendipity he witnessed in an anechoic chamber at Harvard

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University in 1951. Indeed, the anecdote has been retold in sound and music studies ever since to such an extent that the frequency of quotations alone gives it a ubiquitous omnipresence in the intellectual history of experimental music and sound art. There, in the presumably silent room, Cage heard the arguably two most famous bodily sounds in the history of modern auditory culture: the high-pitched sound of his nervous system and the low-pitched sound of his blood circulating. Justifying yet another repetition, this was indeed “a very important moment,” as Kahn notes, “since it was here that all sound was joined to always sound” (Kahn 1999, p. 158). Cage soon extended his experience from hearing the inaudible in his own body to a general idea of all matter as potentially sonorous. Similar to the way his experience of the otherwise silenced bodily sounds needed a scientifically advanced architectural technology to be heard, for Cage “all matter sounded all the time, and only the lack of proper technology prevented it from being music” (Kahn 1999, p. 197). As Cage explains, even the most mundane physical object—an ashtray for instance—could now, by use of the proper means, reveal a whole interior field of objective, objectless sound: Look at this ashtray: It’s in a state of vibration. We’re sure of that, and the physicist can prove it to us. But we can’t hear those vibrations. When I went into the anechoic chamber, I could hear myself. Well, now, instead of listening to myself, I want to listen to this ashtray. But I won’t strike it as I would a percussion instrument. I’m going to listen to its inner life thanks to a suitable technology. […] While in the case of the ashtray, we are dealing with an object. It would be extremely interesting to place it in a little anechoic chamber and listen to it through a suitable sound system. Object would become process; we would discover, thanks to a procedure borrowed from science, the meaning of nature through the music of objects. (Cage quoted in Kahn 1999, p. 196)

Cage’s expansion of music into environmental all sound thus reveals a desire to listen to a specific level or state of sound exposed by the, technologically aided, move beyond (or rather inside) the material object. In this process, the singular object is made audible as an objectless sonic field of vibrant matter in its own right. “Object would become process.” Cage

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thus extended the domain for all sound and always sound from his body and into the exterior environment as an expanded and accumulated ubiquity of immanent sonorous matter. Sound for Cage “was no longer tied to events but existed as a continuous state as it resonated from each and every atom. […] Everything always made a sound, and everything could be heard; all sound and always sound paralleled panaurality.”8 Field is everywhere. And by abandoning all transcendental systems of relation and intentional reference, the ubiquitous ‘panaural’ existence of objective sound was aestheticized as a ‘total’ environmental continuum of immanent a-representational sonic being. In this respect, Young’s approach to sonic immanence appears to be in direct contrast to Cage’s. Young had worked with sustained sound since the late 1950s—including works such as Trio for Strings (1958) and the noise performance for amplified furniture, 2 Sounds (1960)—and continued experimenting with drone performance in the Theatre of Eternal Music (TEM), most notably in its famous 1962–1963 constellation, which, besides Young himself, included Tony Conrad, John Cale, Marion Zazeela and Angus MacLise. Compared to Young’s early experiments, TEM radically expanded the approach by adding more instruments, even louder amplification, and even longer durations, with performances reportedly lasting for hours with only minor variation. The move into sonic immanence was, in other words, made in all ubiquitous parameters of spatiotemporal expansion and accumulation (volume, duration and mass). Again, field is everywhere, filling the listeners total environment in space and time with an uninterrupted, omnipresent buzz of sound. In certain important respects, however, Young’s and TEM’s approach to sonic ubiquity and the staging of field effects is radically different from Cage’s environmental expansion of music into all sound. As Joseph notes, instead of “surrounding the audience with a multiplicity of sounds, as in Cage’s work, Young so amplified a limited number of sounds as to render them environmental, a sort of sonic architecture […] in which this sound space constitutes ‘its own world’ ” (Joseph 2007, pp. 67–68). In 1965, Young described his experience of such a sustained sonic world as a sensation of listening inside the sound:

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I like to get inside of a sound. When the sounds are very long […] it can be easier to get inside of them. Sometimes when I was making a long sound, I began to notice I was looking at the dancers and the room from the sound instead of hearing the sound from some position in the room. I began to feel the parts and motions of the sound more, and I began to see how each sound was its own world and that this world was only similar to our world in that we experienced it through our own bodies, that is, in our own terms. I could see that sounds and all the other things in the world were just as important as human beings and that if we could to some degree give ourselves up to them, the sounds and other things that is, we enjoyed the possibility of learning something new. By giving ourselves up to them, I mean getting inside of them to some extent so that we can experience another world. This is not so easily explained but more easily experienced. (Young 1965, p. 81)

Hence, for Young listening inside the surrounding sound not only exposed the sound as “its own world.” It simultaneously enabled a sensation of being transported into “another world.” And precisely this plea for “another world” arguably shows the strongest and most apparent difference between Cage and Young. As Joseph argues, for Young, “the fullness and singularity of the now-environmental sound returned precisely the totality and objecthood that Cage had wanted to dissolve into a ‘field.’ Young, in other words, sought to restore the transcendence Cage sought to dismantle” (2007, p.  68). Indeed, Cage’s and Young’s different approaches to environmental sound appear, in this respect, to be condensed in the very difference between an aesthetics of immanence (Cage) and an aesthetics of transcendence (Young). However, despite Young’s assertion of “another world,” TEM’s sustained sound must not necessarily be considered a portal to sonic transcendence. In another contrasting interpretation, and in another practice of aestheticized listening, it can be seen as an austere, material production of immanence. This latter interpretation is supported by Conrad when he, in 1996, commented on what he regards as the central aspirations in TEM: Our “Dream Music” was an effort to freeze the sound in action, to listen around inside the innermost architecture of the sound itself. […] We were

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announcing that the composer could sit within the sound, so to speak, and work with it as a plastic continuum extended in time along the same course, and at the same pace, as the listener. […] The message here was not about indeterminacy, nor about immediacy, but about the control of sounds right there in your environment, and the process of composition as long-term growth of interests within that sound complex. (Conrad quoted in Duguid 1996, unpaginated)

Indeed, Conrad’s desire for an interior listening “inside the innermost architecture of the sound itself ” shows no apparent wish for a simultaneous transportation into otherworldly transcendence. On the contrary, it rather indicates a radically material aesthetics of sonic immanence. Conrad wants to listen inside sonic matter to the extent that any differentiating between interior and exterior, sound and non-sound, becomes impossible or irrelevant. Kahn makes a similar argument, describing how “Conrad, Young, and others turned up the volume to hear inside musical sounds and establish a common space of auditive being for both the musicians and the audience” (Kahn 1999, p. 231). In this interpretation, Young’s, Conrad’s and TEM’s ‘world’ no longer comprises a transcendent imaginary realm of auditory escapism, cut off from the environmental immanence of all sound. The sustained sounds do not represent anything, and they express nothing besides what they are and do as objective environmental events. The ‘other world,’ which for Young and Conrad is made accessible by the drones, is but the microscopic, utterly material, realm of sonic immanence, of the felt vibration of small surrounding sounds “right there in your environment.”9 In this interpretation, both Cage and TEM can be said to exemplify an aesthetics of sonic immanence, although on quite different terms. Whereas Cage invites the audience to listen to ubiquitous sound everywhere in an open continuous field of environmental sound, TEM builds an enclosed interior common space of ubiquitous sound around the listeners. Whereas Cage’s aesthetics of immanence entails an open total space, which renders audible a one-world multiplicity of all sound, TEM’s entails a closed total space, which renders audible a one-world multiplicity by excluding all external sounds in the extreme loudness of a heterogeneous one sound. On the one hand, we have Cage’s macroscopic and

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centrifugal aesthetics of immanence as an exposure of emergent environmental processes, the main principle of which it is to let all sounds be themselves by excluding intentional manipulation and reference. And on the other hand, we have TEM’s microscopic and centripetal aesthetics of immanence as a production of emergent environmental processes, the main principle of which it is to let a carefully configured block of internal interference be itself by excluding intentional manipulation and reference. It is Cage’s environmental ‘landscape’ versus TEM’s environmental ‘architecture.’10 Eventually, the two aesthetics of immanence suggest two different approaches to sonic environmentality: Cage’s immanence as an objective emergent accumulation of environmental, but not necessarily surrounding, sound; and TEM’s immanence as an objectless, environmental mass of inescapably surrounding sound. In short, an immanent aesthetics of sonic environmentality in general versus a more specific immanent aesthetics of sonic surroundability.

Toward the Ground As I have suggested in very general terms, environmental sound becomes ambient by surrounding a listener within a sonic continuum, which is ubiquitous and a-figurative, yet complex and differentiated. Now the question is: What morpho-material features can produce such environmental heterogeneity without either introducing figurative hierarchies or dissolving all difference in pure homogeneous abstraction? I will refer to this general capacity to produce objectless heterogeneity beyond figurative segmentation as a-figurative differentiation. A-figurative differences are comparable to Gilbert Simondon’s notion of “preindividual being.” Preindividual beings are singular without being individual, expressing material reality as “more than unity and more than identity.”11 They materialize in a complex, dynamic field to which they belong and out of which they differentiate as unindividuated and a-figurative. We can distinguish two, closely related, forms of a-figurative differentiation, both of which are crucial for the morpho-material production of ambient field effects. On the one hand, there is an a-figurative differentiation in which

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segregation between figure and ground is morphologically reduced and rendered insignificant by drawing individual sounds toward the ground. On the other hand, there is an a-figurative differentiation in which figurative tension is reduced and rendered insignificant by eliminating the sense of ground altogether. A-figurative differentiation ‘toward the ground’ and a-figurative differentiation toward ‘groundlessness.’ A-figurative differentiation toward the ground denotes the preindividual sonic singularities that emerge as differences but without distinguishing or individuating themselves from the surrounding field as an immanent continuum. This differentiated yet consistent continuum, which the singularities simultaneously inhabit and produce, resembles what Deleuze and Guattari describe as the “machinic phylum.” The machinic phylum is the environmental flow of matter, “it is matter in movement, in flux, in variation, matter as a conveyor of singularities and traits of expression” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p.  409). It is the medium of elemental matter, the dynamic materiality of molecular, environmental reality, the matter-medium of worldly being. In this machinic phylum, in this matter-medium, Deleuze and Guattari identify a form of preindividual differentiation, which they—with a concept borrowed from Husserl—call “vague and material essences.” Vague essences are immanent, preindividual variations in the machinic phylum which are “as distinct from formed things as they are from formal essences. They constitute fuzzy aggregates. They relate to a corporeality (materiality) that is not to be confused either with an intelligible, formal essentiality or a sensible, formed and perceived, thinghood” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 407). Following this line of thought, we can characterize the a-figurative differentiation of ambient sound toward the ground as the processual emergence of preindividual differences in the form of subtle, at times virtually imperceptible, affective variations in and of a dynamic field of sonic matter. Simple vibrations and interferences, for instance, comprise ‘vague essences’ and ‘fuzzy aggregates’ in and of a sonic ground. They constitute elementary forms of a-figurative sonic differentiation as a form of environmental modulation. Whereas vibration entails a preindividual energetic disturbance in and of the matter-medium in its most simple form, interference denotes a more complex immanent collision of various

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disparate vibrations in the machinic phylum. Interference thus causes a specific part of the matter-flow to emerge with a greater degree of concentration, compared to simple vibration, by creating preindividual zones of sonic intensity, yet without stabilizing them in a particular location or in object-like figures and forms. In comparison, reverberation comprises a spatiotemporal folding of a vibratory pattern onto itself as an immanent, a-figurative variation of its own matter-medium. In a similar way, resonance can be said to modulate parts of the sonic environment without figurative segregation. Resonance, too, produces fuzzy aggregates of preindividual differentiation. Yet, it implies a whole other type of differentiation that, however subtle and vague it may appear, introduces a rupture or boundary in the field, which will inevitably reduce its ambient potentials. Whereas vibration, interference and reverberation take place within a single immanent field, resonance takes place between different fields. Resonance is “sympathetic,” as Hermann von Helmholtz noted in 1885; it operates relationally through interdependence and correlation. Helmholtz thus described what he called “sympathetic resonance” as something which could emerge between certain sounding materials when, for example, an unbowed violin string is brought into vibration by a bowed one so as “the swings of the latter in the course of a little time, call into action the swings of the former” (Helmholz 2007, p. 36). Or when the matter-medium of a truck’s motor, humming in the street outside my window, brings the matter-medium of my tabletop into disturbance by transferring its specific pattern of vibration onto it. The tabletop as vibrant milieu adapts and materially reenacts the frequency pattern of an outside milieu in what Robin James has called a “phase relationship” (James 2019, p. 8). The immanent rhythmicity of one machinic phylum, one matter-medium, is projected onto another as a form of ‘modulation by mediation.’ In contrast to both vibration, interference and reverberation, resonance thus connects the immanent sonic field of vibrant matter to an outside, producing an effect of a-figurative differentiation that, in so far as it is recognizable as resonance, is essentially foreign to the ambient ubiquity of surrounding immanence. Rather than introducing immanent a-figurative variation in the ground as total field, it introduces and emphasizes a relational interconnectivity between separate, vibratory

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fields. In other words, whereas simple vibration, interference and reverberation can be onto-aesthetically distinguished as essentially ambient effects, effects of resonance are rather essentially ecological. Whereas vibration, interference and reverberation are immanent modulations, resonance is modulation from the outside. It divides the continuum into different fields of matter-flow, different vibratory systems, and this division will inevitably disturb the overall ubiquity effect of ambient surroundability. In other words, preindividual differentiation is, in effect, only ambient if and when it modulates the matter-flow of a single, undivided continuum. Ambient differentiation must not only be immanent, in and of the ground. The ground must also be total, ubiquitous and all-encompassing. Which in essence means, of course, that it must cease to be a ‘ground’ altogether.

Groundlessness In the second form of a-figurative differentiation, differentiation ‘toward groundlessness,’ sounds typically tend to have a more individuated quality, compared to differentiations in the machinic phylum ‘toward the ground.’ Yet, they nevertheless manage to dissolve figurative tension and render it insignificant. Instead of drawing sounds toward the common ground as vague essences, groundless differentiation rather functions by eliminating a sense of a ground altogether. Detached and emancipated, quasi-individuated sounds float freely among themselves in an open, groundless continuum. Sounds that don’t relate to a surrounding ground, in contrast to which they segregate as enclosed and stable entities, will no longer, or at least to a much lesser extent, create a sense of figurative tension. In a groundless field, figure-ground distinctions become impossible or irrelevant. To describe this form of uprooted, unfounded and unrelated differentiation, Deleuze introduces a remarkable term: difference in itself. He gives the illustrative example of a strike of lightning on a dark sky: [I]nstead of something distinguished from something else, imagine something which distinguishes itself—and yet that from which it distinguishes

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itself does not distinguish itself from it. Lightning, for example, distinguishes itself from the black sky but must also trail it behind, as through it were distinguishing itself from that which does not distinguish itself from it. It is as if the ground rose to the surface, without ceasing to be ground. (Deleuze 1994, p. 28)

The undifferentiated nothingness of the dark sky has a reducing effect on the lightning strike as a figure—or ‘form’ in Deleuze’s terminology. By raising the ground toward the figure, it allows for another, less contrastive and less figurative, perceptual relation between them: In truth, all the forms are dissolved when they are reflected in this rising ground. It has ceased to be the pure indeterminate which remains below [au fond], but the forms also cease to be the coexisting or complementary determinations. The rising ground is no longer below, it acquires autonomous existence; the form reflected in this ground is no longer a form but an abstract line. (Deleuze 1994, p. 28)

Any ‘founding’ relation with this difference in itself, which emerges as if out nothing, is obliterated in the groundless or ungrounded ‘ground’ from which difference is set free as unmediated and a-representational. The decoupling of the figure from any foundation or ground in relation to which it is confined, measured and identified in a figurative relationship, begins to lose its function and effect on the figure as figure. Without a ground in contrast to which it is defined, it is no longer different to anything else, but difference in itself, a-figurative difference. If we now return to the domain of sound and auditory perception, we can distinguish sonic difference in itself as the a-figurative emancipation and decoupling of singular sounds from an underlying plane or founding structure, which would otherwise have the capacity to shape, define, stabilize and organize them in a hierarchical figure-ground relationship with other sounds. Deleuze and Guattari distinguish between two general types of planes: the plane of organization and development, and the plane of consistency and immanence. The former, the plane of organization and development, operates as a “hidden principle, which makes visible what is seen and audible what is heard, etc., which at every instant causes

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the given to be given, in this or that state, at this or that moment.” It is a principle concerned with “the development of forms and the formation of subjects. A hidden structure necessary for forms, a secret signifier necessary for subjects. […] This makes it a teleological plan(e), a design, a mental principle. It is a plan(e) of transcendence” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 265). The tonal system, for example, is such an organizing structure, which, from a plane of transcendence, arrange sounds into figurative hierarchies, intentional expressions and teleological developments. Similarly, the notion of rhythm is conventionally conceptualized as a numeric succession of intervals organized from a transcendental plane of development by which all sounds are synchronized according to an underlying pattern of hierarchical relationships: 1, 2 and 1, 2, 3, 4.12 Compared to such conceptions of tonality and rhythm, sonic differences in themselves must be distinguished as essentially a-tonal and a-rhythmic. They operate a-­figuratively beyond the grounding, hierarchizing influence of the plane of organization and development. The melody comprises a special case in this context. As is well known, the melody is often evoked as the quintessential example of a sonic figure or gestalt, mainly because of its capacity to prompt a spontaneous perceptual grouping of discrete, individual sounds into a salient, enclosed whole.13 For instance, reviewing key insights from classic gestalt theory, Bregman argues that a melody is defined on the basis of a figurative, perceptual distinction between central and peripheral tones within an overall and fundamentally hierarchical structure.14 Of course, many prominent examples of ambient sound in music, sound art and audiovisual media—from sound art installations and electro-­acoustic compositions to noise performances, drone music and field recordings—are often not the least concerned with melodic composition and tend to ignore tonal structures altogether in favor of an untoned, a-melodic, a-tonal and a-rhythmic sound field. However, in many other examples, including ambient music in the tradition of Brian Eno’s early ambient works, it is impossible to ignore the existence of actual melodic or quasi-melodic sequences. Now, how do such melodic

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features correspond with the ambient principle of a-figurative differentiation? Let us consider a classic example of the use of ‘melodic’ features in a piece of ambient music: the title track of Brian Eno’s first album of ambient music, Discreet Music (1975). While the piece may first appear as consisting of small melodic phrases in the conventional sense of the term, the tonal organization on “Discreet Music” arguably differs, on all key parameters, from the gestalt principles associated with melodic structure. Eno’s ‘melodies’ consist exclusively of two short and ultra-simple, diatonic phrases that are set to play according to a generative system of asynchronous loops so that they constantly collide in new, unintentional and unpredictable formations. This objective configuration and distribution of individual phrases thus erases the conventional marks of an immanent spatiotemporal hierarchy between central and peripheral tones; all individual tones are of the same duration, timbre and volume throughout. In addition, the unpredictable asynchronous nature of the generative loop system, combined with the radical simplicity of the diatonic material, leaves no obvious progression or metric structure in relation to which the individual tones in the phrases can be grounded. In other words, all the conditions that normally give a melody its relatively high degree of salience—everything that constitutes it as a balanced, delineated and enclosed figure—are radically reduced and rendered aesthetically insignificant. Eno’s ‘melodies’ are, in the gestalt psychological sense, not melodies at all, but rather non-melodies—quasi-melodies, fake melodies, anti-melodies—their most characteristic feature being the pronounced lack of characteristic features. Instead of being salient and particular ‘melody-identities,’ formed and organized on the basis of a hierarchical structure, they are essentially generic, univocally neutral and essentially repeatable. They perform a—quiet and unobtrusively discreet—revolt against the musical particularities, hidden hierarchies and anthropomorphic structures of Western tonal music, in favor of the objective, modular generation of a groundless, a-figurative form of environmental music. The two types of a-figurative differentiation—vague essences in the ‘ground’ and atonal, a-rhythmic and a-melodic groundlessness—are thus both characterized by the way they, in different manners and to various degrees, are detached from a transcendental plane of organization. They

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don’t ‘belong’ in the Gestalt psychological sense (Bregman 1990, p. 12); they come from ‘nowhere’—ungrounded, deterritorialized, inorganic, without origin. Yet, it is precisely this essentially inorganic lack of grounding, identity and relationality, this status as differences in themselves, that enable them to merge the easier into a generic, univocal field of ambient sound. With a-figurative differentiation, the ambient environment is constituted as a groundless and detached synthetic continuum, in which inorganic, uprooted sounds can mix, objectively and objectlessly, into a common plane of consistency and immanence.

Continuous Variation Apart from being a key component in the morpho-material production of a consistent ambient space, the synthetic continuity also imbues the ambient event with a specific sense of non-hierarchical and ‘a-figurative’ time. Cage’s open field, for instance, implies, as we have just seen, an underlying notion of immanent, environmental sound as a continuous and autonomous process. A similar focus on processuality applies to the minimalist aesthetics of sustained tones, repetitive structures and gradual variation, which in turn was adapted by Brian Eno in his early loop-based systems for an objective, autopoietic production of generative music. Whereas traditional forms of (classical Western) music, according to Wim Mertens, are “teleological or end-oriented, because all musical events result in a directed end or synthesis” (1983, p. 17), Cage and the minimalists were producing gradually evolving and revolving “a-­teleological” (ibid.) processes, void of any sense of directional purpose (telos) or narrative development toward a final goal, end or climax. Deleuze and Guattari distinguish two forms of time, corresponding to the two planes of transcendence (organization and development) and immanence (univocity and consistency), which closely resembles Mertens’ distinction between teleological development and a-teleological processuality in music. Chronos entails a chronological, measured time of development, “the time of measure that situates things and persons, develops

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a form, and determines a subject” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 262). By contrast, Aion—a term used in antique mythology and philosophy to represent eternity—designates the continuous, indefinite time of gradual becoming, “a freeing of time” in which “forms are replaced by pure modifications of speed” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p.  267). Interestingly, Deleuze and Guattari in part develop their conceptual distinction between Chronos and Aion in specific relation to musical time. In dialogue with the thoughts of Pierre Boulez, they distinguish two forms of temporal structure in music derived from the two general notions of time: Chronos’ “tempo” and “pulsed time” corresponds to a “formal and functional music based on values”; and Aion’s “nontempo” and “nonpulsed time” corresponds to a “floating music, both floating and machinic, which has nothing but speeds or differences in dynamic” (262). As just mentioned, and as Christoph Cox and many others have also argued, this floating nonpulsed time of Aion plays a crucial role in Western postwar music, especially in John Cage and the early minimalist music of Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros, La Monte Young, Tony Conrad and others.15 “‘Pulsed time,’” Cox notes in specific relation to musical minimalism, has nothing to do with regular, repetitive pulses (often a key feature of musical minimalism). Rather, it is the time of narrative development that organizes the musical piece into identifiable sections and landmarks, allowing listeners to know where they are and where they are going. […] The ‘non-pulsed time’ of the minimalists is something else entirely. [It] places composer, performer, and listener on a wave of becoming that flows, shifts, and changes, but very gradually, so that one loses any clear sense of chronological time […] and instead is immersed in a floating, indefinite time, a pure process. (Cox 2018, p. 145)

Deleuze and Guattari describe nonpulsed time as a fixed time, a duration that moves, floats and varies but does so without changing (identity) into something else.16 This ‘dynamic fixation’ and ‘movement in stasis’ connect the durational time of Aion intimately with a sense of continuous variation, another key term in Deleuze’s philosophy. As we shall see, continuous variation is an indispensable factor in the onto-aesthetic

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production of ambient surroundability because it provides the whole environment with a sense of temporal consistency, while still allowing for immanent dynamics and change. According to Deleuze and Guattari, continuous variation involves “a transformation of substances and a dissolution of forms” in favor of a vibrant fixation of “fluid forces, flows, air, light, and matter, such that a body […] does not end at a precise point” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 109). In that sense, continuous variation comprises a basic material expression of Aion’s nonpulsed, a-teleological time, and, consequently, of the temporal composition of ambient sound. It is the factor that provides the ambient environment with a combination of stability and dynamism as a ‘metastable’ continuum of relative permanence and perpetual flux. Everything varies in an ambient environment. But in so far as it remains ambient, nothing is essentially new. It varies and continues, changes and remains unchanged, at one and the same time. The temporal consistency of continuous variation is not dependent of a certain degree of material consistency in the concrete sense of an undivided plane of ‘continuous matter.’ Discrete fields with separate elements and parts can obviously be just as spatiotemporally consistent and undergo processes of continuous variation. All this arguably gives repetition a very special role in the production of continuous variation. According to Deleuze (1994), repetition in essence implies a process of continuous variation. When something is repeated, everything remains ‘the same’ but it does so only by being repeated. And precisely in this displacement or disturbance of ‘the same’ in and as repetition something new is produced as a form of variation. And at the same time, by being repeated, especially if the process continues, sounds will tend to lose their status as privileged, ‘figurative’ occurrences, moments of posing/pausing, in favor of a more direct and continuous sense of passing between and through them as preindividual differences. One sound after another: continuity and repetition, flux and pulsation.17 The repetitive process becomes a passage, a stream, a line, a ‘fixed’ modulating flow of sonic time-matter through which the ambient, nomadic listener drifts.18 In essence, then, continuous variation is but the emergent product of a combination of continuity and repetition, continuously and repeatedly. And it is arguably in this combination of continuity and repetition into

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continuous variation that we find the most elementary morpho-material expression of ambient sound as a spatiotemporal continuum. As soon as it continues and continues to repeat itself, the entire environment is ‘fixed’ into a non-developing, yet dynamic and vibrant, block of all-­encompassing modulatory immanence. In short, whenever there is continuity and repetition, there is a potential production of continuous, ubiquitous, a-­teleological and a-figurative environmental variation in the form of ambient sound. And whenever there is continuous variation, then, there is a potential auditory sensation of being surrounded.

Notes 1. The modern concept of the field originates in nineteenth-century theories of thermodynamics and electromagnetism by Michael Faraday and James C. Maxwell. It was later developed by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity in the beginning of the twentieth century and subsequently in quantum physics (quantum fields). It is remarkable in this context, as Leo Spitzer has demonstrated, that the concept of field developed, during the nineteenth century, from the concepts of medium and environment, which in turn, as previously discussed, are closely linked etymologically to the classical Latin concept of ‘ambient’ (Spitzer 1942b, pp. 195–96). 2. As mentioned earlier, Newton understood ambient medium as “any element immediately surrounding a body” (Spitzer 1942a, p. 39). Yet, his mechanical physics altogether had much closer affinities to what we could call an ‘object-oriented’ approach, centered around the relation between enclosed and individuated masses, rather than the ‘field-­ oriented’ approach of modern physics. 3. Deleuze (1990b), pp. 65–66). In addition, Deleuze’s idea of univocality is associated with what Manuel DeLanda, following Deleuze, describes as ‘flat ontology,’ distinguished from different forms of hierarchical ontologies: “while an ontology based on relations between general types and particular instances is hierarchical, each level representing a different ontological category (organism, species, genera), an approach in terms of interacting parts and emergent wholes leads to a flat ontology, one made exclusively of unique, singular individuals, differing in spatiotemporal

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scale but not in ontological status” (DeLanda 2002, p. 58). In the univocal perspective of a flat ontology, in Steven Shaviro’s words, “entities on different scales, and of different levels of reflexivity and complexity are all treated in the same manner” (Shaviro 2009, pp.  27–28) as dehierarchized parts of the same sensory field, which they continuously are about to produce and shape. Objectless and decentered, yet materially full. 4. Augoyard and Torgue (2005, p. 131). The association of ubiquity effects with a failure to locate the source of a sound eventually leads Augoyard and Torgue to draw the unexpected, and arguably inaccurate, conclusion that a “background sound” will only produce ubiquity effects in special cases: “A background sound will only produce a ubiquity effect at the moment of its emergence, either because the listener suddenly enters the space (the arrival of a stranger in a city, getting off a train or a car), because there is an erasure of other sounds (the reappearance of the urban drone at night when neighbouring sounds fade), or because we perceive the onset of the emerging sound (start of a machine in a shop)” (2005, p. 131). 5. Kassabian (2013, pp. 9–10). For a discussion of ubiquity effects in relation to Augoyard and Torgue and Kassabian, see also Goodman (2010, p. 143). 6. Deleuze explicitly argues for a direct ontological relationship between consistency, univocity and immanence. Thus, in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari emphasize that the “plane of consistency […] is necessarily a plane of immanence and univocality” (1987, pp. 266–267). And in his second book on Spinoza, Deleuze notes that “[pure] immanence requires as a principle the equality of being, or the positing of equal Being: not only is being equal in itself, but it is seen to be equally present in all things” (Deleuze 1990a, p. 173). Deleuze further developed the idea of pure immanence in his last book, Pure Immanence (2001). 7. Joseph (2007, pp. 60–61). See also Cull 2013 for an elaborate discussion of how Cage, and related artists of his time, approached sound and art as what Laura Cull calls a “theatre of immanence,” characterized by the staging of “immanence in and as performance” (Cull 2013, p. 1). 8. Kahn (1999, p. 159). Kahn interestingly connects the Cagean connection between panaurality and ubiquitous sound with the introduction of electronic sound technology. “The development of phonography and other auditive technologies,” he argues, “generated the desire for and promise of panaurality for all—the ability to comprehend the ubiquity

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of all sounds, including the most tenaciously inaudible, and to prevent them from dissipating” (Kahn 1999, p. 200). 9. This interpretation is supported by Kahn, who suggests yet another reading of the relationship between Cage and Young/Conrad/TEM, in which Cage now plays the role of the imaginator of expanded, transcendental realities and Conrad the practitioner of an austere, everyday aesthetics of sonic materialism: “[Cage’s] long-standing concern for amplification was directed first of all toward hearing small sounds and not toward making loud sounds (in contrast to Conrad, who used loud sounds as a practical way to hear small sounds). Because small sounds were ever-present in vibrating matter, they were best suited to imagining a pervasive state for sound, while loud sounds were fixed to specific locations and too attached to actions and the quotidian to contribute rhetorically to his cosmology of sound” (Kahn 1999, pp. 234–35). 10. Interestingly, according to Rosalind Krauss ‘landscape’ and ‘architecture’ are precisely the two categories by which sculpture, as discussed earlier, was suspended into the expanded field from around 1970 (Krauss 1979, pp. 35–38). The two aesthetics of sonic immanence, exemplified here by Cage and Young/TEM, can thus be seen as anticipating the general environmentalization of the contemporary artwork, and the sonic artwork in particular, after 1970. 11. Simondon (2020, p. 5). The notion of preindividual being is a central component in Simondon’s aforementioned ontological critique of hyleporphism. 12. Deleuze and Guattari develop a ‘non-metric’ concept of rhythm that differs considerably from more conventional notions of rhythm as a symmetric structure based on a transcendental scheme of organization. “It is well known,” they argue, “that rhythm is not meter or cadence, even irregular meter or cadence: there is nothing less rhythmic than a military march. The tom-tom is not 1–2, the waltz is not 1, 2, 3, music is not binary or ternary, but rather forty-seven basic meters, as in Turkish music” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p.  313). In her Deleuze-inspired philosophical and aesthetic exploration of rhythm and the sonic event, Elini Ikoniadou proposes a similar conception of “rhythmic ontogenesis” as opposed to a conventional “equation of rhythm to symmetry represented by number” (Ikoniadou 2014, p. 22). 13. For an influential early example of this, see Wertheimer (1925, pp. 39–60).

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14. Bregman (1990, p.  677). According to Bregman, this melodic structure consists of primary “anchor tones”—defined by longer duration, higher volume and rhythmic stability, and secondary tones (“ornamentation”), the latter being so relatively short, soft and rhythmically unaccentuated that they tend to dissolve in perception. Bregman further distinguishes a set of general figurative features of the melody, including coherence, stability, contour, closure and closeness of parts (Bregman 1990, pp.  461–477; 675–677). Without surprise, the anchor tones make, in Bregman’s view, the most direct and essential contribution to the morphological definition of a melody’s identity and overall contour by being located in the melodic stream “at the points at which the pitch movement changes its direction, at the peaks and valleys of the melodic contour, or if they are at the ends of phrases, or are long in duration” (Bregman 1990, p. 475). 15. Deleuze and Guattari themselves fittingly attribute the ‘origin’ of Aion’s “immanent sound plane,” and its sense of “fixed” and “floating” time in music, to John Cage: “It is undoubtedly John Cage who first and most perfectly deployed this fixed sound plane, which affirms a process against all structure and genesis, a floating time against pulsed time or tempo, experimentation against any kind of interpretation, and in which silence as sonorous rest also marks the absolute state of movement” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 267). 16. There is, as Cox also remarks (2018, p. 159), an evident link between Deleuze’s concept of Aion and Bergson’s duration, another key reference in Deleuze’s philosophy. Bergson suggested himself that the sustained, ‘a-melodic’ sound, without “too much definition” and too many “distinctive features,” comprises the quintessential example of duration: “A melody to which we listen with our eyes closed, heeding it alone, comes close to coinciding with this time which is the very fluidity of our inner life; but it still has too many qualities, too much definition, and we must first efface the difference among the sounds, then do away with the distinctive features of sound itself, retaining of it only the continuation of what precedes into what follows and the uninterrupted transition, multiplicity without divisibility and succession without separation, in order finally to rediscover basic time. Such is immediately perceived duration, without which we would have no idea of time” (Bergson 2002, p. 205). For further discussions of Bergson, sound and duration in relation to sound and music, see Schrimshaw (2017, p.  48), and Cox (2018, pp. 152–54).

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17. Comparing the repetitive minimalism of Reich, Riley and Glass with La Monte Young’s sustained minimal drones, Aden Evens makes a similar argument for an intimate relation between continuity and repetition, and how it is precisely this continuous repetitiveness that eventually deterritorializes and dehierarchizes musical space into a ‘cosmic’ sphere of ambient envelopment: “In any case, it would be a mistake to understand the fundamental repetition in such a piece as the repetition of the elementary phrase. For repetition is not first of all an external method imposed on the phrase to turn it into a composition. Rather, repetition is the principle of the music before any phrase is repeated: each note, each phrase is already a repetition. That is why even La Monte Young’s held chord is a repetition: its principle is repetition. His justly intoned chord is born of repetition (the repetition of harmonics, the repetition of timbre), and the tortoise’s dream is not an original instance repeated in the performance, but i­ ndicates precisely that there is no original, that the original is already a repetition. Like Young’s held chords, the effect of repetition in Reich, Riley, and (usually) Glass is to present a smooth surface to the ear, to eliminate the distance between foreground and background, so that the ear can no longer orient itself with respect to molar boundaries or objective points of reference. One hears the cosmos open up to envelop the listener” (Evens 2005, p. 51). 18. Repetition as continuous variation can be said to be ‘nomadic’ in the sense that all points in the nomad’s perpetual movement, according to Deleuze and Guattari, “are strictly subordinated to the paths they determine” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 380). Where teleological lines of “pulsed” movement between points are determined by the points, the points for the nomadic ‘nonpulsed’ movement are rather determined by the line, the movement, the continuous variation. They are, according to Deleuze and Guattari, “reached only in order to be left behind; every point is a relay and exists only as a relay. A path is always between two points, but the in-between has taken on all the consistency and enjoys both an autonomy and a direction of its own. The life of the nomad is the intermezzo. Even the elements of his dwelling are conceived in terms of the trajectory that is forever mobilizing them. The […] nomad goes from point to point only as a consequence and as a factual necessity; in principle, points for him are relays along a trajectory” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 380).

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Bibliography Augoyard, Jean-François, and Henry Torgue, eds. 2005. Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press. Bergson, Henri. 2002. Key Writings. New York and London: Continuum. Bregman, Albert S. 1990. Auditory Scene Analysis: The Perceptual Organization of Sound. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Cage, John. 1973. Silence: Lectures and Writings. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Cox, Christoph. 2018. Sonic Flux: Sound, Art, and Metaphysics. Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press. Cull, Laura. 2013. Theatre of Immanence: Deleuze and the Ethics of Performance. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. DeLanda, Manuel. 2002. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy. New  York: Continuum. Deleuze, Gilles. 1990a. Postscript on the Societies of Control. October 59: 3–7. ———. 1990b. Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. Translated by M. Joughin. New York: Zone Books. ———. 1994. Difference and Repetition. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 2001. Pure Immanence. New York, NY: Zone Books. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Duguid, Brian. 1996. Interview with Tony Conrad. EST 7: http://media.hyperreal.org/zines/est/intervs/conrad.html. Last viewed April 29, 2022. Einstein, Albert. 1999. The Problem of Space, Ether, and the Field in Physics. In Space from Zeno to Einstein, ed. Nick Huggett, 253–261. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Eno, Brian. 1975. Discreet Music. Cover Notes. EG Records Ltd. Evens, Aden. 2005. Sound Ideas: Music, Machines, and Experience. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press. Gibson, James J. 1986. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Goodman, Steve. 2010. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. von Helmholtz, Hermann L.F. 2007. On the Sensations of Tone. New York: Cosimo. Ikoniadou, Elini. 2014. The Rhythmic Event: Art, Media, and the Sonic. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Infeld, Leopold. 1980. Quest. New York: Chelsea Pub.

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James, Robin. 2019. The Sonic Episteme: Acoustic Resonance, Neoliberalism, and Biopolitics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Joseph, Branden W. 2007. The Tower and the Line: Towards a Genealogy of Minimalism. Grey Room 27: 58–81. Kahn, Douglas. 1999. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Kassabian, Anahid. 2013. Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Distributed Subjectivity. Berkeley: University of California Press. Krauss, Rosalind. 1979. Sculpture in the Expanded Field. October 8: 30–44. Mertens, Wim. 1983. American Minimal Music. Translated by J.  Hautekiet. London: Kahn & Averill. Schrimshaw, Will. 2017. Immanence and Immersion. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Shaviro, Steven. 2009. Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Simondon, Gilbert. 2020. Individuation in Light of Notions of Form and Information. Translated by Taylor Adkins. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. Spitzer, Leo. 1942a. Milieu and Ambiance: An Essay in Historical Semantics [Part 1]. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 3(1): 1–42. ———. 1942b. Milieu and Ambiance: An Essay in Historical Semantics [Part 2]. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 3(2): 169–218. Wertheimer, Max. 1925. Über Gestalttheorie. Philosophische Zeitschrift für Forschung und Aussprache 1: 39–60. Young, La Monte. 1965. Lecture 1960. Tulane Drama Review 10 (2): 73–83.

Part II Strategies

5 Sonic Mediatization

Environmentality Without Ecology While all sounds are of an ambient nature, some sounds sound more ambient than others. Certain sonic materials tend to stimulate ambient sensations and ambient modes of listening more directly and more intensely, while others, despite their ambient nature, do not. Likewise, certain design strategies or certain modes of experience can be evoked to manipulate and transform existing sonic materials with the specific purpose of intensifying their inherent ambient potentials. Ambient sonic materialities can be produced—intentionally or unintentionally, virtually or actually—by making the unrestricted vibratory flux of sound in and as a consistent, undivided surrounding matter-medium the focus, so to speak, of a process of ambient aestheticization. Applying an ambient mode of listening in a specific situation will obviously not change the material composition of the sonic environment in an ontological sense. But it can provide an ambient perspective by which the surroundability of the sonic environment is exposed and intensified, independent of whether it is onto-aesthetically predisposed to produce ambient effects or not. Aestheticization can, in that sense, become a form of staging of the © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_5

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surrounding environment. It makes the world perform for the sensorium in a certain way. The sonic environment can, to paraphrase Eno, be as readily ignored as it can be aestheticized as an ambient event (Eno 1979). You can listen for the specific surroundability of a sound, and you can ignore this surroundability to direct your attention toward other aspects. When, on the other hand, the material and onto-aesthetic conditions of a sonic environment are actively produced and manipulated with the purpose of intensifying its ambient potentials, this process can take place in various ways. As we have seen in previous chapters, a whole number of ambient morpho-material principles can be engaged to produce sonic field effects, a-figurative ubiquity, immanent consistency and continuous, a-teleological variation. In addition, a sound’s ambient potentials can be actively intensified by arranging the spatial conditions of the listening environment in ways that will autonomously stimulate ambient sensibilities and ambient modes of listening, for example, by reorganizing a room’s acoustic properties or by introducing new technologies for the projection of sound. I will explore this crucial aspect in detail in Part III. Finally, a sound’s material properties can be designed and manipulated in ways that directly bring forth its inherent ambient potentials as sonic matter. The already ambient properties of sonic matter are exposed and boosted, either intentionally or unintentionally, to onto-aesthetically produce a deeper and more intense surround effect. Exploring what this material production of ambient sound entails, and what its implications are for a general philosophy of ambient sound, will be the main focus of this second part. A common way to define sound in a realist and materialist perspective is as pressure vibrations that produce mechanical wave movements in a surrounding medium. In a given situation, the material characteristics of a given sound are thus determined by the continual exchange between a specific pattern of vibrations caused by a mechanical event and the shape, the size and the material and site-specific conditions of the medium in which they unfold. Taken together these circumstances—cause of energetic exchange, source of origin in the medium, the event of medial vibration, the site and the surrounding matter-medium—give rise to affective variation in the sonic environment and to potential information about it. This complex event is what meets a potential listener in a

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specific moment and location and by which a sound unfolds its affective and informative potentials. Cause, source, event, site and medium are intimately connected and will continuously inform each other in a mutual relationship. On this level and from this perspective, sound, in other words, is of an essentially ecological nature, defined by the elementary environmental interconnectivity between separate material processes, function and domains. Ontologically, all sounds are ecological events. Yet, while comprising a vibrant ecology of interconnected processes and milieus, sound also unfolds a surrounding sphere of potential envelopment; it fills a position in space and time with sonic matter that can be occupied by a listener. Sound thus simultaneously connects separate functions and domains in a mutual ecological relationship, and it constitutes an ambient medium of sonic vibration, interference and reverberation, which conditions and specifies the sonic environmentality in chorus and on par with the ecological. From an ontological perspective, sound is, simultaneously and inherently, ecological and ambient. From an onto-­ aesthetic perspective, however, this very relation between the ambient and the ecological dimensions of sonic environmentality constitutes an area of divergence, if not of potential conflict, the expression of which arguably constitutes one of the basic principles in a general aesthetics of the sonic environment. From an onto-aesthetic perspective, ecological effects blur and confuse a sound’s ambient effects and vice versa. And as a consequence, they both depend on the sensible reduction in intensity of the other dimension. In a certain respect, then, ambient sound can be said to involve a decidedly anti-ecological aesthetics. Whereas the ecological dimension of sonic environmentality entails an interconnectivity of separate parts and domains in the environment and between environments, the ambient dimension, as we saw in Part I, conversely entails an onto-aesthetic dissolution of separate parts and domains into a smooth, environmental continuum. Whereas an onto-aesthetics of sonic ecology is informed by the intensification of relationality and interconnectivity between parts, an onto-aesthetics of ambient sound is informed by its reduction. Ambient sound is heterogeneity without separation, consistency without relationality, immanence without connectivity. Or, in short, environmentality without ecology. While sounds, from an ontological perspective, are

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both ecological and ambient, ambient sound is distinguished onto-­ aesthetically by the sensible erasure of a sound’s ecological dimension in favor of an exposure of its matter-medium as a total surround. The ambient intensity of sonic matter depends, in other words, on the extent to which the distinction between a sound’s different ecological aspects— cause, source, event, site—is dissolved, onto-aesthetically, by being brought into sensomaterial correspondence with its surrounding matter-medium. A sound’s ambient capacities are exposed and intensified, then, when it adapts, in all its processual aspects, to the material conditions of the medium in and as which it unfolds. Sound, event and surrounding medium merge in the joint material production of the environment as a total effect of surrounding sound: sonic event becomes surrounding medium—sonic medium becomes surrounding event. Sound = medium = event.

What Is Mediatization? This conflation of sound  = medium = event arguably comprises the most pivotal and elementary principle in the material production of ambient sound. Somewhat surprisingly, though, despite its vital importance, the conflation has not been adequately acknowledged in sound and music scholarship. As a consequence, the general onto-aesthetic implications of the equation of sound = medium = event for modern sound and auditory culture, let alone its specific ambient implications, still remain considerably undertheorized. To stress its distinct role and importance for a general aesthetics of sound, and for the aesthetics of ambient sound in particular, I will give the conflation a special term: sonic mediatization.1 In general terms, mediatization designates the material adaption of an event to the medium in which it unfolds. It thereby entails a production of mediality—a ‘becoming medium’ or ‘becoming mediatic’ of an event. The trained voice of a classic radio announcer or the powdering of facial skin on television are well-known examples of material events—sonic and visual, respectively—in which a specific materiality (voice, skin) is made mediatic by way of its adaption to the material conditions of its

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medium. As sensible matter, the trained voice and the powdered face adapt to their respective medium to become a consistent part of its overall environmental ubiquity. Obviously, this is not a process reserved for technological media alone. It can be ‘natural’ or ‘artificial,’ technological or non-technological, macroscopic or microscopic, discernible or indiscernible. Any part of the environment, any event, can in principle become the object of a mediatizing process. Everything possesses the potential for its own mediatization. It all comes down to the extent to which it adapts to the material conditions of its surrounding environment as a form of medium. There is, from a materialist perspective, a deep connection between performance and mediatization. Something affects the event, which makes it perform the more smoothly and effectively in accordance with the immanent conditions of its surrounding matter-medium. Just as the actor or performer adapts her bodily movements to the immanent conditions of the stage, the performing trumpetist adapts his sound to the immanent conditions of the ensemble and the electro-acoustic surroundings. Mediatization as material-performative adaption thus in part entails an onto-aesthetic reduction of environmental connectivity. When an event reduces the mark of an exterior environment—of another medium outside the medium in which it unfolds—it will potentially present itself more ‘naturally’ and with a stronger material presence in the medium. Mediatization as material performance thus gains its effect by promoting the immanent presentification of the event. It simultaneously intensifies the material presence of the event in the medium and the medium’s material presence as its environmental conditions. Through material adaption, mediatization makes the medium perform as the ‘origin’ of the event; as when, for example, a sound is made to sound as (if it was) produced in and by the medium. Accordingly, then, and somewhat contradictory to its name, mediatization in fact implicates an effect of immediacy as a form of ‘medium presence.’ It intensifies the material presence of the medium and thereby enables a more immediate presence of its immanent event. Performativity, material production, immanence, immediacy and presentification connect in an onto-aesthetics of mediatization.

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Mediatization entails a specific conception of the medium as environmental and envelopmental. The medium comprises an enveloping sphere of consistency, whether abstract or tangible, within which the event performs and appears as conditioned and transformed by its own adaption. To mediatize is to turn a part of the world into an immanent zone or niche of environmental consistency, to create an environmental medium within a larger environmental medium. Hence, sonic mediatization is but the onto-aesthetic transformation of a sound so that it will emerge and unfold, ‘naturally’ and immediately, as an immanent part of a consistent, enveloping matter-medium. As we have seen previously, when a sound is morphologically decoupled from its transcendental origins, it will tend to intensify sensations of univocal immanence and ubiquitous interiority. Likewise, the degree and intensity of sonic mediatization is in part determined by the extent to which a sonic event is being onto-­ aesthetically decoupled from transcendental causality or originality outside the matter-medium, so that it appears as being immediately present and ‘originating’ from within in the immanent sphere of consistency. Sonic mediatization can thus in general terms be distinguished as the onto-aesthetic ‘rendering immanent’ of a sound to its own medium through a process of environmental decoupling. It is a sound’s morpho-­ material revolt against its external, transcendental, mediatic outside. This revolt is obviously not against referentiality, representation and reproduction; it rather operates beyond such notions. It renders them onto-­ aesthetically insignificant, so as to produce a sense of immediacy as a form of synthetic presence, indifferent to whatever it may (re)present. What matters is solely how and to what extent sounds adapt within the enveloping matter-medium to synthetically emphasize its material presence as a form of immediacy. Sonic mediatization, then, involves a striking paradox, which remains a driving factor behind its specific onto-aesthetic potentials and cultural dissemination: Mediatization produces effects of immediacy and mediatic ‘transparency’ by evoking the opposite sensation of material hypermediacy and ‘opacity.’2 Effects of mediacy produce effects of immediacy as the synthetic presence of an absence: a ‘transparent’ sonic event materially highlighted by its own envelopment in the ‘opaque’ veil of immanence. By eliminating the traces

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of a mediatic outside, mediatization thus precisely becomes sensible as the onto-aesthetic effect of a ‘pure,’ ‘full’ and ‘total’ mediatic immanence. By conflating the matter-medium’s total isolation with its simultaneous ubiquitous totalization—its simultaneous exclusion of ‘everything’ outside and inclusion of ‘everything’ inside—a sound becomes performatively invested with the most intense and immediate environmental presence. When sound  = medium = event, immediacy and mediacy merge in a material performance of sound as a total surround.

Mediation and Mediatization To fully grasp the onto-aesthetic implications of mediatization for the production and experience of sonic environments, and of ambient sound in particular, it must be clearly distinguished from related concepts, processes and effects with which it may inadvertently be confused. First and foremost, we must make a clear and unequivocal distinction between mediatization and mediation. Mediation is the transfer—by technological, representational and symbolic means—of a message, content or information from one environment to another. The transfer takes place through and by way of a medium, which functions as a form of middle, mediator or intermediary between the two environments. Hence, keywords of mediation are transmission, reproduction, representation, translation, information, coding and decoding. On the contrary, mediatization constitutes, as we have just seen, the morpho-material processes in which an event—whether it is transmitted from the outside or not, whether it involves mediation or not—is adapted to the conditions of its immediate surroundings as an enveloping, mediatic sphere of immanent consistency. When we recognize, say, the actor Dennis Hopper, sitting on a chair and staring toward us in one of Andy Warhol’s famous screen tests, it is obviously an example of the photographic image’s commonplace reproductive and mediating capacities. We easily and spontaneously accept that we now witness the actual person Dennis Hopper being mediated to us more or less transparently in a filmic recording. But the tense sensation

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of his hyper-sensitive, hyper-communicative encapsulation within the static confines of the image space, his mediatic being-in-the-image as a form of intensified ‘screen presence,’ is an effect of mediatization, not mediation. It draws on Hopper’s specialized embodied techniques, as a skilled actor, in performatively adapting to the material conditions of the image as an immanent, enveloping matter-medium: the framed and brightly lit screen space, constantly toning and supporting his on-screen presentification; the act of recording as the production of a future event; the immediate attraction of the perception image as presentified performance; the gesturing face as an abstract-concrete surface-matter of potential screen-based micro-expressions. All this shows the intimate connection between mediatization and the production of immanence: whereas mediation transfers from one medium to another, mediatization modulates within a single medium. Whereas mediation represents and reproduces a now absent, pre-medial or extra-medial world outside the enveloping matter-­ medium, mediatization ignores pre-medial realities altogether for the sake of a presentification and dynamization of total immanence. It makes no distinction between that which mediates, resembles, and signifies, and that which does not. It expresses the becoming medium of reality beyond mediation. To give another example, we find a striking description of sonic mediatization and its potential for producing ambient effects in Brian Eno’s liner notes for the album On Land (1986), the fourth release of his Ambient series (initiated with Music for Airports in 1978). Here, Eno describes a special listening experience he had on a journey to Africa: When I was in Ghana […] I took with me a stereo microphone and a cassette recorder, ostensibly to record indigenous music and speech patterns. What I sometimes found myself doing instead was sitting out on the patio in the evenings with the microphone placed to pick up the widest possible catchment of ambient sounds from all directions, and listening to the result on my headphones. The effect of this simple technological system was to cluster all the disparate sounds into one aural frame; they became music. (Eno 1986)

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Why do we find this story on the cover of an album of ambient music? In one sense, of course, the anecdote describes a simple and direct mediation of a concrete and immediately surrounding acoustic environment. Yet, as Eno himself seems to suggest, the effect that interests him is not so much concerned with the natural surroundings and their mediation as with the characteristic sound and listening conditions that are stimulated by the setup. What matters is the material synthetization of the sonic environment in reproduction by which the sounds are brought together under the same conditions within a single, continuous plane of immanence: the way the headphones “cluster all the disparate sounds into one aural frame.” They become univocally aligned by adapting to the synthetic consistency of the matter-medium. Undoubtedly, the surrounding Ghanaian soundscape likely possesses a strong ecological potential, which may have been the initial reason for Eno’s interest, with its cacophony of disparate sounds coming at him from all directions; vibrant, droning cicadas, the murmur of distant voices, occasional traffic, the objective Cagean silence of the vast forest. Yet, by being technologically detached and clustered into the materially equalizing, univocally flat and synthetically consistent headphone environment, the site’s inherent ecological properties are onto-aesthetically transformed into a singular, immanent plane of modulating, surrounding sounds as a form of ambient music. A key effect of sonic mediatization is thus due to the way it uproots and transforms the mediating sense of environmental causality and interconnectivity. The transfer of the sounds’ origin from the exterior acoustic environment to the interior environment of the headphone speakers is simultaneously an onto-aesthetic effect of material transformation from an ‘organic,’ connective and mediated to a synthetic, decoupled and mediatized environmentality. This is obviously not something that is unique to Eno’s particular experience, but arguably a common effect associated with all forms of sonic reproduction by technological means. In particular, mediatization’s uprooting and decontextualization of effect from cause or source gives it a profound similarity with the general effect Pierre Schaeffer famously gave the term ‘acousmatic.’ Is sonic mediatization in the end, then, just a form of acousmatization?

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Acousmatics and Mediatization Ever since Pierre Schaeffer popularized the term in 1966, acousmatic has been a key concept in the theory and history of postwar music and sound art, in the beginning mainly in specific relation to musique concrète and electroacoustic music but later as a general concept for the aesthetic effect of mediated sound. Based on an anecdote describing how Pythagoras lectured to his disciples (gr. akousmatikoi: listeners/auditors) behind a curtain so as to improve their ability to concentrate on the spoken word, Schaeffer defined acousmatic sound as the sound you hear without seeing the incident which causes the sound. “Only the voice of the master, hidden from their eyes, reached the disciples” (Schaeffer 2017, p.  64). Although acousmatic as a term thus in principle covers all sounds that occur outside the field of view, Schaeffer and subsequent writers have mainly used it to describe effects of technical reproduction. Moreover, due to the acousmatic veiling, reproduction was thought to emphasize the formal properties of a sound by obscuring its medium-external origin. For that reason, Schaeffer associated acousmatic sound closely with two other key concepts in his theory: the ‘sound object’ and ‘reduced listening.’ By being uprooted, abstracted and manipulated into its ideal transcendental form, the sound object, in Schaeffer’s view, will manifest itself the more profoundly in the isolated acousmatic listening space. Its non-representational nature turns ‘causal listening’ for sources into a reduced ‘musical listening’ to sonic form: Deliberately ignoring any reference to instrumental causes or preexisting musical meanings, we seek to give ourselves over entirely and exclusively to listening, and so to come upon those instinctive pathways that lead from pure ‘sound’ to pure ‘music’. That is what acousmatics proposes: turning our backs on the instrument and musical conditioning, and placing sound and its musical ‘potential’ squarely before us. (Schaeffer 2017, p. 69)

Acousmatic sound, for Schaeffer, thus describes any sound that appears “before us”—in the listening situation, in the matter-medium—as detached from its original external sound source. To be acousmatic is to envelop the sonic event with a sensible ‘decontextualization effect.’ It is

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this effect of detachment and decontextualization that led Denis Smalley to make the grand, but arguably somewhat dubious, claim that “[a]cousmatic music is the only sonic medium that concentrates on space and spatial experience as aesthetically central” (Smalley 2007, p.  35). Presumably, by virtue of their acousmatic mark, sound objects, and the relationships between them, will afford and encourage a specific reduced, detached listening situation, in which listeners are enveloped and in which their sense of space is shaped and intensified. From this perspective, then, acousmatic sound indeed appears to have a direct and deep-­ rooted ambient potential. It presents ungrounded sounds in a material medium detached from their external origins. As we shall see, there is, however, no particular basis for connecting acousmatic sound with an intensified sensation of being enveloped in sonic space. Quite the contrary, ambient sound is in large part entirely foreign to the very notion of acousmatics. It rather gains its ambient effect beyond and without regards to the question of acousmatics. Schaeffer’s idea of acousmatic sound has often been criticized for being reductive or misconceived. As Luke Windsor argues, the experience of acousmatic music will not necessarily include a full perceptual elimination of a sound’s origin, source and cause, even in cases where the veiling of the sound source is most comprehensive. Based on Gibson’s ecological approach to perception, Windsor thus specifies how the listener—partly due to auditory habits developed in the trivial experience of acoustic space—will tend to project a certain degree of pre-medial causality into the acousmatic sound objects. Even highly unrecognizable sounds will thus, in so far as they are heard as acousmatic, not only be coupled spontaneously in listening with causal events outside the medium (even if this coupling and sense of causality remains a product of the listener’s imagination). Their acousmatic effect may even be intensified. “The acousmatic curtain,” Windsor argues, “does not merely serve to obscure the sources of sounds. Indeed, it can be seen to intensify our search for intelligent sources, for likely causal events” (Windsor 2000, p. 31). Chion has made a similar critique by arguing that the decoupling of acousmatic sound in fact leads to a contrary effect of causal curiosity:

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Schaeffer thought the acousmatic situation could encourage reduced listening, in that it provokes one to separate oneself from causes or effects in favor of consciously attending to sonic textures, masses, and velocities. But, on the contrary, the opposite often occurs, at least at first, since the acousmatic situation intensifies causal listening in taking away the aid of sight. Confronted with a sound from a loudspeaker that is presenting itself without a visual calling card, the listener is led all the more intently to ask, ‘What’s that?’ (i.e., ‘What is causing this sound?’) and to be attuned to the minutest clues (often interpreted wrong anyway) that might help to identify the cause. (Chion 1994, p. 32)

Hence, the apparent absence of a sound’s origin in acousmatic sound may in fact involve a stronger perceptual focus on the sound source itself and an intensified desire to identify it in its absence.3 Precisely by veiling a sound’s cause or source, acousmatics potentially intensifies the sound’s performative and imaginative presence as veiled and decontextualized. Even in the most reduced listening situation, acousmatic sound needs its source to be able to veil it in the first place, and thereby to achieve its acousmatic effect. In other words, the acousmatic effect builds on an underlying effect of displacement embedded indexically in the sensible sonic event as a form of hidden causality. Somewhat paradoxically then, acousmatic sound, the ‘sound without a cause,’ is in fact defined (negatively) by its source as an obscured causality, looming secretly in the acoustic darkness of sonic mediation. The external acoustic world, the world outside the immanent sphere of the medium—and thus the sound’s source and origin—in effect remains but veiled. It is never truly and effectively absent. The observations made by Windsor and Chion can help us to highlight two important aesthetic features that are often somewhat neglected in discussions of acousmatic sound—features that Schaeffer only hinted at very briefly, but which is nevertheless implied in his whole conception of the term. First, as I have just argued, we can see how acousmatic sound, while founded on the dissociation of event and source, in fact remains inextricably linked to the source that it veils. Second, and as a direct consequence of this, it becomes clear that the spontaneous perceptual attempt at linking, or rather relinking, event and source after their initial

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dissociation by mediation is, more than anything, what makes acousmatic sound sound acousmatic in the first place. The ontological condition of decontextualization turns into an onto-aesthetic effect of recontextualization. Acousmatics thus in fact refers to two different meanings and two different registers: On the one hand, it designates the ontological property of an audiovisual detachment of source from effect. And, on the other hand, it denotes an aesthetic effect of veiling and potential recontextualization. The two are not alike, and they do not necessarily correspond in the actual event. Some ontologically acousmatic sounds do not necessarily produce strong acousmatic effects of veiling. A car passing on the street below, which I can hear from my apartment but not see, is an acousmatic sound in the ontological sense, but from an onto-aesthetic perspective it entirely lacks the acousmatic effect of environmental detachment and decontextualization. Due to its commonplace, habitual referentiality and the general ecological coherence of the acoustic environment, car source and car effect remain closely linked to a particular object, a particular action and a particular site, which I recognize and combine into a singular acoustic event. In short, all sounds that are visually veiled or detached from their original context are acousmatic, but some sounds sound more acousmatic than others. What, more precisely, constitutes this acousmatic effect of veiling and decontextualization? From the argument so far, we can determine, against more conventional understandings of the term, that a sound in fact sounds acousmatic because it makes sensible and intensifies the process of sonic mediation by exposing its potential delusion. Acousmatics builds on the potential, inherent in the process of mediation, for producing a sense of auditory tension, disturbance, insecurity, even anxiety.4 This is precisely one of the key conclusions in Brian Kane’s brilliant inquiry into acousmatic sound in Schaeffer and beyond. According to Kane, there is, as Schaeffer himself also acknowledged to some point, an “anxiety that disturbs acousmatic sound, […] something unsettled, or unsettling” (Kane 2014, p. 148). This uneasiness is not reducible to a mere discomfort with using new technologies of sonic reproduction: It is not the overcoming of habit that is unsettling, but rather a structural feature of acousmatic sound that is disturbing, namely, that the sound

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object is never quite autonomous; that this nearly-­ but-­ not-­ quite-­ autonomous auditory effect necessarily underdetermines attributions of source and cause; that the autonomous effect, when heard acousmatically, is pursued by the shadow of its source and cause, a shadow that it cannot escape because without it, the acousmaticity of a sound simply dissipates. (Kane 2014, p. 148)

As a key example of this unsettled and unsettling potential of acousmatic sound, Kane proposes the phenomenon of the acousmêtre, an effect initially conceptualized and analyzed by Chion. But, as Kane notes, while Chion mostly describes the effect in relation to film, it is, like acousmatics in general, potentially and in principle observable in all sonic environments. Chion describes the acousmêtre as an “acousmatic character whose relationship to the screen involves a specific kind of ambiguity and oscillation” (Chion 1994, p. 129). It is the sound of a person’s voice mysteriously present and absent, everywhere and nowhere, at the same time. Being a specifically voice-centered effect, in Chion’s conception, the acousmêtre thus creates a sense of territorial uncertainty associated with a sounding voice that is acousmatically veiled and dislocated in space, while not being entirely absent. The acousmêtre is not exclusively outside, it “must, even if only slightly, have one foot in the image, in the space of the film […]. Being in the screen and not, wandering the surface of the screen without entering it, the acousmêtre brings disequilibrium and tension.”5 We have indeed moved far away from an ambient aesthetics of mediatization and enveloping immanence. As demonstrated with particular accuracy in the acousmêtre but observable in all acousmatic situations, acousmatic sound can in general terms be distinguished as the sonic expression and aestheticization of the very mystery of mediation: “Were acousmatic sounds truly autonomous,” Kane notes, “they would possess none of their gripping tension and mystery” (Kane 2014, p.  148). In direct contrast to this, sonic mediatization gains its effect precisely by eliminating this mystery altogether and render it aesthetically insignificant, but while still preserving a sense of uprooting and decontextualization. Mediatization is deterritorialization turned commonplace, drained of all tension and mystery. It demystifies the act of mediation (or abolish

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it altogether) so as to intensify the sense of immediacy and immanent presentification as a synthetic effect beyond the onto-aesthetic distinction between inside and outside, medium and non-medium, and thus beyond the potentials for creating tension and mystery this distinction may hold. Indeed, the unremarkable, furniture-like presence of ambient sound is in part owing its effect of surroundability precisely to its palpable lack of environmental mystery. We can, in other words, distinguish a crucial onto-aesthetic difference between acousmatics and mediatization in their virtually opposed positions toward the mystery of mediation: In so far as mediatization involves mediation, it does so only to demystify and trivialize it. Sonic mediatization, in short, entails an onto-aesthetic dissolution or ‘dis-acousmatization’ of the acousmatic sense of rupture introduced in the sonic environment by the act of mediation.6 Its aim and effect is to materialize and presentify environmental sounds—whether mediated or unmediated, acoustic or technological, veiled or unveiled—as univocal parts of a single, consistent, immanent sonic reality. Consider, for example, a pop song playing on the radio. Chion may claim that it “should be evident that the radio is acousmatic by nature” (Chion 1999, p. 21). Yet, if considered as an acousmatic event, the pop song’s sonic manifestation and material effect, its sound, perhaps even its spectacular enigma, would necessarily depend on a sense of mediatic veiling of its original source. An effect of veiling which, in turn, per definition would have to be sensible, however subtle, as a tension or rupture in the song’s techno-material presence. But what is the ‘original’ acoustic source of a pop song? What is the mediatic outside of pop music? Obviously, radio transmission typically mediates sound from one context to another (ontological acousmatics). And historically, pop music may often have been imbued with a certain sonic mystery associated with the sounds’ spectacular artificiality and otherworldly presence. But all this does not necessarily produce a simultaneous effect of acousmatic tension in the act of listening (onto-aesthetic acousmatics). Something similar takes place, albeit in a quite different context, when, for instance, a person during a walk in the forest pauses to contemplate the massive soft sound of rain in the leaves. Not only is the distributed, massive source of rain sound impossible to grasp auditorily, not to say visually, as a single entity. The source itself has lost its aesthetic relevance altogether. Despite

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its acousmatic veiling (ontological acousmatics), the sound has in effect eliminated its acousmatic potential (onto-aesthetic acousmatics). Instead, the source, ubiquitously accumulated and spread throughout the forest, is onto-aesthetically absorbed into the total environmental effect of sonic omnipresence. Source and effect merge in the onto-aesthetic performance of non-acousmatized immanence: source = medium = effect.

Medium Effects, Phonogeny and Mediatization Despite their many apparent similarities, acousmatization and mediatization thus in fact constitute opposite poles in the onto-aesthetic spectrum between sonic veiling and non-veiling, transcendence and immanence, otherworldly mystery and innerworldly triviality.7 Whereas acousmaticity denotes the degree to which the distinct acousmatic relation between source and event is determinable and effective as a spatialized tension, mediatization denotes the degree to which it is not. Whereas acousmaticity denotes the degree to which source ≠ effect, mediatization denotes the degree to which source = effect. As Kane notes about the distinction between acousmatic segregation and non-acousmatic integration of source and effect: “When sound, cause, and effect are simultaneously present, acousmatic sound is not. Or, similarly, when the effect becomes an ‘essence,’ detached from the cause and effect, acousmatic sound is not. Thus, the very acousmaticity of sound—its quality of being acousmatic— depends on the spacing of source, cause, and effect. Acousmatic sound exists structurally between these two possibilities” (Kane 2014, p. 149). Arguably, this other effect of non-acousmatics, this lack of tension and mystery, has far too often been ignored or supplemented in sound studies scholarship as either being too trivial or as being but a welcoming testimony to the technologies’ functional efficiency in creating a successful, transparent and faithful mediation (as, for instance, in hi-fi aesthetics). Yet, the very lack of acousmatic tension, and the production of sonic immanence it promotes, arguably entails a whole aesthetics in its own right—with an immense influence on all parts of modern auditory culture. Sound is not either ‘acousmatically split’ in mediation or ‘acoustically whole’ in the audiovisual copresence of source and effect. ­Source/

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cause and effect can merge to an extent where any distinction between them is no longer sensible and no longer makes any sense. “In the medium,” Rolf Großmann notes, “the world always appears as being tailored for the senses.”8 Commenting on Großmann, Holger Schulze argues that this sensory tailoring by the medium makes it necessary for us to abandon any “idea of mediatization as a transparent transmission.” All (re)production is “from the start shaped for the senses of a specifically intended audience” (Schulze 2018, p. 47). Schulze’s argument resonates with Marshall McLuhan’s famous conception of media as prosthetic extensions of the human sensorium. And the whole idea of the medium as a ‘tailoring’ of content for the senses expresses the essence of McLuhan’s famous dictum ‘the medium is the message.’ The “‘message’ of any medium or technology,” says McLuhan, “is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs” (McLuhan 2001, p. 8). McLuhan’s idea, first introduced in the early 1960s, incarnated a general shift in orientation—in postwar Western media culture specifically, and in our theoretical understanding of how media work and affect us in general—from reproduction and representation (of a specific ‘content’) to the general medium effects (the ‘message’) of technologies as environments on a broader cultural, societal and aesthetic level: “All media work us over completely,” he notes in 1967. “They are so persuasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments” (McLuhan 1967, p. 26). What McLuhan’s statement also implies, however, is that this merging of message and medium moreover entails a general distortion, even a potential eradication, of the very “content” that is transmitted, communicated and mediated in and through the medium. The medium as environmental message, and in consequence the material effect of ‘pure mediatization,’ has gained many of the aesthetic privileges once reserved for content, mediation and reproduction. The message of mediatization starts to assume a general aesthetics in its own right as a form of environmental “massage.”9 Now, if mediatization as environmental massage can be said to entail an aesthetics in its own right, how can we distinguish the specific

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aesthetic effects of mediatization? What does mediatization sound like? And how does it more precisely contribute to the production of ambient surround effects? To get an initial idea of this, let us consider the notion of phonogeny—a somewhat obsolete term reintroduced into the vocabulary of auditory culture by Michel Chion. According to Chion, phonogeny refers to the “rather mysterious” capacity, either innate or learned, of certain voices to “sound good when recorded and played over loudspeakers” (Chion 1994, p.  101). With ideals borrowed from early musical recording and radio, phonogeny as a term was originally introduced during the move from silent film to talkies in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Here, it described the sonorous capabilities of some individual actors to adapt particularly well to the recording and playback conditions of a specific medium (radio, film, etc.) in a way that corresponds to ideals of what sounded ‘good’ at the time.10 Phonogenic voices were voices that in audition “‘meshed’ well with the sensitive part of the system” (Chion 1994, p. 102). From that perspective, phonogeny indeed seems to describe an effect of sonic mediatization. Its purpose is, as Chion writes, “in short to make up for the absence of the sound’s real source by means of another kind of presence specific to the medium” (Chion 1994, p.  103). By merging source and medium, it induces a “form of listening” that no longer perceives the sound “as a reproduction” but as something which is in a “more direct and immediate contact with the event.” The phonogenic voice, Chion notes, is the outcome of a process in which “a preexisting reality” merges with “conditions of reproduction” to produce another “specific reality: neither the neutral transmission of a sound event, nor an entire fabrication by technical means.” What basically takes place in phonogeny, according to Chion, is in other words a performative transfer of energy and environmental presence from the exterior pre-medial context to the interior of the medium itself. It entails a specific intensification of the mediatic presence of sound as a form of immediacy. A phonogenetic sound not only has “more presence than reality,” it “tends to substitute” (ibid.) it altogether, even as it denies its status of reproduction. This ‘reality’ is not a representation, copy or simulacrum but something entirely new, a form of ‘medium-reality,’ immanent to the medium itself and the process of becoming mediatic.

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This affective, mediatizing production of a material medium-reality associated with phonogeny is related to Chion’s more general concept of cinematic rendering. Chion argues for a sharp distinction between rendering and reproduction (1994, pp. 109–114). While sonic reproduction for him denotes the mediation of ‘real’ pre-mediatic events from the outside and into the cinematic medium, rendering designates the intensification of the sensible presence of cinematic events in the medium through sonic construction and manipulation. A rendered sound is a sound that is designed to sound as if it comes from the immanent, audiovisual space of the cinematic matter-medium itself. In other words, phonogeny and rendering can both be considered prime examples of a production of audiovisual consistency by sonic mediatization with deep ambient implications.11 Their basic function is to consolidate and enhance the mediatic presence of events and the whole cinematic environment in an integrated and consistent audiovisual whole. Still, however, as general concepts for the onto-aesthetic implications of sonic mediatization, both terms show some severe limitations. Rendering denotes an essentially audiovisual effect of intensified mediatic correspondence between sound and image, which makes it unsuitable for a general conceptualization of the aesthetic implications associated with nonvisual, let alone non-cinematic, mediatization. Something similar is the case with phonogeny, but for quite different reasons. While phonogeny is undoubtedly still influential and effective today as a specific ideal of sonic reproduction, especially in radio and film, phonogeny maintains a special and somewhat peculiar role in the onto-aesthetic history of sound technology. Chion does consider, albeit only very briefly, the possibility of generalizing phonogeny to a broader context of mediatic adaptability in contemporary media culture (Chion 1994, p. 103). Nevertheless, phonogeny is arguably severely limited as a general concept for at least two reasons: firstly, it remains a specifically voice-centered effect, directly associated with certain bodily capacities of some individuals. And, secondly, it describes an effect which essentially originates before mediation and belongs to a material being outside the medium.12 The association of phonogeny to a ‘natural talent’ for embodied mediatization before mediation arguably limits the term’s conceptual potentials, both for describing non-vocal, a-phonic mediatization and, more importantly, for describing

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the very process of sonic mediatization as a general process by which all sounds—both the ‘phonic’ and ‘sonic’ sounds, both the natural talents and the ungifted, both the acoustic and the electronically generated, both mediated and unmediated, both individual sounds and whole sonic environments—‘learn’ how to perform in accordance with the medial-­ material conditions in which they unfold. Anyway, the whole question of why some sounds (including voices) sound ‘more at home’ in the medium compared to others—and what the consequences are of this process for a general aesthetics of sound, ambient or not—remains unsolved. In other words, we still need to ask the basic questions: What are the effects of sonic mediatization? What does mediatization actually sound like? And how does it contribute to the material production of ambient sound?

Notes 1. The term ‘mediatization’ is probably most familiar as a central concept in current media studies, where it is used to describe the influence of (mostly digital) media on various parts of cultural and societal life. In this media sociological approach, mediatization denotes large-scale cultural and societal processes in which a “media logic” (Altheide and Snow 1979) has begun to pervade aspects of life, which were previously considered as unaffected, or relatively unaffected, by the existence of media (Lundby 2009; Hjarvard 2013; Hepp 2013). The onto-aesthetic approach to sonic mediatization I propose and develop here differs from the media sociological approach, though, by not first and foremost using the concept to describe sociocultural developments. Yet, my concept of mediatization is arguably concerned with similar questions, albeit on another level, in the sense that it explores the basic material and aesthetic conditions for something (a person, a practice, an event, an institution, a whole cultural sphere) to be ‘influenced by media’ and to ‘adapt to its underlying logic’ and thus, eventually, the conditions for what it means—ontologically, aesthetically and, by extension, culturally and socially—to ‘be mediatized’ in the first place. 2. The distinction between immediacy and hypermediacy was introduced by Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin (1999). While they mainly regarded

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the two concepts as opposite tendencies in digital media, mediatization, by contrast, involves a direct fostering of their conflation. 3. Schaeffer himself did acknowledge a tendency in acousmatic sound to attract attention to the hidden source, albeit to him it was but an initial effect that could be overcome by habit or will: “In reality, Pythagoras’s curtain is not enough to discourage a curiosity about causes to which we are instinctively, almost irresistibly, inclined. But the repetition of the physical symbol made possible by recording helps us in two ways: by exhausting this curiosity, it gradually imposes the sound object as a concept worth studying in its own right; furthermore, with the help of more attentive and accurate acts of listening, it reveals to us little by little all the richness of this mode of perception” (Schaeffer 2017, p. 66). 4. This sense of anxiety associated with sonic mediation is perhaps best exemplified in Murray Schafer’s aforementioned, humorous but also somewhat nostalgic, critique of technologically reproduced sounds as creating a sense of “schizophonia,” a term he coined deliberately “intending it to be a nervous word” (Schafer 1994, p. 91). The idea of schizophonia builds on the dubious assumption that “[o]riginally all sounds were originals. They occurred at one time in one place only. Sounds were then indissolubly tied to the mechanisms that produced them. The human voice traveled only as far as one could shout. Every sound was uncounterfeitable, unique” (Schafer 1994, p. 90). For an elaborate discussion of Schafer’s schizophonia in relation to acousmatic sound, see Kane (2014, pp. 151–152). 5. Chion (1999, p. 24). Chion explicitly links the acousmêtre to effects of sonic omnipotence and ubiquity. It has “the ability to be everywhere, to see all, to know all, and to have complete power. In other words: ubiquity, panopticism. omniscience, and omnipotence” (Chion 1999, p. 24). Yet, compared to the ambient ubiquity I have discussed in earlier chapters, Chion associates the acousmêtre exclusively with the voiced sounding of an individual person or persona, whose acousmatic ambiguity allows it to be heard as being vocally everywhere. The omnipresence of the acousmêtre is in other words not a material omnipresence related to environmental sounds but an anthropomorphic, representational one that remains bound up with the idea of an underlying subject or identity, who has now become unlocalizable. The difference between ubiquity as the mediatizing effect of sound filling an all-encompassing matter-

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medium and ubiquity produced by the voiced presence of a visually absent person somewhere—anywhere—in the environment is, in this sense, a radical difference: the former is a-representational and objective, the latter is representational and subjective. 6. Kane introduces the term ‘dis-acousmatization’ to distinguish the special event and effect where acousmatic tension is eliminated by lifting the acousmatic veil, as, for example, in the famous final scenes in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). As Kane notes, when “a sound is heard in its full acousmaticity, it brings into audibility the incongruous spacing of source, cause, and effect, and (because they are implicated in the determination of source, cause, and effect) the eye and ear. This spacing can be overcome, but at that moment, the acousmaticity of the sound is gone. Some may find that state of disacousmatization a relief, given the anxiety, uncertainty, and underdetermination of acousmatic listening” (Kane 2014, p. 150). Yet, while Kane associates dis-­acousmatization with a special event, a specific performative act of revelation, my use of the term here to describe an aspect of mediatization differs considerably from Kane’s. Mediatization as disacousmatization is not connected to a specific event and effect of exposure and unveiling. It is a generalized effect of a lack of tension associated with the synthetic production of (decontextualized but non-acousmatic) immanence. This lack of acousmatic tension does not need an act of unveiling to unfold. It can operate beyond the very process of acousmatization. 7. Of course, as Chion points out, the most direct opposite of acousmatic sound, as defined by Schaeffer, is the sound we hear while simultaneously being able to see its source: “Schaeffer did not see fit for his purposes (he was interested in musique concrete) to find a specific word for the flip side of acousmatic listening, the apparently trivial situation wherein we do see the sound source. He was content to speak in this case of ‘direct’ listening. Since his term is ambiguous, we prefer to speak of visualized listening” (Chion 1999, p. 18). In comparison, however, the non-acousmatic qualities of sonic mediatization—and of ambient sound in general—are, while being opposed to acousmatic sound, obviously not dependent on visualization but only on properties and characteristics associated with the sonic material. Whereas visualized listening opposes the acousmatic veiling with the triviality of direct listening within a perceptual contract of audiovisual relations, sonic mediatization

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opposes the acousmatic tension and mystery associated with sonic mediation with the triviality of environmental sound from a sonic domain beyond the distinction between visualized and non-visualized. 8. Großmann quoted in Schulze (2018, p. 47). 9. In the ‘wrong’ title of McLuhan’s most famous book, The Medium is the Massage (1967) we not only find a key to central aspects of McLuhan’s media theory. The shift from message to massage also indicates, albeit more implicitly, a specifically ambient tendency in the way in which modern media shape and tailor our senses. By emphasizing its own mediality, mediatization not only transforms the content of a medium by adapting it to the material conditions of mediation, but exchanges it for a form of total massage, a physically vibrating world of haptic media effects working directly on the human sensorium. 10. The term ‘phonogenic’ is, of course, analogous to ‘photogenic’ as the capacity of some individuals to pose well and with significant impact in photos. For a description and reflections on how a present day radio interview still can raise dilemmas associated with phonogeny, see “The microphone as poem” in Schulze (2018, pp. 85–88). 11. For this reason, Timothy Morton includes, with reference to Chion, the notion of rendering as one of the central components in his conception of ambient poetics (Morton 2007, p. 35). 12. As I will discuss later, this idea of phonogeny is to some extent connected to Chion’s general understanding of sound cinema as a ‘vococentric’ art form. Compared to phonogeny, Chion’s concept of rendering arguably describes a similar process of mediatic adaption but with a more general a-phonic perspective beyond vococentrism.

Bibliography Altheide, David L., and Robert P. Snow. 1979. Media Logic. Beverly Hills and London: Sage. Bolter, Jay David, and Richard Grusin. 1999. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Chion, Michel. 1994. Audio-Vision. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1999. Voice in Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press. Eno, Brian. 1979. Music for Airports: Ambient 1. Cover notes. PVC Records, USA. ———. 1986. On Land, Ambient 4. Cover notes. EG Records Ltd.

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Hepp, Andreas. 2013. Cultures of Mediatization. Cambridge: Polity Press. Hjarvard, Stig. 2013. The Mediatization of Culture and Society. London: Routledge. Kane, Brian. 2014. Sound Unseen. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Lundby, Knut, ed. 2009. Mediatization: Concept, Changes, Consequences. New York: Peter Lang Publishers. McLuhan, Marshall. 1967. The Medium Is the Massage. New York: Bantam Books. ———. 2001. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. London and New York: Routledge. Morton, Timothy. 2007. Ecology Without Nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Schaeffer, Pierre. 2017. Treatise on Musical Objects. Translated by Christine North and John Dack. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. Schafer, R.  Murray. 1994. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. Schulze, Holger. 2018. The Sonic Persona: An Anthropology of Sound. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Smalley, Denis. 2007. Space-form and the Acousmatic Image. Organised Sound 12 (1): 35–58. Windsor, Luke. 2000. Through and Around the Acousmatic: The Interpretation of Electroacoustic Sounds. In Music, Electronic Media and Culture, ed. Simon Emmerson, 7–35. Aldershot: Ashgate.

6 Synthetic Strategies

F rom Reproduction Sensibilities to Production Sensibilities My aim in the next chapters is to substantiate how the principle of sonic mediatization—while still being mostly unacknowledged in sound and music scholarship—must be regarded as a driving factor in the historical development of modern auditory culture. I will thus argue that mediatization constitutes a dominant aesthetic ideal of sonic materiality that has (in)formed and shaped some of the most important and influential developments in modern and contemporary sound art, music and sound design throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Secondly, I will simultaneously explore and further conceptualize how this ideal and principle of sonic mediatization is intimately linked to an ambient aesthetics of sonic materiality, and thus how mediatization has been a key factor in advancing a general ambient aestheticization of sonic matter in modern and contemporary auditory culture. Sonic mediatization is essential for the material production of ambient sound for two main reasons. First, mediatization is central because it

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_6

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renders the distinction between inside and outside aesthetically insignificant. Operating beyond representation and mediation, it onto-aesthetically dissociates the matter-medium from the sense of a mediatic outside in favor of an all-enveloping material immanence. Mediatization, in other words, renders sound ambient because it detaches sound from its individual, medium-external origin to evoke a sense of immanent mediatic consistency, but doing so without simultaneously creating (acousmatic) tension between inside and outside. This onto-aesthetic detachment of sounds from their medium-external origin in turn intensifies their material presence in the medium. In that sense, mediatization entails a simultaneous abstraction and concretion of sound as mediatic event. Second, mediatization is central to ambient sound because it renders insignificant—on a techno-material level—the sense of sonic particularity, individuality and originality. By de-particularizing sound as material event, it consolidates the matter-medium as a generic and generalized, univocal whole. In short, sonic mediatization produces ambient effects because it renders sound abstract-concrete and generic. In the following chapters, I will identify and explore artistic strategies for mediatizing sound and their ambient implications by studying some key examples in the history of music, sound art and cinematic sound design, with specific focus on the use of technologies for producing and reproducing sound. Clearly, as demonstrated by Sterne, Kane and many others, sonic mediation existed long before the invention of technological sound reproduction. Yet, on the other hand, this fascinating invention arguably comprises the singular most important and most radical shift in modern auditory culture toward sonic mediation: more mediation, better mediation, more direct and synchronous mediation, and more spectacular mediation. In this process, acousmatization—characterized by the sensible, environmental tension between ‘source milieu’ and ‘effect milieu’—became a central factor in the general aestheticization of everyday auditory life. Consequently, learning how to auditorily behave, navigate and experience in acousmatic, mediating environments became a crucial skill. The early history of sound reproduction thus arguably initiated a whole reproduction sensibility. This sensibility concerned listeners’ sensory capacity for and pleasure in negotiating between, on the one hand, the acousmatic awareness of the mediation process—often made

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tangible and intensified by poor transmission quality and low signal to noise ratios—and, on the other hand, the ability and desire to listen to the mediated signal as an ‘undisturbed’ event in its own right, whether for informative, aesthetic or other purposes. On various levels of specialization, listeners developed a whole range of “audile techniques” (Sterne 2003) to enable a better, and less laborious, cognitive and perceptual separation of mediated signal from mediatic noise. I will discuss the different techniques of listening emerging with technologies of sonic (re) production and their specific ambient implications in Part III. For now, however, I want to focus on another, and arguably equally paradigmatic, change in modern auditory culture. Indeed, this change is also intimately linked to the historical introduction of technological sound reproduction. But instead of being specifically concerned with the mediations and acousmatic tensions of reproduction, it rather entails what I will call a production sensibility, directed toward the matter-­ medium itself as a mediatizing machine for the emergence, design and manipulation of immanent fields effects. This new sensibility of production, of course, did not substitute—nor problematize to any important extent—the reproductive sensibility of acousmatics and mediation, the latter of which has obviously remained an essential part of auditory culture until the present day. Rather, the sense for production and mediatization emerged alongside, and often in intimate connection with, a sense for reproduction and mediation. Slowly, though, the productive aspect gained a more independent cultural influence and a stronger and more complex aesthetic expression of its own. And with this influence, the very conception, use, valuation and material configuration of sound arguably started to change on a general cultural level. This onto-aesthetic change in sensibility from reproduction toward production is indeed an audible change, traceable throughout the material fabric of sonic modernity. It can be observed in various stylistic shifts in composition and recording ideals. In the intensified focus on using technology for generating and manipulating sonic materials. In the increased awareness of the material and aesthetic restrictions and possibilities associated with the infrastructure of sonic distribution. And it can be observed, of course, in the many new technologies for aestheticizing sound production, invented by the sonic industries in part to support the

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new cultural demands, practices and aesthetic ideals emerging with the new production-oriented sensibilities. The audible change toward production sensibilities can be summarized as a general change in aesthetic orientation from sound and music as a recorded performance toward the techno-environmental projection and distribution of sonic matter as mediatized performance. A notable—albeit certainly not the first—example of this shift in sensibility can be observed in a statement by Brian Eno from 1983. Here, Eno describes how “records” for him as a producer and composer have “nothing to do now with performances. […] So for quite a while now I’ve been thinking that if I make records, I want to think not in terms of evoking a memory of a performance […], but to think in terms of making a piece of sound which is going to be heard in a type of location, usually someone’s house.”1 Conceptualizing the new technological possibilities in the early 1980s, Eno thus observed a shift in focus from the practice of recording and mixing performances to viewing the whole “studio as a compositional tool” with the prospect of “actually constructing a piece in the studio” (Eno 2004, p. 129). In “a compositional sense,” he notes, this takes the making of music away from any traditional way that composers worked, as far as I’m concerned, and one becomes empirical in a way that the classical composer never was. You’re working directly with sound, and there’s no transmission loss between you and the sound—you handle it. It puts the composer in the identical position of the painter—he’s working directly with a material, working directly onto a substance, and he always retains the options to chop and change, to paint a bit out, add a piece, etc. (ibid.)

However commonplace and trivial this may seem today, with the generalized and environmentalized post-medium condition of digital sound production, this shift toward production involves much more than a mere change in the practices and technological possibilities of studio-­ based music production. On a more fundamental level, sounds conceived as reproductive and caused by events outside the medium, and sounds conceived as designed and produced in the medium suggest two radically dissimilar onto-aesthetic conceptions of what it means to engage with the material reality of sound by technological means. And in the sensible

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orientation toward the latter, we begin to see the emerging contours of a general ambient aestheticization of auditory culture associated with the immanent materiality of technological sound production.

Synthetic and Organic Matter As we have seen, sonic mediatization depends on the degree to which a sound dissolves the onto-aesthetic distinction between source and event into the common material fabric of the medium: sound  = medium = event. In this process, acousmatic ruptures between inside and outside, let alone their associated potential anxieties, will tend to dissolve in favor of an onto-aesthetic and socio-cultural ‘naturalization’ of the immanent matter-medium as the sound’s only and proper source and origin. The material cause of individual sonic production is transferred to the medium as an environmental whole. Everything ‘comes from’ the medium-­ environment. In this process, sounds, whether reproduced or electronically generated, can thus regain some of their ‘acoustic’ properties as environmental sound, with the only exception that this natural environmentality is often highly fabricated and technologically designed. All this, of course, has nothing to do with any conventional idea of nature as opposed to culture or artifice. By contrast, mediatization makes sounds sound ‘natural’ because it involves a more fundamental shift in the production and experience of sound from an organic to a synthetic materiality, which is produced beyond ontological and aesthetic distinctions between the natural and the artificial, and between ‘acoustic’ and ‘electronic’ sound production. Gilles Deleuze distinguishes between to basic forms of materiality: organic and inorganic matter. The difference between the two is not a difference between natural and artificial matter. They are both part of the same univocal reality of matter-flow: “Organic matter is not […] something other than inorganic matter. Whether organic or inorganic, matter is all one” (Deleuze 1993, p. 7). Rather, what separates the two is a difference in their morphogenetic causality and the “motivating forces” (ibid.) behind their production. Matter is all one, “but the active forces that are exerted upon it are not the same.”2 Thus, according to Deleuze, organic

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matter is “defined by endogenous folds, while inorganic matter has exogenous folds that are always determined from without or by the surrounding environment” (ibid.). Organic matter is thus produced by “plastic forces,” working upon it from within to create an organism with its own specificity: “To be sure, organic folds have their own specificity, as fossils demonstrate” (ibid., p. 6). By contrast, inorganic matter is produced and folded by “elastic” and “compressive” forces that work upon it from the outside (ibid.). Whereas organic matter is the source and cause of its own generation and formation, inorganic matter is synthetically produced and shaped by external forces. It needs the surrounding environment, the medium, to be ‘forced’ into being and shape, to be compressed, fabricated, ‘put together’ (‘synthesis,’ from gr. syntithenai: to put together). By being exposed to the elastic forces in a surrounding environment, inorganic matter is folded, put together and compressed into synthetic blocks and flows of matter. Whereas plastic forces from within develop organic matter-flows with a higher degree of specificity, formation and individuation, the external compressive and elastic forces develop inorganic matter with a higher degree of molecular multiplicity that draws it toward the massive and the generic. “We might say,” Deleuze argues, “that between organic and inorganic things there exists a difference of vector, the latter going toward increasingly greater masses in which statistical mechanisms are operating, the former toward increasingly smaller, polarized masses in which the force of an individuating machinery, an internal individuation, is applied” (Deleuze 1993, p. 8). Whereas organic matter is particular, original and territorial, going toward molar individuation, inorganic matter is general, generic and deterritorialized, going toward the deindividuated common materiality of the molecular mass. In short: organic individuation versus synthetic massification. (Fig.  6.1  summarizes the  key aspects of Deleuze’s distinction between organic and inorganic matter). Deleuze’s conception of inorganic matter and its morpho-material production by exogeneous forces in a surrounding environment arguably allows us to distinguish a deep and intimate connection between synthetization and mediatization. Synthetic, inorganic matter is both massive and mediatic in the sense that it always already ‘belongs’ to the surrounding matter-medium in and by which it is accumulated, shaped, modulated and distributed in and as masses. It ‘originates’ in the medium. Source = medium = effect. It does not develop ‘out of itself ’ toward an

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INORGANIC MATTER

FOLDS

endogenous

exogenous

FORCES

plastic forces

compressive / elastic forces

VECTOR

toward internal individuation

toward greater masses

Fig. 6.1  Schematic summary of Gilles Deleuze’s conceptualization of organic and inorganic matter

individual form, but is modulated by immanent forces in the medium, which determine it, to which it is intimately connected, and to which it must continuously adapt. For that reason, inorganic matter is—to a much larger degree than organic matter—absorbed into the surrounding medium in which it unfolds as a material production of field effects. Without internal origin or telos, without ‘organs,’ the inorganic sonic body will more effortlessly blend with other synthetic, molecular materialities in the medium and produce a common, preindividual mass of generic consistency. Inorganic matter is thus not only synthetically ‘put together’ by elastic forces in the surrounding matter-medium. It contributes, in turn, to the continuous synthetization of the generalized medium itself as a univocally coherent, massive continuum. And in this very capacity for massive synthetization as a form of mediatization, we arguably find the most distinct and basic factor in the whole material production of ambient sound: By being produced and modulated by forces in the matter-medium, synthetic masses are essential in providing material consistency in the mediatized field as a form of environmental generalization. By being modulated from without, sound adapts and becomes synthetized into the matter-medium as total, massive surroundability.

Synthetic Sound and Technology Of course, historical changes in sonic sensibility develop gradually and partially, and it is not possible to determine an abrupt break after which everything was different. Still, though, we can identify certain key instances in the history of sonic culture which, each in their own right,

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indicate that a shift in sonic sensibility toward production, mediatization and synthetic massification has started to emerge. The intention in what follows is not to give an elaborate historical account of this development. Instead, I want to highlight a few key examples—in experimental music, popular music production and cinematic sound design—that are exemplary of a much larger and much more general development toward a synthetic aesthetics of sonic mediatization.3 From my argument so far, it is possible to distinguish three major ontogenetic paradigms in the history of sound that each imply a different model for the material production of sonic environmentality: First, the acoustic model, characterized by the organic space of pretechnological sound production, constitutes the paradigm for the production of sound and sonic space before technological reproduction was invented in various formats around 1870. Second, the reproduction model, characterized by the acousmatic, mediated space of technological sound reproduction, which dominated sonic media culture until around 1945. And third, the production model, characterized by the synthetic, mediatized space of technological sound production, which, after a period with a more vague and peripheral influence in early twentieth-century sonic culture, spread rapidly and gained an immense cultural impact after 1945. We can illustrate the three spatial paradigms of sound production and their historical developments in a simple diagram (Fig. 6.2). The three models (acoustic, reproduction, production) are obviously not mutually exclusive but continue to exist and function concurrently with one another in the cultural production, conceptualization and THE PRODUCTION MODEL

Technological sound in synthetic space [ source + event + listener ]

THE REPRODUCTION MODEL

Technological sound in mediated space [ source  event + listener ]

THE ACOUSTIC MODEL

Pretechnological sound in organic space [ source + event + listener ]

1870

1945

Fig. 6.2  The three techno-aesthetic paradigms of sonic space

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experience of sonic space. They are not ontological categories of sonic being but onto-aesthetic paradigms of producing-perceiving. Interestingly, as I have already indicated, it is possible to observe an important resemblance between the acoustic model and the production model, which is not shared by the reproduction model. Whereas both the acoustic and the production models install source, event and listener within the same space, the reproduction model isolates the source outside. In that sense, both the acoustic and production models imply a stronger and more direct ambient potential for immanent consistency compared with the reproduction model. Certainly, as I have also suggested earlier, mediatization and synthetic massification cannot be reduced to a mere result of the new technological means for generating and editing sound that were introduced in the advanced, predominantly Western, electronic sound studios after 1945. They are expressions of a much broader and more fundamental cultural shift in aesthetic practice, sensibilities and desires toward synthetic sound environments and effects that could, if only in principle, just as easily be produced by acoustic means. Synthetic strategies in music, sound art and sound design, and the desire for detached sonic ‘inorganicity’ they imply, are obviously related to—and often radically intensified by—the general affordances of modern sound technology, but they also exceed them. To put it short, philosophically and onto-aesthetically, ambient synthetization is not essentially about technology. It is about material processes of massification and mediatization which can be activated and engaged beyond distinctions between the natural and the artificial. Yet, on a sociocultural level, the introduction of electronic sound (re) production obviously plays a dominant role in the historical change toward production and synthetic massification. Electronic sounds evidently possess distinctly synthetic properties. Independently of whether they reproduce or not, sounds played through a loudspeaker are all products of the same basic technological principle of electronic sound production. From an ontological perspective, then, all sounds (re)produced by electronic means are electronic sounds. Still, however, some sounds tend to sound more electronic than others. When we speak of a particular ‘electronic’ quality of some technologically (re)produced sounds—as, for instance, in ‘electronic music’—it usually refers to a specific onto-­aesthetic

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quality associated with some electronically (re)produced sounds more than to an ontological distinction between electronic sounds and the non-electronic sounds of the ‘acoustic’ environment. An electronic recording of a speaking voice and an electronically generated sinus tone can thus both be considered electronic in the ontological sense, yet the latter will typically sound radically more electronic than the former. The electronic ‘nature’ of the sinus tone has taken over its whole being and become its all-dominant onto-aesthetic effect. In other words, the sinus tone sounds more electronic because it materially exposes the synthetic nature of its own production by making audible how it is generated and shaped by exogenous forces in and of the medium in which it unfolds. A demand for acknowledging this synthetic nature of electronic sound was precisely the outset for Karlheinz Stockhausen’s famous critique of sound recording in the early 1950s as being regressive and untrue to the contemporary situation of sonic possibilities. He thus explicitly advocated for an aesthetic revolt against the reproduction model in favor of an onto-aesthetics of pure electronic production.4 His ideas were in part based on ontological and medium-specific arguments about what he saw as essential differences between electronic and non-electronic sound and the composer’s obligation to adapt to the technological conditions of electronic sound (re)production. However, Stockhausen also advocated, albeit more implicitly, for the use of electronic sound because of its direct aesthetic potentials, especially regarding its ability to generate sonic consistency and non-associative, non-referential immanence: As he notes, in “general, one can already recognize a first criterion of quality in an electronic composition in the extent to which it is kept free of all instrumental or other auditive associations; such associations divert the listener’s comprehension from the self-evidence of the sound-world presented to him because he thinks of bells, organs, birds or faucets” (Stockhausen 2004, p. 372). Electronic sound, in other words, is preferred because it alone can generate a technologically undivided synthetic space beyond mediation; the immediate “self-evidence of the sound-world,” which earlier belonged solely to the acoustic world of organic sound. In addition, Stockhausen argues, the synthetic nature of electronic sounds gives them a special aesthetic relation to the surrounding space, which non-electronic sounds seem to lack. For example, he notes how his

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listeners tended to associate the electronic sounds in his music with a particularly ‘spacey’ effect, often with specific connotations to outer space. In 1967, immediately after the premiere of his electronic work Hymnen, he described how: [m]any listeners have projected that strange new music which they experienced—especially in the realm of electronic music—into extraterrestrial space. Even though they are not familiar with it through human experience, they identify it with the fantastic dream world. Several have commented that my electronic music sounds ‘like on a different star,’ or ‘like in outer space.’ Many have said that when hearing this music, they have sensations as if flying at an infinitely high speed, and then again, as if immobile in an immense space. (Stockhausen in Holmes 2002, p. 145)

Such accounts of the groundless, ‘spacey’ and ‘cosmic’ effects of Stockhausen’s electronic music must, of course, be considered in light of the general fascination with outer space so present in the collective consciousness of the late 1960s, here at the height of the space age. But the expressions of cosmic groundlessness can arguably also be regarded as an indicator of a fascination with the direct, sensible effects associated with the synthetic, non-representational properties of electronic sound. Synthetic generation deterritorializes electronic sound from all sense of individual endogenous origin, causality and locatability by exogenously generating sonic matter directly in the surrounding matter-medium in which it unfolds. The apparatus of electronic production, the audible event and the surrounding space merge into an ambient continuum of groundless, free-floating sonic energy. Being indistinguishable from the medium in and by which they are being produced, sounds are—in the most direct onto-aesthetic sense—coming from out of nowhere and everywhere, simultaneously distant and omnipresent, abstract and concrete, cosmic and palpable, otherworldly and mundane. The theremin is a particularly illustrative example of this general effect of airy groundlessness in electronic sound. The ‘etherphone’—as Léon Theremin originally called his invention in 1920—not only comprises one of the first examples of a musical instrument based entirely on sound generation by electronic synthesis. The sonic material is moreover

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produced without the usual physical contact between performer and instrument. As the human hands move freely within the theremin’s electromagnetic field, the resulting sounds disallow for any onto-aesthetic distinction between cause and effect, between source, medium and event. Everything dissolves into the same surrounding air of ephemeral electronic vibration. As Steven Connor puts it, the theremin is “an instrument of inbetweenness, the musical equivalent of tuning between stations, in a kind of free and as yet unpopulated and uncharted radiomusical space. In a sense it [is] pure atmospherics […], all interference” (Connor 2008, p. 169). Sonic matter fills the ether as abstract-concrete effects of pure, ungrounded ambient mediatization. This basic abstract-­ concrete effect of generic, material omnipresence is a central component in the general ambient potential of synthetic sound. Synthetic mediatization decouples sounds from all sense of origin in physical space in order to reintroduce it all the more profoundly and ubiquitously into the surrounding event space as pure matter-medium, pure sonic immanence. Synthetic sounds are in a sense the most material and concrete sounds precisely because they are the most abstract. By emancipating themselves as pure, ungrounded vibration, they intensify their material presence in the ambient space of the listener. Otherworldly, omnipresent abstraction becomes an intensified, concrete “self-evidence of the sound-world.”

Sound Masses The aesthetic engagement with sonic synthetization in music is obviously not limited to electronic sound generation alone but arguably comprises a dominant principle in twentieth- and twenty-first-century music and sound art on a much more general level. Already in the 1930s—before technologies of electronic sound synthesis were available on a larger scale, besides the use of specialized electronic instruments such as the telharmonium (1897), the theremin (1920), the ondes martenot (1928) and the hammond organ (1934)—Edgard Varèse famously argued for a necessary shift in music composition from a focus on the organization of acoustic events, and their potential subsequent reproduction, to the synthetic generation of a-representational sonic matter. “I need,” he claimed in 1939,

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“an entirely new medium of expression, a sound-producing machine (not only a sound-reproducing one)” (Varèse 2004, p. 19). At the heart of this vision stands his celebrated demand for a “liberation of sound.” Through a synthetic production of sound masses, created by clustering separate sounds into a composite, compressed and unified block of inorganic sound, sound was liberated from the idea of it as being defined by a natural core of particular acoustic properties and by its organic attachment to a specific time and place of origin. Being synthetically detached from any reference to a particular identity and originality, Varèse envisaged, ungrounded sound masses would rather circulate freely through sonic space and collide objectively with other emancipated masses to objectively generate momentary, non-organic “zones of intensity” (Varèse 2004, p. 18). As he explained in 1936: When […] sound-masses collide, the phenomena of penetration or repulsion will seem to occur. Certain transmutations taking place on certain planes will seem to be projected onto other planes, moving at different speeds and at different angles. There will no longer be the old conception of melody or interplay of melodies. The entire work will be a melodic totality. The entire work will flow as a river flows. (Varèse 2004, pp. 17–18)

Varèse’s vision is, in other words, a vision of a new inorganic and processual form of massive, generative environmental music: a synthetic immanent “totality” of fluid environmental sounds, objectively blending and colliding in continuous variation beyond acoustic individuality, particularity and spatiotemporal attachment and beyond the old transcendental scheme of tonal, narrative and melodic organization. Anticipating what would later become a dominant principle in electro-acoustic music and sound art on a general level, the synthetic work should comprise and stage a vibrant topological milieu that fills the entire listening space as a sonorous stream or “river” of composite matter-flow. Insofar as the materiality of electro-acoustic music and sound art has a defining historical origin at all, it is, as Georgina Born and others have argued, in Varèse’s idea of a non-original, non-organic production of synthetic space.5 In a similar vein, Deleuze and Guattari distinguished Varèse as the prime example of what they saw as a general change in the role of the composer

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during the twentieth century toward becoming a synthesizer of a massive, molecular “cosmic energy” and a “machine of consistency”: Varese’s procedure, at the dawn of this age, is exemplary: a musical machine of consistency, a sound machine (not a machine for reproducing sounds), which molecularizes and atomizes, ionizes sound matter, and harnesses a cosmic energy. If this machine must have an assemblage, it is the synthesizer. By assembling modules, source elements, and elements for treating sound (oscillators, generators, and transformers), by arranging microintervals, the synthesizer makes audible the sound process itself, the production of that process, and puts us in contact with still other elements beyond sound matter. It unites disparate elements in the material, and transposes the parameters from one formula to another. The synthesizer, with its operation of consistency, has taken the place of the ground in a priori synthetic judgment: its synthesis is of the molecular and the cosmic, material and force, not form and matter, Grund and territory. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, p. 343)

Varèse’s early vision of the composer as synthesizer and machine of consistency would give rise to a diverse range of related compositional strategies in Western, postwar experimental music—from Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and György Ligeti to La Monte Young and Pauline Oliveros and countless others. In all their diversity, they all shared a common ideal of sonic massification as a form of synthetization, whether by electronic or non-electronic means. Without doubt, one of the most profound examples of this is found in Ligeti’s groundbreaking compositions from the 1960s, including Atmosphères (1961), Requiem (1963–1965), Lux Aeterna (1966) and Lontano (1967). While the sonic material mainly consists of non-electronic sounds, massive synthetization nevertheless constitutes the works’ all-dominant principle. By accumulating sustained clusters of nearby tones into an acoustic or electroacoustic total field of uprooted sound masses in slow and continuous transformation, Ligeti creates an objective cacophony of—often entirely voicebased—synthetic interference that sound strikingly similar to that of electronic sounds, albeit on quite different terms. From a massive, synthetic choir of a-phonic voices, clusters of sound float ‘etherically’ in groundless abstract space, detached from all individual causality, local

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anchoring and premediatic reference. Or to be more precise: sounds are no longer in space, in a medium. They fill and materialize space itself as a continuous, synthetic matter-medium.6 In this respect, Ligeti’s works have evident material affinities with that of his contemporary American minimalists. Both Ligeti and the minimalists use massive, accumulative repetition and a-teleological continuity as the key strategies for a sonic synthetization of ambient space. Indeed, on a more general level, the drone’s squashing of sounds into a compressed block of heterogeneous vibration which fills out the entire space as a dense synthetic continuum is one of the most direct manifestations in experimental music of Varèse’s vision of music as a non-human flow of sonic matter through various zones of intensity. All this, in turn, indicates a deep ambient inclination in the history of electronic and electro-acoustic music, centered around the sonic ideal of detached immanence and inorganic, environmental consistency. The synthetic ideals and production strategies of 1950s and 1960s experimental music would soon expand into all areas of music production. Indeed, this is arguably the case to such an extent that mediatization by synthetization and massification must be said to constitute an imperative standard for the material production of and aesthetic involvement with sound in contemporary auditory culture on a general level. And in this very process of elevating synthetic strategies to a standard principle, not only for electronic and electro-acoustic music but for sonic production in general, we find one of the most important factors behind what we can distinguish as a general inclination in contemporary auditory culture toward a material environmentalization of music into ambient sound. However, while it may originate historically in avantgarde music, the massive cultural influence of this move toward ambient synthetization is first of all due to the introduction of similar synthetic strategies in another field of musical production, which, per definition, has a much broader and much more direct sociocultural influence: that of popular music. Indeed, the new synthetic approach to sound production in pop music recording—the basic contours of which also emerged in the early 1960s— comprises one of the most, if not the most, profound and generalized cultural-material manifestations of the audible change from reproduction to production sensibilities in the history of sound and auditory culture.

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Generalized Pop While the material shaping of sound by technological means was obviously also of some importance in the early years of popular music recording, distinctly synthetic ideals of sonic mediatization only play a peripheral role in popular music production until around 1960. Even the pioneering sound work by composer-producers such as Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in the 1950s and early 1960s were still mainly concerned with capturing and reproducing a live musical event that was by and large already regarded as a definite acoustic entity. In the early 1960s, however, a radical change in production practice started to emerge, which would have a defining impact on the sound of music ever since, popular or not. The general change was epitomized in Phil Spector and his immensely influential hit productions from around 1962–1963, including He’s a Rebel (1962), Da Doo Ron Ron (1963) and Be My Baby (1963). Spector is widely considered to be the first star producer recognized for having his own personal sound, the emblematic ‘wall of sound.’7 More significantly, however, Spector’s productions arguably comprise one of the first clear-­ cut manifestations, not only in the history of pop music but in modern sonic culture at large, of an unambiguous desire for sounds with a distinct design quality. With Spector, the emerging pop music audience was introduced to a whole new sonic materiality associated with musical sound as a technological product. Compared to earlier recordings, Spector’s sound simply sounded much more designed, as if the means and conditions of its production were carved into the material fabric as a form of production value. His records were sonic products readymade for playback and techno-aesthetic consumption on a scale and a level of detail hitherto unheard of. For this reason, Spector makes an excellent case for exploring the aesthetic implications of sonic mediatization by synthetization in popular music production as an audible manifestation of a general change in cultural sensibility. Notably, Spector does not create his ‘design effect’ by introducing new advanced technologies into music production. It is an effect entirely created in the act of recording, in which he, by twisting and undermining conventional studio practice, turns the prerecorded musical

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performance itself into a readymade form of material sound design. Before it is captured by the technological apparatus, Spector’s sound is already mediatized, materially prepared for its own mediatic future. Mediation collapses into mediatization, performance into potential distribution. As in the avantgarde music of Varèse, Ligeti, Xenakis and minimalist drone music, the overall effect of Spector’s design can be summarized in the synthetic principle of sonic massification, now promoted to the status of generic design effect. Accumulation and multiplication pervade virtually all aspects of his sound. And it is, as we shall see, precisely this very principle of massification that, on a general level, would become the paramount factor and aesthetic ideal in popular music production far beyond the specificities of the Spector sound. In short, after Spector the sound of popular music at large, beyond specific periods and genres, succumbed to the general principle of massification by design. Spector materializes this pop ideal of sound as massified design product through a combination of various synthetic strategies. Firstly, his infamous routine of making musicians repeat small figures and chord loops, often for several hours, as a form of ‘horizontal accumulation’ adds a hitherto unheard-of degree of temporal consistency to the overall soundscape. By significantly restricting the musicians’ possibilities for conventional musical gesturing and expression, the instrumentalized ‘machinic’ repetition imbues the performance with a demusicalized quality. Particularities and individual variation merge into a standardized, desubjectified and deindividuated plane of inorganic, a-representational sound.8 The individual performers dissolve into a shared synthetizing machine of consistency, a form of collective ‘humanoid sampler’ for the continuous generation and repeatability of non-particular sonic matter. The end product is a massive block of ‘otherworldly’ deterritorialized pop sound, without reference to anything but its own mediatic ‘nature’ as synthetic design.9 And it is precisely this synthetic deterritorialization, this artificiality and superficiality at the very root and origin of its production, which makes the sound sound produced and designed by morpho-­materially preparing it for its own recording and subsequent distribution. Already at the source of its material production, Spector’s sound is a sound without a source: pure artifice, pure matter, pure medium, pure immanence.

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In addition, Spector supplies the machinic repetition in performance with other synthetic strategies, including his infamous ‘one mike over everything’ recording practice and his heavy use of echo and reverb on the entire signal—both techniques that contributed directly to giving his records a radical degree of material consistency by merging individual sounds into a single dehierarchized mass. Just as important in this context, though, is his legendary procedure of accumulating musicians in the studio to an extent completely unheard of in pop music at the time, producing a synthetic effect of what we could term ‘vertical accumulation,’ as a direct counterpart to the horizontal accumulation of repetitive sounds over time.10 Combined, the various strategies provide an overall effect of material layering and mixing of individual sounds into a soft, tightly woven substance of sonic immanence. Spector’s massification by layering and mixing, however, is not about expanding sonic space. Nor is it, against most conventional descriptions of his wall of sound effect, in essence about adding greater complexity or nuance to the overall output. Mixing is not about creating effects of accumulation and heterogeneity as such, but about producing a sense of material consistency and environmental immanence. From an onto-aesthetic perspective, The Spector pop sound is not about multiplicity but unity. Detached, groundless, inorganic, material unity. Massification, accumulation and mixing, in other words, are but synthetic means to onto-aesthetically equalize and compress all individual sounds into a compact, unified common plane of continuous, inorganic consistency. Indeed, if it ever made any sense to describe the Spector sound as a ‘wall,’ it is precisely because it sounds as compressed, compact, unified and impenetrable as a wall: a condensed mass of sonic matter that blocks out all external reference, all sense of an outside, in order to capture its listeners in an enclosed ambient space of detached, ubiquitous all sound. As mentioned, I have paid special attention to Spector’s strategies here because they constitute one of the first and most evident audible manifestations of a much more general shift in sensibility toward production, mediatization and synthetic massification, which has dominated popular music culture ever since. Thus, in Spector we arguably see the first contours of a generalized pop sound ideal, centered around the material configuration of music as a distributable design product. Hence, in the

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decades after Spector’s early recordings, the synthetic principles of accumulation, layering, mixing, flattening and condensing by massification he pioneered would become the unchallenged standard and all-dominant aesthetic ideal in music production and sound design on a general level. This cultural change has in turn instigated a whole industry of machines and applications for generating effects of synthetic massification by the push of a button or the turn of a knob. Whereas Spector massified sound in recording by manually adjusting, tweaking and distorting the recording process, today’s commercial machines, pedals and DAWs, whether physical or virtual, have now radically standardized, instrumentalized and automated the procedure. Synthetic strategies are built into the very techno-material system of current commercial sound production, turning the whole production apparatus into a total ‘machine of consistency.’ In addition, most of the individual standardized audio effects used in contemporary music (post)production and sound design—for example, distortion, tremolo, compressor, delay, chorus and flanging—are, more than anything and in the most literal sense, technological means for a general production of synthetic massification.11 And finally, the universal practice of mastering and normalizing the final mix in current music production to create a global sense of flat, dehierarchized consistency, often with an excessive use of overall compression, is yet another example of the pervasiveness in current music production of generalized synthetic strategies for the ambient environmentalization and massification of popular music by design. Ambient standards of sonic production thus arguably define, to various degrees, the contemporary sound of recorded music on a general level across and beyond specific genres and stylistic expressions—from synthpop to hip hop to modern R&B to EDM to heavy metal. In that sense, Fleetwood Mac, Beyoncé and the Weeknd are no more advocates of generalized pop sound ideals of massified, synthetic consistency and dehiararchization than Nirvana, Radiohead and Kendrick Lamar. Pop is literally in the mix. The very ubiquity of generalized pop sound in turn informs a conception of the current distributed music environment as a form of ambient sound design. Each pop song may, as design product, strive to offer, as already Adorno observed, the promise of (pseudo)individuality and (pseudo)uniqueness (Adorno 1941). But because of its synthetic

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massification, it simultaneously bares the sonic mark of its deep, uncompromised willingness to adapt to the general ambient flow of ubiquitous, massified distribution. Synthetic compression and massification of sonic matter afford mediatization which in turn affords distributability which in turn affords environmentalization and surroundability. In that sense, by merging processes of sonic hyperaestheticization, hypercommercialization and hyperenvironmentalization, pop sound as designed and distributable product becomes, as Ina Blom has argued, the driving force in what she identifies as a general ambient stylization of everyday auditory life. Generalized pop, she notes, is not so much “an object for contemplative listening, but rather the musical product of a media technology that […] primarily functions as a kind of quasi-­ architectural surround or ‘scene maker,’ or as an accompaniment to everyday activity” (Blom 2007, p. 165). Generalized pop as commodified mediatization potentially refurbishes and refurnishes, so to speak, the whole sonic environment as an ambient design product. And in this process, Blom continues, the turn in sensibility toward a general “association with the synthetic” is essential in constituting a new “aesthetic code for the engagement with everyday events” (ibid, p. 169). The synthetic strategies, initially emerging from individual experiments in avant-garde and early pop music production, thus not only support ambient design sensibilities in popular music consumption. Popular music consumption in turn becomes a standard, a master code of contemporary sensibility, for experiencing the sonic environment as a total product, ubiquitously audible as a generalized form of ambient sound design. Pop, in other words, comprises the most pervasive material expression yet of what I have termed the material environmentalization of music into ambient sound as a form of continuous, intensive sound design. Expressions like ‘our song,’ spontaneous Proustian reminiscences of forgotten atmospheres and events provoked by accidental pop listening, the notion of ‘ear worms’ and similar phenomena associated with pop become culturally meaningful phenomena only because pop has already become environmental and ubiquitous as repeatable and distributable, something we live in and by as a form of omnipresent furniture accompanying our very being, a common, habitual and habitable surround.12 Pop matter as

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ambient distributability is everywhere. And the very possibility of this ubiquity lies, more than anything, in its material capacity to adapt to the conditions of its own medium as a form of massified, synthetic mediatization.

Notes 1. Eno quoted in Tamm (1995, p. 52). 2. Deleuze (1993, p.  7). Translation slightly modified by me from the French original: “La matière organique n’est pourtant pas autre que l’inorganique [...]. Inorganique ou organique, c’est la même matière, mais ce ne sont pas les mêmes forces actives qui s’exercent sur elle” (Deleuze 1988, p. 11). 3. The examples are all well-known and well-established examples within the Western canon of twentieth- and twenty-first-century music and sound design, and they will come as no surprise. My intention here is not to introduce a counter-narrative to the established cultural-historical accounts by digging out alternative or overlooked cultural expressions (the obvious necessity of such endeavors notwithstanding). On the contrary, I wish to give a new, critical, onto-aesthetic perspective on the already established narrative of the history of sound, art and technology by exposing its deep ambient implications and inclinations. 4. As Stockhausen asked in 1961: “what have record and radio producers done up to this point? They have reproduced: reproduced music which in past ages was written for the concert hall and opera house; exactly as if the cinema had been content only with photographing old stage plays. […] The listener at the loudspeaker will sooner or later understand that it makes more sense that music coming from a loudspeaker be music that can be heard only over a loudspeaker and by no other means” (Stockhausen 2004, p. 376). 5. Georgina Born (2013) has, among others, emphasized how the genealogy of sound art can be traced back to Varèse’s topological notion of music as spatially organized sound. As Born writes, the “copious topological, spatial and mobile metaphors coined by Varèse to imagine and describe the sonic material of his musical works—shifting planes, colliding masses, projection, transmutation, repulsion, speeds, angles and zones—

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[prefigures] the later interest in spatialisation in electronic and electroacoustic music and what has come to be called sound art […]” (Born 2013, p. 2). 6. This can perhaps one of the reasons why Stanley Kubrick’s decision to use Ligeti’s Atmosphères, Lux Aeterna and Requiem as the musical accompaniment for some of the most cosmically spectacular passages in his 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) was such an effective match: The nonsound of outer space is cinematically rendered and sonified as a synthetically deterritorialized, abstract-concrete non-place of continuous ambient variation. 7. For discussions of Spector’s personal ‘Spector sound,’ see Théberge 1997, p.  192; Zak 2001, p.  59; Moorefield 2005, p.  9; and Milner 2009, p. 152. As Théberge argues, for instance, although it is “difficult to locate the beginnings of a public awareness of this phenomenon with any degree of accuracy, clearly by the early 1960s the notion of a ‘sound’ was part of the vocabulary of popular culture. Phil Spector was perhaps the first pop producer to be recognized as having his own unique sound— ‘Spector Sound’ (also known in more general terms as the ‘wall of sound’)—and a variety of recording studios and musical genres soon were identified as the promoters and/or possessors of a particular ‘sound’: for example, the ‘Nashville Sound’ and, somewhat later, the ‘Motown Sound’ (Théberge 1997, p. 192). 8. Albin Zak argues that Spector, with his technique of musical repetition, “wanted to capture the feel and energy of live playing” (Zak 2001, p. 58). The effect, however, is in fact quite the opposite. What gives the technique of repetition its effect—an effect, which would later become a key factor in the contemporary  digital production aesthetics of sampling, looping and sequencing—is precisely the elimination of live-performance energy to produce a standardized, anonymized and indeed non-live ‘media sound.’ 9. Spector sought to bring “to life a specific sound that had no counterpart in reality […], no connection to real-world sound” (Milner 2009, p.  152). This otherworldly synthetic effect was something that was immediately discernible for the musicians and technicians involved in Spector’s production sessions. According to Albin Zak, a “typical recording session” at the time was “dedicated simply to capturing a clear and transparent representation of a performance of the script. Spector, on the other hand, was seeking a sonic image that could not be represented in musical notation. Its only existence prior to recording was in his imagi-

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nation” (Zak 2001, p. 59). As Larry Levine, Spector’s engineer at Gold Star Recording Studios during the early 1960s, describes the sound they heard in the control room during a Spector session: “See, it was not truthful at all […]. What everybody strives for in studio speakers is truth; this didn’t in any way duplicate what you heard in the studio; it was just exciting and thrilling and full-bodied. The musicians would come into the control room for the playback and just be blown away. They simply could not believe that what they were hearing was what they’d been playing, and it made them excited” (Levine quoted in Milner 2009, p.  152). Yet, the sounds he produced were of course very real indeed. His synthetic strategies made obsolete the old distinctions between nature and artifice, original and copy, the real and the medial. After Spector the ‘natural’ and ‘real’ sounds of recorded music are synthetic sounds. 10. The procedure was first introduced during the recording of Zip-A-Dee-­ Doo-Dah (recorded in august 1962). According to Jack Nietzsche, Spector’s close collaborator and leader of his studio band, The Wrecking Crew, a typical Spector session would involve “four keyboards… a grand piano, a Wurlitzer electric piano, a tack piano, and a harpsichord… three acoustic guitars, three basses (acoustic, electric, and a six-string Danelectro bass), electric guitar, three or four percussionists, a drummer” (Nietzsche quoted in Zak 2001, p. 78). For a more detailed description of Spector’s collaboration with The Wrecking Crew and the practice of accumulating musicians in the studio, see Moorefield 2005, p.  12, and Brown 2007, pp. 100–105. Interestingly, Spector not only applied this synthesizing principle of sonic accumulation to the soundscape as a whole. He also used it locally to construct new sounds by mixing different sources during recording, thereby introducing techniques that to some extent resemble the production of sound masses in Varèse, Ligeti and minimalist drone music. The quintessential example of this is his design of the famous ‘drum sound’ on Be My Baby. In addition to the regular bass and snare drumbeat played by drummer Hal Blaine— recorded with an overhead mike, multiplied and added a powerful reverb—the sound consists of a number of ‘added’ sounds such as claves, tambourine, castanets and handclaps. Such techniques of synthetic layering of disparate sounds into a single unit are of course ubiquitous and commonplace in today’s digital music production. But in early 1960s pop music, the effect was arguably dramatic. While still functioning

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musically as a drum beat, it no longer sounds like a drum by referring indexically to its premediated source, but has become a distinctly and exclusively mediatic sound, both more abstract and more material at the same time, ready for continuous mediatic (re)distribution. It has become the ‘Be My Baby drum sound,’ copied and sampled continually ever since. 11. More precisely, distortion, overdrive, fuzz and similar effects function by ‘cutting’ individual waveforms into a deindividuated massive plane of condensed sound. Tremolo and compression are different methods for modulating a sound’s amplitude to create a more regular and standardized, synthetic waveform; tremolo by applying an inorganically regular pulsation to the ‘organic’ sound signal, which to some extent equalizes and synthesizes the individual properties of the sound; compression by condensing and approximating the different parts of the sonic material to the same level of volume. Various forms of sonic filtering synthesize the signal by subtracting a selected part of the frequency register. And finally, reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, phaser, sustain and similar effects are forms of sonic massification that function by repeating a sonic event at different volumes and temporal intervals creating a diffuse synthetic pattern that eventually envelops and expands the ‘original’ signal in a sonic mass. 12. See Holt 2019 for an intriguing sonic fiction of the political and subjective implications of this generalization of pop sound and the everyday “affects of living in the soundscape of contemporary pop” (ibid., p. iix).

Bibliography Adorno, Theodor W. 1941. On Popular Music. Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 9: 17–48. Blom, Ina. 2007. Silencing Sound: Art, Rock, and the Ambient Environment. In On the Style Site: Art, Sociality, and Media Culture, ed. Ina Blom, 160–192. Berlin: Sternberg Press. Born, Georgina. 2013. Introduction. In Music, Sound and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience, ed. Georgina Born, 1–69. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Brown, Mick. 2007. Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector. New York: Knopf.

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Connor, Steven. 2008. Atmospherics. In Sonic Mediations, ed. Carolyn Birdsall and Anthony Enns, 159–174. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Le pli. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit. ———. 1993. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. London: The Athlone Press. Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Eno, Brian. 2004. The Studio as a Compositional Tool. In Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, 127–130. New York: Continuum. Holmes, Thom. 2002. Electronic and Experimental Music: Pioneers in Technology and Composition. Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge. Holt, Macon. 2019. Pop Music and Hip Ennui: A Sonic Fiction of Capitalist Realism. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Milner, Greg. 2009. Perfecting Sound Forever. New York: Faber & Faber. Moorefield, Virgil. 2005. The Producer as Composer. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Sterne, Jonathan. 2003. The Audible Past. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Stockhausen, Karlheinz. 2004. Electronic and Instrumental Music. In Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, 370–380. New York: Continuum. Tamm, Eric. 1995. Brian Eno: His Music and The Vertical Color of Sound. New York: Da Capo Press. Théberge, Paul. 1997. Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press. Varèse, Edgard. 2004. The Liberation of Sound. In Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, 17–21. New  York: Continuum. Zak, Albin. 2001. The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records. Berkeley: University of California Press.

7 Ambient Sound Design

 ound Design and the Production S of Audiovisual Immanence In this chapter, I will explore the ambient aspects and implications of sound design in audiovisual media. While my philosophical aims are broad and general, I will specifically focus on sound design in film and its crucial role in reconfiguring and reconceptualizing the cinematic environment as an audiovisual whole. Like it is the case in the material development of sound in twentieth- and twenty-first-century music, film sound—and by extension audiovisual media—has, as I will substantiate below, witnessed a profound historical change in aesthetic orientation from reproduction and mediation toward production and mediatization. This turn toward production and mediatization is intimately linked to the general development of ‘sound design’ as an autonomous field of practice and as an aesthetic ideal for how sound is supposed to sound in audiovisual media.1 Through a historical and onto-aesthetic analysis of the sonic environment in film, I wish in what follows to propose the

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general argument that sound design as a standard practice and predominant aesthetic ideal in film and audiovisual media has deep and increasingly more prevalent ambient implications. From an overall perspective, sound design can be distinguished as the practice and aesthetic effect by which the material-mediatic presence of objects, persons, actions and whole environments—whether sonic or non-sonic—is consolidated, enhanced and intensified. Sound design, in this conception, constitutes a prime example of a mediatizing practice centered around the production of sonic and audiovisual immanence.2 Its main function is to synthetize sounds with the phenomena they render by adapting them to the inherent synthetic conditions of their shared medium.3 This process of adaption can basically take place on two different levels of orientation: It can be ‘object-oriented,’ directed toward enhancing and synthetizing the sonic presence of individual objects and events. And it can be ‘environment-oriented,’ directed toward enhancing and synthesizing the environment as an audiovisual matter-medium.4 While the two orientations indicate two basic, overall approaches to sound design, they are, of course, closely integrated in actual practice. By combining the two, sound design simultaneously reinforces the onto-­ aesthetic presence of individual sonic and non-sonic phenomena in the medium and the presence of the medium itself as a consistent audiovisual whole.

The Sonic Environment in Classic Cinema In the first years of sound film, sound’s principal function was to convey basic visual information. Sound design, to the extent that it can be said to exist at all as an individual practice in early cinema, was exclusively object-oriented, characterized as it was by directional recording of dialogue and key action made with as little ‘ambient’ noise as possible and with music added occasionally in intervals between dialogue.5 The sonic space was hierarchical, centralized and fragmented, reflecting an ideal of sonic realism in which sounds recorded with a single, stable microphone should provide a sense of sonic correlation with the perceived visual scale and distance in the image (Altman 1992, pp.  47–49). However, from

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around 1933, partly enabled by technological developments in sound recording, new practices emerged in mainstream cinema based on an ideal of sonic space as an uninterrupted continuum, stitched together by overlapping sounds. This ideal of continuity was soon established as a standard in the production of the cinematic sound environment throughout the Hollywood studio era (1930s–1950s), the main principles of which would continue to resonate in film sound production until the present. Moreover, and equally relevant in this context, the studio era model released sound scale (e.g., audible distance and volume) from its requirements to correspond directly with visual scale—requirements which had caused a constant shift in auditory perspective in early sound film. The ideal of a direct sonic reproduction of space was substituted for an ideal of modified, indirect reproduction. For instance, sounds could now be heard up close, even when their corresponding visual sources appeared somewhere in the distant background of the image. Hence, already in the early years of sound film, we see the first premature steps toward a more synthetic conception of the cinematic environment as a form of constructed audiovisual whole—and thus toward an emancipation of cinematic sound as an autonomous domain for affective stimulation and design. The sonic continuity introduced in the studio era model is, however, only partial, reserved as it is for certain selected parts of the overall sound space. It preserves a strong hierarchy between primary sounds, such as dialogue and key action, and secondary sounds, such as music and ‘ambient’ noise (Doane 1985, p. 58). The studio era continuity can, in other words, be distinguished as a figuratively segregated continuity. It is a split continuity founded on the essential division between a fragmented and object-oriented foreground space of dialogue and action and a continuous background space of music and ambient noise.6 The now commonplace cinematic use of ‘background music,’ introduced as a standard practice in the years around 1933, was precisely born out of this ideal of segregated continuity. Apart from comprising an emotional backdrop to the narrative, the main aesthetic function of background music was thus to create a sense of continuity between shots by sonically synthesizing action, dialogue, scenarios and shifting visual perspectives into an audiovisual whole (Salt 1985, p. 43).

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In the same period, the phenomenon of room tone—or what the industry, until today, typically refers to simply as ‘ambience’—was introduced as the key factor, together with background music, in the classical studio production of segregated continuity. Room tone ambience, in this specific cinematographic sense of the term, denotes the continuous environmental background sounds of a particular site. As such it is used, as William Whittington notes, to provide “unity to the disparate images much like musical scoring” by receding “in relation to the dialogue, only to return in their original intensity when words are exhausted” (Whittington 2007, pp.  136–137). Or as Tomlinson Holman suggestively writes, “ambience help[s] to ‘sell’ the continuity of a scene to the audience” (2010, p. xii). Indeed, this very continuity effect of room tone obviously constitutes a basic ambient dimension of cinematic sound design on a general level. Together with background music, it synthetizes disparate sonic and visual elements into a consistent—yet still figuratively segregated—audiovisual surround. Simply speaking, ambience and background music comprise the ambient scaffolding of environment-oriented sound design in classical cinema. Besides establishing spatiotemporal continuity in a fragmented space, background music and room tone ambience, however, also hold another key function, which is not directly ambient. The purpose of room tone, for instance, is also to convey a sense of organic specificity and material presence to the constructed and essentially synthetic diegetic environment. As Budhaditya Chattopadhyay suggests, room tone ambience thus entails “the site-specific sounds that provide characteristic atmosphere and spatial information in audiovisual productions” with the purpose of evoking “sensations of location and ‘situatedness.’ ”7 Rather than producing ambient effects, this particular aspect of room tone ambience is arguably more about activating the atmospheric dimension of the cinematic environment. It primarily concerns the construction of a particular mood and a sense of situated presence associated with being in the diegetic environment as a specific site. It concerns the stimulation of atmospheric attunement to particular surroundings, rather than of ambient surroundability and being-in as such. The environment-oriented design of room tone ambience thus has two separate, quite dissimilar functions. Whereas the ambient dimension

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provides continuity and material consistency to the medium, the atmospheric dimension contributes to specifying the constructed diegetic world within the continuous medium by virtually situating the viewerauditor among its persons, things and events. Whereas ambient room tone is non-representational and oriented toward the film as a surrounding matter-medium, atmospheric room tone is representational and oriented toward the film as scenario, place and situation. In short, whereas ambient room tone affords generalized surroundability, atmospheric room tone affords specific situatedness. This inherent double environmentality of room tone ambience exposes a general relationship between the ambient and atmospheric dimensions of the cinematic environment: that sonic atmosphere as attunement to and sense of situated presence in the diegetic environment presupposes an ambient continuity and surroundability of the material environment as a nondiegetic audiovisual whole. A similar double environmentality between ambient and atmospheric effects arguably applies to the function of background music in the studio era and beyond. For that reason, the combination of room tone ambience and background music arguably constitutes the nucleus in the sonic construction of audiovisual space in classic cinema as an environmental co-emergence of ambient and atmospheric effects and affects. The main difference between room tone and background music in this respect is that the latter’s atmospheric dimension is centered around the environmental production of mood rather than situatedness. Together they provide a foundation for cinematic sound design as the mediatized production of a double sense of being-in a simultaneously generalized and specific environment. The ambient potentials of film sound, however, are obviously not limited to the function of background sounds (background music and room tone). The ambient dimension of cinema applies to the whole audiovisual environment and not only to a peripherical, secondary part of it. Yet, to unfold this general ambient potential of film sound, the sonic environment as a whole must reduce, and potentially dissolve, the object-­oriented hierarchies (between center and periphery) and figurative segregations (between foreground and background), which dictated the organization of cinematic space in the studio model. A famous attempt at such a dissolution of Hollywood hierarchies is found in the 1960s French New

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Wave and the experimental sonic strategies of Jean-Luc Godard. Hence, as Alan Williams argues, Godard’s “use of omnidirectional microphones and his refusal to mix and edit sound within a track once recorded result in a sonic texture that is continuously audible” (Williams 1985, p. 337). The effect is a profound dehierarchization of the sonic environment in which the conventional distinction between foreground and background sounds are radically blurred on behalf of a flat, univocal flow of environmental sound. “Godard’s ambient sounds,” Williams notes, “refuse to go away when ‘more important’ information appears” (ibid.). For that reason, Godard’s deliberate use of omnidirectional, environment-­oriented sound design may at first impression interpret as a sign of his underlying interests in intensifying the ambient dimensions of cinematic space. For instance, the flat, omnidirectional recording of the total sound field he applied has many similarities with the objective production of fluid sound masses in Varèse and Ligeti or with Spector’s design of dehierarchized, dehumanized sonic matter. Moreover, Godard’s approach to sound arguably increases the sense of his film as a hypermediatic, synthetic and highly stylized construct.8 Yet, his dehierarchized approach to sound is part of a general strategy by which he famously calls attention to the very act and site-specific conditions of recording itself, and, in turn, to the illusory nature of the cinematic construct. The result, from an onto-aesthetic perspective, is that while Godard’s sound space is indeed both non-hierarchical and highly mediatic, it is not particularly mediatized. It does not sound produced and designed, but rather demonstratively recorded and reproduced and, as a consequence, demonstratively inconsistent and un-mixed. In other words, by directing attention toward the processes of reproduction, Godard’s sonic aesthetics rather entails a radical expression of a sonic reproduction sensibility. It is a form of medium-specific realism turned hypermediacy. His synthetic aesthetics is a critical ‘meta-synthetics’ of cinema as mediated construct, instead of a full-blown ambient onto-aesthetics of cinematic space as a synthetic whole. Indeed, it is as if Godard uses objective sonic reproduction and medium-specific artificiality to form a revolt against the very ambient potentials of a smooth, consistent and thoroughly produced audiovisual space. Godard’s sound design is sound design against sound design;

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technological meta-synthesis against an aesthetics of synthetization; medium specificity against mediatization; ambient recording against ambient effects.

The Contemporary Audiovisual Scene From around 1970, new sonic practices emerged which, like Godard, introduced a break with the studio era’s hierarchical organization of space. This time, though, the break was made in favor of a direct and distinctly ambient mediatization of the audiovisual environment. When it happened, the vanguard scene for new experiments was no longer art cinema and experimental film but the audiovisual spectacle of mainstream blockbuster cinema. As Whittington notes, during this period, “the experimental movement of ‘sound montage’ segued to a model of ‘sound design.’ The lessons that the New Hollywood directors learned from the French New Wave and European art cinema did not fall into the service of a personal cinema, as many critics had hoped, but rather into a ‘new’ cinema that focused on high concept narratives, genre experimentation, special effects, and spectacle” (Whittington 2007, p. 93). This new model of cinematic sound design not only entailed a novel approach to the design of environmental sound in film, which would become a new standard still prevalent today.9 It also exposed and helped to advance a powerful, hitherto unheard-of ambient potential in film, oriented around the non-hierarchical total synthetization of all sounds into an expanded enveloping mass of sound. This process would prove to have far-reaching consequences for the relationship between image and sound and the aesthetics of audiovisual space in contemporary cinema and audiovisual media. The new approach is epitomized by a number of high-profiled, now classic science fiction films from the 1970s such as Walter Murch’s sound design for George Lucas’ THX 1138 (1971) and Ben Burtt’s design for Steven Spielberg’s and Lucas’ Star Wars (1977). Mirroring our earlier discussions of the proclaimed ‘spacey’ and ‘cosmic’ effects of Stockhausen’s electronic sounds, it is, as Whittington notes, “not surprising” that the synthetic strategies, which helped establish sound design as an autonomous field in cinema, are “best exemplified by and often mediated by a

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genre that is about the exploration and definition of constructed space, the science fiction genre” (ibid., p. 95). With the abstract diegetic space of the sci-fi movie, sound design was obligated to take a more evidently synthetic approach toward the production of the sonic environment as a consistent whole. On the other hand, though, it is also clear that the sonic hierarchies of classic Hollywood practice didn’t just disappear altogether. Many of the strategies for hierarchical structuring of the image-sound relationship introduced in the studio era were obviously preserved in conventional cinema and digital media productions after 1970. Likewise, the hierarchical structure of audiovisual space is still conceptualized as an essential component also of contemporary cinema by some of the most influential film sound theorists. For example, it shapes Michel Chion’s thinking of film sound on a fundamental level and informs several of his most familiar ideas and concepts. This is most evident, perhaps, in his idea of ‘vococentrism,’ according to which the cinematic sound space is seen as essentially structured around the human voice as the all-dominant center, much like the visual space is seen as structured around human bodies (faces in particular).10 A similar hierarchical understanding informs, on a more general level, his concept of the “audiovisual scene” as being essentially characterized by a “spatial magnetization of sound by image” (Chion 1994, p. 70). According to Chion, everything in the audiovisual scene is thus centered around the screen as the container of images and the framing structure of diegetic space. Everything else is either nondiegetic or offscreen, comprising a discreet, peripherical sonic and imaginary support for the all-dominant magnetic attraction toward the center of the visual frame.11 In fact, Chion concludes, sounds in film have no place and meaning in themselves but only in relation to the visual frame; they “are not received as an autonomous unit” (Chion 1999, p.  3). This leads Chion to draw the famous, yet still somewhat perplexing, conclusion that we can define most cinema as ‘a place of images, plus sounds,’ with sound being ‘that which seeks its place’ […] If we can speak of an audiovisual scene, it is because the scenic space has boundaries, it is structured by the edges of the visual frame. Film sound is that which is contained or not contained in an image; there is no place of the sounds, no auditory scene

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already preexisting in the soundtrack—and therefore, properly speaking, there is no soundtrack. (Chion 1994, p. 68)

This rejection of an autonomous soundtrack is disputable for several reasons. But it is, as we shall see below, especially problematic when considering the new sound-image relationship that came to define most contemporary cinema after 1970. Moreover, it has severe consequences for Chion’s general conception of the function and aesthetic potentials of ambient sound in film. To Chion, ambient sound remains essentially defined by and subordinate to the general screen and voice-centered hierarchy of the audiovisual scene. Hence, although he obviously includes offscreen and nondiegetic environmental sounds in his concept of ambient sound, Chion’s understanding of the term does not in essence differ much from the studio era’s conception of cinematic ambience as background sounds: “Let us,” Chion writes, “call ambient sound sound that envelops a scene and inhabits its space, without raising the question of the identification or visual embodiment of its source: birds singing, churchbells ringing. We might also call them territory sounds, because they serve to identify a particular locale through their pervasive and continuous presence” (Chion 1994, p. 75). Hence, ambient sound, according to Chion, first and foremost constitutes the background sound of the cinematic space as a specific constructed site or ‘territory.’ It is a cinematic form of environmental sound the main function of which it is to form a sonic link between diegetic and nondiegetic space. This positioning of ambient sound as a kind of site-­ specifying environmental membrane between diegetic and nondiegetic space is, as Buhler notes, indeed “a curious placement” (2019, p. 164), since it conceptualizes ambient sound as a mere mediator, and not as something which possesses its own material agency and aesthetic potentials.12 Consequently, Chion ends up reducing ambient territory sound to the restricted domain of “passive offscreen sound” (1994, p.  85), the main function of which it is to give legibility and stability to an already established, self-sufficient image space. The role of ambient sound in Chion’s conception is but to create “an atmosphere that envelops and stabilizes the image” (ibid.), not to produce ambient effects in and of themselves.

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As a consequence, Chion arguably fails to properly acknowledge the fundamental reconfiguration of the role, status and affective potentials of ambient sound in contemporary cinema, compared to the segregated continuum of the studio model. Indeed, at the very moment sound design was introduced as a specific term in the industry during the late 1970s, it soon became an emblematic indicator of a general change in orientation away from a hierarchical, screen-centric conception of the audiovisual scene toward the whole cinematic space as a dehierarchized, affective and all-encompassing continuum. There is, in other words, a deep ambient inclination driving the general development of sound design as a specialized practice in contemporary cinema, in which the role and effect of ambient sound would far exceed its earlier supportive function as mediator and stabilizer of visual screen space. And the key factor in this process is, in direct contrast to Chion’s ideas, precisely the radical intensification of sonic space as an autonomous soundtrack, effectuated by the synthetic emancipation of ambient sound from the image.

The Emancipation of Ambient Sound The emancipation of ambient sound from the image—an ongoing process initiated in the early 1970s—comes out of a general change in the conception of audiovisual space among leading sound practitioners of the period. A prime example of this is found in Murch’s and Lucas’ pioneering audiovisual design for Lucas’ THX 1138 (1971). Throughout large parts of the film, they compress the whole sound environment into an independent track, which runs more or less detached from the space of visible action. The whole sonic environment in THX 1138 is not only demonstratively synthetic and mediatized, emphasizing the electronic materiality of its medium. It is also weirdly abstract and generic, decoupled from most apparent functions of diegetic representation. Electronic noise, hisses, blips and distant rumbles fill space as if the whole diegetic space has been sonically wired and integrated into a large network of electronic transmission. Most importantly, though, the deep synthetization of the sonic environment in THX 1138 not only applies to environmental sounds and

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‘background’ ambience. It also involves significant diegetic sounds such as key action and even voices.13 This creates a peculiar sonic atmosphere of technological dehumanization that pervades the entire film. But at the same time, the distortion of key sounds and dialogue results in a continuous blurring of individual voices and sonic action with other less characteristic environmental sounds, which fundamentally disturbs the conventional segregation between foreground and background sounds (Beck 2016, p. 81). By being distorted and synthetized, key action and dialogue—the established center of classic screen-centric and vococentric sound design—start to dissolve into a univocal mass of mediatized immanence.14 The audible result of Murch’s synthetic strategy is both a radically consistent and a radically decoupled sonic environment—indeed an autonomous sound-track. From the perspective of the soundtrack, it is almost as if ‘there is no diegetic world’ outside the matter-medium; no external, transcendental plane of reference to which the soundtrack can apply as a form of suggestive support. As Murch himself notes, the “closest I can get to describing the sound track for THX 1138 is to say that it was ‘another film’ running alongside the film” (Murch quoted in Whittington 2007, p. 65). The most significant onto-aesthetic effect of this process, from the perspective of ambient sound, lies, however, not so much in the emancipation of the soundtrack itself, but in the way this emancipation affords a much deeper affective intensification of the sonic environment within the overall cinematic space. Hence, Murch’s synthetic design puts, as Lastra notes, a “new emphasis on the possibility for what might clumsily be called ‘audio spectacle,’ or ‘audio sensationalism’ [where] the sound design clearly exceeds its narrative demands and develops into something different, something that presents an almost purely sensory ‘argument’ ” (Lastra 2008, p. 136). The synthetic approach to cinematic sound design, which Murch gave a particular electronic expression in THX 1138, would soon exceed the particular conventions of the science fiction genre and spread out into all parts of mainstream cinema. Today, merging univocal sounds to form synthetic units and provide environmental consistency in an autonomous soundtrack arguably comprises the very epitome of how contemporary sound design works.15 However, the overall aesthetic effect of the synthetic disconnection of sound and image and the emancipation of the

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soundtrack into a consistent audio spectacle in its own right is not, as one might expect, a more divided and disintegrated cinematic space. On the contrary, dissolving the ‘original,’ pre-mediatic unity between image and sound only enables a more direct, mediatized (re)integration of them within the same surrounding matter-medium. Precisely because the very connection between them is inorganically produced and designed in the medium, because it is mediatized from within instead of being mediated from without, sounds and images can merge the more smoothly as univocal parts of the same audiovisual immanence. In the end, then, the main synthetic function and effect of contemporary sound design is not the emancipation of sound from image. It is, enabled by this detachment, to provide a more immediate and affectively stimulating, onto-aesthetic reintegration of sound and image into the overall cinematic space as a synthetic unity. The emancipation and affective intensification of the soundtrack is but a precondition for a non-hierarchical, and indeed more genuinely ambient, reconceptualization of cinematic space as an intensified audiovisual continuum.

Sonic Intensification of Audiovisual Space The synthetic emancipation and reintegration of the soundtrack into a smooth audiovisual continuum has thus arguably given ambient sound a whole new role and importance in contemporary cinema. While the general conventions for relating sound to image in the production of narrative and diegetic continuity that were developed during the classic studio era are never entirely abandoned in contemporary filmmaking, what concerns the structuring function and sensory impact of ambient sound, something has fundamentally changed. This general attraction toward ambient sound can in large part be summarized in the emergence of what Chion has termed the superfield. The superfield is “the space created, in multitrack films, by ambient natural sounds, city noises, music, and all sorts of rustlings that surround the visual space and that can issue from loudspeakers outside the physical boundaries of the screen” (Chion 1994, p. 150). The emergence of the superfield is closely connected to the technological development of stereo surround sound, the impact of which I will discuss in Part III. It also entails, however, a basic reconfiguration of

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audiovisual space and an intensification of ambient sound, which, as Chion in part seems to acknowledge himself, poses an essential challenge to the aforementioned conception of the audiovisual scene as screen- and vococentric. For example, the superfield has the effect of undermining the narrative importance of the establishing shot, which conventionally has had the function of introducing and stabilizing the cinematic environment as a continuous whole since the beginning of the studio era.16 From around 1990, this basic function of establishing (ambient) space is transferred from the visual domain to the sonic superfield, which now “provides a continuous and constant consciousness of all the space surrounding the dramatic action” (Chion 1994, p. 151). Consequently, it is the ambient soundtrack, rather than the images, which provides the basic sense of spatiotemporal continuity and stability in contemporary cinema. It entails, as Mark Kerins notes, “a reversal of cinematic hierarchy: where historically it has been the responsibility of the image to explain the soundtrack by visually confirming the sources of sounds, it is now the soundtrack that provides the context of the image.” With the “constant, enveloping ambient sound of the superfield creating the narrative space, the establishing shot is no longer necessary.”17 The superfield, however, not only transfers the means for providing diegetic continuity from the visual to the auditory domain. Because of its excessive activation of ambient sound, it also transfers the ambient dimension of the cinematic environment from the diegetic space of the screen to the surrounding physical space of the auditorium. With the superfield, the “space of the film, no longer confined to the screen, in a way became the entire auditorium” (Chion 1994, p. 151). Together with the emancipation of the soundtrack as an autonomous affective field, this sonic expansion of ambient space into the physical surround is arguably the driving factor behind the general intensification, by sonic means, of the contemporary cinematic environment as an audiovisual spectacle.18 This ambient intensification of audiovisual space as a spectacular, hyper-affective continuum carries immediate associations with what David Bordwell has termed “intensified continuity”; a phenomenon which, he claims, comprises the dominant form of contemporary cinema since the 1990s (Bordwell 2006, p. 120). Unfortunately, though, Bordwell restricts his conception of intensified continuity exclusively to the visual

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domain, identifying it by four visual aspects: rapid editing, bipolar extremes of lens length combining long lenses with wide angle, greater use of close framings, and wide-ranging camera movement (Bordwell 2006, p. 121). For this reason, he ends up ignoring altogether the aforementioned transfer of audiovisual continuity from the visual to the auditory domain by the superfield, and thus, eventually, the crucial fact that it is no longer the image which creates continuity in contemporary cinema, let alone its intensified variety, but the soundtrack (Kerins 2011, pp. 121–122; Smith 2013, p. 335). To support Bordwells’ general idea of intensified continuity, but seeking to avoid its misconceived ocularcentrism, Jeff Smith has proposed six sonic aspects of intensified continuity: increased volume, low frequency effects, expanded frequency range, extended spatialization of sound, radical attention to details in Foley work and the use of nondiegetic sound effects as stylistic punctuation (Smith 2013, p. 338). The six dimensions can all be seen as contributing factors in the general material expansion of the soundtrack into the ambient superfield: louder, broader, more complex and massive, more materially vibrant and tangible. This indicates a crucial aspect of sonically intensified continuity: What secures and intensifies continuity in contemporary cinema is not so much the, now standardized, continuity of the soundtrack itself—as it was in part the case already in classical cinema and in the synthetic emancipation of the soundtrack in the 1970s—but its expansion into a continuous material surround. The very essence of intensified continuity lies, in other words, in the intensified surroundability afforded and promoted by ambient sound. Cinematic continuity today is, more than anything, the spectacular effect of being enveloped in a sonically mediatized continuum of audiovisual immanence. This intensified material expansion of cinematic space into the sonic surround has in turn given a whole new importance to ‘insignificant’ environmental sounds in contemporary cinema—that is, all Chion’s aforementioned “passive offscreen sounds” (1994, p. 85) with no apparent narrative or diegetic function. Sustained, low-frequency drones vibrate underneath the diegetic-material environment; high-pitched shrills sweep across space; the constant presence of distant, indistinct rumbles and growls; sudden, arbitrary, a-synchronic noises without any

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apparent reference. The sheer density of environmental sound is thus an indispensable component in establishing the intensified continuity of contemporary cinema. The excessive accumulation of fuzzy, preindividual differences in all parts of space transforms the sonic environment into a vibrant ubiquitous mass of hyper-affective continuous variation. Moreover, because of their vague, a-representational status, the insignificant environmental sounds play a crucial role in what Kevin Donnelly describes as the “increasingly evident ‘musicalization’ of the soundtrack” (Donnelly 2013, p.  366) in contemporary cinema. As he notes, the “breakdown of the partition between diegetic sound effects and nondiegetic music began once the uniqueness of their functions was questioned. […] This novel reconceptualization of music embraced noise and environmental sound; its inclusive notion of music and composition has exerted an influence on the holistic concept of current film sound design” (Donnelly 2013, p. 366). The general musicalization of the contemporary soundtrack in turn goes hand in hand with an opposite tendency toward what we can distinguish as an ambient ‘environmentalization of music.’ Arguably, various forms of ambient music comprise the all-dominant genre of mainstream film music today, with its mix of concrete, preindividual sounds; demusicalized fields of environmental noise and pitched, droning masses; its distinct lack of melodic form and thematic structure; its metastable, a-teleological processuality and so on. This general inclination in film music toward a decidedly ambient music style is epitomized in what Nicholas Reyland has termed “corporate classicism.” Corporate classicism denotes a form of generic ambient music focusing on “pads, textures, and propulsive percussion” (2015) as exemplified by the massive film scores of Hans Zimmer and related composers. By blurring the distinction between diegetic and nondiegetic sounds and between environmental effects and music, all sounds—from dialogue and synchronized action to conventional music, environmental sounds and arbitrary noises—now deliberately blend into a smooth, rhythmically synchronized and meticulously designed univocal continuum. As a rule, film music today is spectacular, intensified continuity materialized as a form of generalized ambient music.

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Notes 1. Indeed, the very term ‘sound designer’ was reputedly coined in the field of cinema in the 1970s by Walter Murch to describe his work with the various dimensions of sound production in now classic films such as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979) (Whittington 2007, p. 21; see also Mancini 1985, p. 361). 2. This broad conception of sound design as the sonic production of immanence has implicit relations to several key notions of sound and design in recent film and media scholarship. For instance, it has some similarity with Michel Chion’s idea that the general function of sound in cinema is to generate “added value”: “By added value I mean the expressive and informative value with which a sound enriches a given image so as to create the definite impression, in the immediate or remembered experience one has of it, that this information or expression ‘naturally’ comes from what is seen, and is already contained in the image itself ” (Chion 1994, p. 5). However, the broad notion of sound design practice I propose here as a form of ‘intensification by mediatization’ involves various other interrelated aspects besides the generation of added value, including the use of technologies for manipulating and mixing sound, the controlled staging, projection and distribution of sound in physical space, and the overall sonic consolidation of the audiovisual environment as a constructed whole. In a similar vein, William Whittington distinguishes four aspects of sound design in relation to film: First, the “creation of sound effects”; second, the “conceptual design of the overall sound track”; third, the “deployment of sound within the theatrical space”; and fourth, a “model and method for critical analysis” (Whittington 2007, pp. 2–3). 3. As James Buhler argues, film is based on a fundamental principle of synthesis in which disparate domains are integrated into a consistent whole: “The sound film is itself at base analytic: it separates image and sound and records and reproduces them with separate technologies. Playback of a synchronized sound film is a kind of synthesis where our senses of vision and hearing fuse the stimuli of the two technological streams into a unity so that the voice we hear from the speakers seems to come from the body we see on the screen” (Buhler 2019, pp. 12). This basic principle of cinematic synthesis is what Chion generally refers to as “the audiovisual contract”—an illusory and synthetic perceptual relationship

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between the senses, which is “the opposite of a natural relationship arising from some sort of preexisting harmony among the perceptions” (1994, p. xxvi). As I will discuss in Part III, the whole idea of audiovisual media as a synthesizer of isolated sensory inputs and channels is a key point in Friedrich Kittler’s media theory (Kittler 2010, p. 172). 4. Typical examples of object-oriented sound design can be found in the use of isolated sound effects in theater sound design, in the image-sound synthesis of cinematic Foley work, and in the meticulously enhanced sounds of everyday objects such as electronic household machines, car motors and doorbells. For an analysis of object-oriented approaches to the production of offstage ‘sound effects’ in early twentieth-century theater sound design, see Kaye and Lebrecht 2009. And for an examination of the various dimensions of sound design in the car industry, see Bijsterveld et al. (2014) (especially pages 21–71 and 140–168). Here, Bijsterveld and colleagues argue that while attention to car sound design is observable as early as the 1920s, it was radically intensified during the 1990s, where we can observe “a spurt of interest in how cars sounded to drivers and to those who heard cars passing by” (ibid., p. 8). In the specific context of cinema, Whittington (2007, pp. 129–145) distinguishes, with a distinction similar to the one I propose here, between synchronized ‘object-oriented’ “Foley work,” covering “almost all aspects of onscreen action, from character movements to armaments” (Whittington 2007, p.  140)—and “ambience,” denoting the ‘environment-oriented’ design of continuous and non-synchronized background sounds, synthetized into an environmental continuum. As we will see later, while obviously being related to the overall aesthetics of ambient sound, the term ‘ambience,’ when used in specific relation to film sound, is often connected to a notion of ‘room tone’ and background noise, and thus only to a single aspect in a general production of ambient sound. 5. Before 1933, it was, according to Altman, “extremely rare for music and dialogue to appear simultaneously” (Altman 1985, p. 46). Or as Barry Salt writes, it was “either dialogue or music” (Salt 1985, p. 43). 6. Alan Williams describes the model of the studio era and the “acoustic situation” it provides as follows: “the American studio style has a startingly precise ebb and flow of background noises as they relate to foreground: car horns ‘just happen’ to occur in conversational pauses; the entire sense of sonic ambience recedes when narratively significant information appears. […] There is, in sum, a clear and reassuring hierarchy of sonic importance, and this is reinforced by a kind of step-system of sonic

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presence, sounds being made to seem either very close (important) or distant (‘atmosphere’)” (Williams 1985, pp. 336–37). 7. Chattopadhyay (2021, p. 6). It should be noted, though, that site-­specific reality in this conception is seldom a matter of authenticity in the mimetic staging of the relation between actual and virtual site. Room tone can be recorded on the actual location in which the film is being filmed, it can be added from another setting, or it can be a mix of recordings from various settings. For example, as Walter Murch describes his construction of the sonic ambience of the mysterious Ganzfeld prison in the “White Limbo” sequence in George Lucas’ THX 1138 (1971): “It’s basically the room tone from the Exploratorium in San Francisco. […] It’s a veil of mysterious sound—it doesn’t have anything specific to it, but it is full of suggestive fragments” (Murch quoted in Whittington 2007, p. 75). 8. As Altman argues, “Jean-Luc Godard and the other practitioners of the New Wave were soon abandoning Hollywood’s characteristic directional microphones and selective amplification in favor of the direct transcription of all ambient sounds by means of a single omnidirectional centrally located mike. No doubt this approach neglects the extent to which the human ear selects sounds, but it certainly had the important effect of foregrounding the artificiality, i.e., the constructed nature, of sound practices in studio-produced classic narrative films the world over” (Altman 1985, p. 49). 9. For discussions of 1970s sound design in American film as a leading paradigm in contemporary filmmaking, see Whittington (2007) and Beck (2016). 10. Chion introduced the idea of vococentrism in 1982 (in the French version of The Voice in Cinema) as a basic structuring principle in film sound in which the sound of the human voice is prioritized, in design and perception, for all other sounds, thus centering the whole sonic environment around the presence, meaning and affective expression of voices. “In actual movies,” he notes, “there are not all the sounds including the human voice. There are voices, and then everything else. In other words, in every audio mix, the presence of a human voice instantly sets up a hierarchy of perception” (1999, p. 5). For a critique of Chion’s concept of vococentrism in relation to contemporary cinema, see Buhler (2020). 11. As Chion notes: “What do sounds do when put together with a film image? They dispose themselves in relation to the frame and its content. Some are embraced as synchronous and onscreen, others wander at the

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surface and on the edges as offscreen. And still others position themselves clearly outside the diegesis, in an imaginary orchestra pit (nondiegetic music), or on a sort of balcony, the place of voiceovers. In short, we classify sounds in relation to what we see in the image, and this classification is constantly subject to revision, depending on changes in what we see” (1994, p. 68). 12. As “a formal entity,” Buhler argues, “ambient sound seems more pertinent to bridging the distinction between onscreen and offscreen sound— ambient sound points to a reality that extends beyond the frame—or to questioning the efficacy of the frame as the ultimate container of the film than to buffering the boundary between diegetic and nondiegetic space” (Buhler 2019, pp. 164–165). 13. “One method was,” Jay Beck notes about THX 1138, “by distorting regular sounds and voices to the point of estrangement, retaining the texture of the human voice while adding an unfamiliar electronic halo to the words. […] Although the sounds were recognizable as voices, the technique placed the emphasis on the transmissive medium more than on the clarity of the dialogue” (Beck 2016, p. 81). 14. As Beck notes, with his synthetic strategy, Murch was “experimenting with one of the fundamental aspects of film sound usage: the centrality of the speaking voice in narrative cinema” (Beck 2016, p.  81). To be precise, though, the mediatized distortion of voices in THX 1138, as Beck also notes, mainly applies to the voices of secondary characters. The overall effect is thus not a full shift from figure (vococentrism) to a fully synthesized ground in which no voices are distinct and central, but rather the creation of a continuously “shifting figure-ground situation” (ibid.). 15. For example, as it is well-known, recorded ‘original’ sounds are typically re-recorded, mixed and synthetically reassigned to onscreen events in contemporary postproduction practice, in order to intensify the sensible presence of the filmic environment as a consistent audiovisual unity. As David Sonnenschein notes, speaking of standard Foley techniques in contemporary cinematic sound design, even “if footsteps, coffee cup clinking, or squeaky leather chairs were recorded during the shoot, the standard practice is to replace them all in the foley room for the sake of uniformity” (Sonnenschein 2001, p. 40; my emphasis). 16. According to Chion, the establishing shot constituted a cornerstone in classical narrative cinema precisely because of the way it “forcefully conveyed (established or re-established) the ambient space” (Chion ­ 1994, p. 150).

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17. Kerins (2011, p. 86, 87; see also Buhler 2020, p. 294). In a painterly description, and with direct reference to Chion, Slavoj Žižek has made a similar observation: “Bombarding us with details from different directions (dolby stereo techniques, etc.), the soundtrack takes over the function of the establishing shot. The soundtrack gives us the basic perspective, the ‘map’ of the situation, and guarantees its continuity, while the images are reduced to isolated fragments that float freely in the universal medium of the sound aquarium” (Looking Awry, 1998, p. 40; quoted from Kerins 2011, pp. 87–88). 18. As Jay Beck notes, the ambient superfield introduces a whole “new regime of acoustic attraction that destabilizes the narrative centrality of the frame. […] The resultant soundtrack, especially with the expanded frequency range of Dolby Stereo and its spatial dispersion of sounds, buzzes with an intensity of its own” (Beck 2008, p. 77).

Bibliography Altman, Rick. 1985. The Evolution of Sound Technology. In Film Sound: Theory and Practice, ed. Elisabeth Weis and John Belton, 44–53. New  York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1992. Sound Space. In Sound Theory, Sound Practice, ed. Rick Altman, 46–64. New York and London: Routledge. Beck, Jay. 2008. The Sounds of ‘Silence’: Dolby Stereo, Sound Design, and The Silence of the Lambs. In Lowering the Boom, ed. Jay Beck and Tony Grajeda, 68–83. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ———. 2016. Designing Sound: Audiovisual Aesthetics in 1970s American Cinema. New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press. Bijsterveld, Karin, Eefje Cleophas, Stefan Krebs, and Gijs Mom. 2014. Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel. Oxford and New  York: Oxford University Press. Bordwell, David. 2006. The Way Hollywood Tells It: Story and Style in Modern Movies. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press. Buhler, James. 2019. Theories of the Soundtrack. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2020. The End(s) of Vococentrism. In Voicing the Cinema: Film Music and the Integrated Soundtrack, ed. James Buhler and Hannah Lewis, 278–296. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. 2021. The Auditory Setting: Environmental Sounds in Film and Media Arts. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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Chion, Michel. 1994. Audio-Vision. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1999. Voice in Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press. Doane, Mary Ann. 1985. Ideology and the Practice of Sound Editing and Mixing. In Film Sound: Theory and Practice, ed. Elisabeth Weis and John Belton, 54–62. New York: Columbia University Press. Donnelly, Kevin J. 2013. Extending Film Aesthetics: Audio Beyond Visuals. In The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics, ed. John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis, 357–371. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Holman, Tomlinson. 2010. Sound for Film and Television. 3rd ed. Burlington and Oxford: Focal Press. Kaye, Deena, and James LeBrecht. 2009. Sound and Music for the Theatre: The Art and Technique of Design. Burlington and Oxford: Focal Press. Kerins, Mark. 2011. Beyond Dolby (stereo): Cinema in the Digital Sound Age. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Kittler, Friedrich. 2010. Optical Media. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Lastra, James. 2008. Film and the Wagnerian Aspiration: Thoughts on Sound Design and the History of Senses. In Lowering the Boom, ed. Jay Beck and Tony Grajeda, 123–138. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Mancini, Marc. 1985. The Sound Designer. In Film Sound: Theory and Practice, ed. Elisabeth Weis and John Belton, 361–368. New  York: Columbia University Press. Reyland, Nicholas. 2015. Corporate Classicism and the Metaphysical Style: Affects, Effects, and Contexts of Two Recent Trends of Film Scoring. Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 9 (2): 115–130. Salt, Barry. 1985. Film Style and Technology in the Thirties: Sound. In Film Sound: Theory and Practice, ed. Elisabeth Weis and John Belton, 27–43. New York: Columbia University Press. Smith, Jeff. 2013. The Sound of Intensified Continuity. In The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics, ed. John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis, 331–356. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Sonnenschein, David. 2001. Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice, and Sound Effects in Cinema. Los Angeles, CA: Michael Wise Productions. Whittington, William. 2007. Sound Design and Science Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press. Williams, Alan. 1985. Godard’s Use of Sound. In Film Sound: Theory and Practice, ed. Elisabeth Weis and John Belton, 332–345. New York: Columbia University Press.

Part III Frames

8 Staging Ambient Listening

Technology and Listening In Parts I and II, I have proposed a set of conditions for the material, morphological and techno-mediatic configuration of ambient sound. The focus was on identifying and conceptualizing the main factors that contribute to the onto-aesthetic production of the sonic environment as an a-figurative, ubiquitous continuum of surrounding sound. In this third part, I will now turn my attention to the material frameworks in which this onto-aesthetic production of surroundability takes place and explore their implications for ambient listening. More specifically, I wish to demonstrate how the acoustic and electronic design of modern and contemporary listening spaces by architectural-technological means is fundamentally guided, in all their most common manifestations, by a common ideal of ambient affectivity, which has been a dominant factor in the historical development of listening and sonic culture by implying and cultivating decidedly ambient forms of auditory practice. Hence, throughout modern auditory culture, from the early years of acoustic design and electronic (re)production to the most recent digital technologies, a whole number of unlike playback technologies have constructed © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_8

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listening environments, in which listeners are encouraged to learn to listen in ambient ways, and learn to want to do so, by habitually engaging in ambient practices and by developing various forms of ambient listening techniques and ambient sensibilities. Ambient listening as a practice, then, is not so much something which has always existed as a form of natural inclination or primordial state. It is in large part a product of aestheticized modernity, conditioned and cultivated as a specific mode of auditory engagement by the technologies in which it takes place. As an aesthetic practice, ambient listening is thus inextricably linked to the general industrial and commercial development of increasingly more advanced, standardized and aestheticized listening technologies. In other words, the assumption I wish to substantiate is that there is a deep ambient tendency in the general development of modern listening technologies, the sociocultural influence of which is in turn instrumental in advancing ambient listening as a dominant standard practice in modern and contemporary auditory culture. Not only is the sonic material produced by techno-aesthetic practices becoming increasingly ambient, as I discussed in Part II. The space in which this material unfolds, the whole techno-material framework for sonic production, distribution, perception and communication, the whole auditory ‘dispositive,’ is simultaneously shaped by and extensively promoting a general desire for the principle and effect of ambient listening. ‘Dispositive’ (French dispositif; often translated into English as ‘apparatus’) is a key concept in Michel Foucault’s late writings. Central to Foucault’s notion of the dispositive is the acknowledgement of its decisive role in the production of modern subjectivity and sociality, enforced by a deep, affective relationship between the material and discursive mechanisms that organize perception in space and time, and the development of certain forms of practice and certain forms of desire.1 As Maria Teresa Cruz notes, commenting on Foucault, Deleuze and Giorgio Agamben, the dispositive “is thus, first and foremost, the support for a given form of appearance and the organization of its perception. This organization of perception and appearance, and that of the human being as spectator, defines from very early on our being in the world” (Cruz 2017, p. 62). Correspondingly, the auditory dispositive can be said to denote a complex material and discursive system of support in which the onto-aesthetic relationship between

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sound and listening takes place and in which it is continuously shaped on the basis of a set of overarching conditions for how sound can and should be made, used and experienced in a particular context.2 We can distinguish two general techno-aesthetic dimensions of the modern auditory dispositive and its material conditioning of listening: On the one hand, the technologies of listening, understood in the sense that sound technologies, when they produce sound, simultaneously construct and provide different listening environments. And on the other hand, the techniques of listening, understood as a set of learnt cultural practices, in part afforded and cultivated by the technological listening environments. There is thus a close relationship between, on the one hand, the techno-industrial ideals and models of listening imbedded in the standardized designs and affordances of different listening devices, systems and infrastructures and, on the other hand, the associated, co-­ developed techniques of listening, shaped by the embodied habitual and standardized use of such technologies.3 In what follows, I will explore this relationship between technologies and techniques of listening with specific regards to their ambient implications by asking: How has modern sound technology enabled and stimulated the shaping of the modern listening subject as an ambient listener. What are the material and techno-­ aesthetic conditions, advanced by modern sound technology, for the development of the ambient mode as a standard or norm for technical listening? By raising such questions, I wish to pursue the overall proposition that the modern auditory dispositive, on a general level, is guided by a deep ambient inclination, which has vast implications for the shaping of subjectivity and auditory practice in modern and contemporary culture.

 he Synthetic Production of the Listening T Environment Separation of the senses into different domains and modalities is a general function of modern media technologies. As Friedrich Kittler famously argues, modern media such as film and sound recording in large part gain their aesthetic effects and cultural significance from the way in which they tear apart the body’s ‘naturally’ cohesive sensorium. The individual

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senses can then subsequently be brought together again—either spontaneously in experience by virtue of multimodal, ‘synaesthetic’ predispositions in the perceptual system, or in the matter-medium through a technological reintegration of individual sensory channels into a synchronized spatiotemporal whole.4 The result remains in both cases essentially synthetic. It is the result of an onto-aesthetic combination of separation and reintegration by which the sensation of a consistent perceptual environment is enabled and produced. The synthetic conception of media technology developed into a general media-aesthetic principle during nineteenth century with the invention of vision machines and hearing aids such as the stereoscope, the kaleidoscope and the stethoscope, many of which were initially invented out of an underlying interest in the scientific possibilities of studying the individual senses in isolation by means of technological separation (Crary 1990, pp. 67–96). The invention of technologies for sonic reproduction during the last part of nineteenth century was in part cultivated by this general awareness of the potentials of sensory separation. As Sterne notes, the separation of the senses posits each sense—hearing, sight, touch, smell, taste—as a functionally distinct system, as a unique and closed experiential domain. Each sense could be abstracted from the others; its peculiar and presumably unique functions could be mapped, described, and subsequently modeled. Physiology moved questions of hearing from morphology to function and technics. Audition became a mechanism that could be anatomically, processurally, and experientially abstracted from the human body and the rest of the senses. (Sterne 2003, p. 62)

With his invention of the telephone, Graham Bell was the first to draw the full conclusion of sensory separation in sound technology, thereby marking a turning point in the modern history of ideas and technologies about hearing and listening (Sterne 2003, p. 60). With the invention of sound recording and film, separation of the senses, and their potential reintegration, was established as a general synthetic principle underlying the audiovisual aesthetics of modern and contemporary culture. A second important factor in the synthetic production of the listening environment that is closely related to the separation of the senses regards the historical change, from the seventeenth century and onward, toward

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a conception of media technologies as isolated environments. As Jonathan Crary argues, early modern visual media such as the camera obscura, the panorama, the kaleidoscope and the stereoscope introduced a general model of “isolation of the sensing subject” inside the medium, perceptually “cut off from a public exterior world,” as an elementary attribute of modern media technology (Crary 1990, p. 39). This early modern attribute, which would later constitute a defining feature of audiovisual media after 1900, entailed, according to Crary, a whole “new model of subjectivity, the hegemony of a new subject-effect” centered around a “metaphysics of interiority” (ibid., pp.  38–39). The medium of the camera obscura, the kaleidoscope or the panorama was conceptualized as a form of enclosed surround, the effect of which was produced by a fundamental, and directly sensible, distinction between an interior, medial space and an exterior, pre-medial or extra-medial space. The camera obscura, for example, “performs an operation of individuation: that is, it necessarily defines an observer as isolated, enclosed, and autonomous within its dark confines. It impels a kind of askesis, or withdrawal from the world, in order to regulate and purify one’s relation to the manifold contents of the now ‘exterior’ world” (ibid.). As Sterne and others have argued, similar ideals of isolation and an aesthetics of interiority have played a defining role in the history of modern sound and listening technologies. Hence, the development of modern listening techniques, Sterne notes, did not occur in the collective, communal space of oral discourse and tradition (if such a space ever existed); it happened in a highly segmented, isolated, individuated acoustic space. Listening technologies that promoted the separation of hearing from the other senses and promoted these traits were especially useful. Stethoscopes and headphones allowed for the isolation of listeners in a ‘world of sounds’ where they could focus on the various characteristics of the sounds to which they attended. (Sterne 2003, p. 24)

This defining techno-aesthetic model of isolating the listener in a privatized and mediatized interior surround develops, however, in close combination with another, in some respects directly opposite, model of techno-aesthetic mediation in which information and affects are being transferred from the outside and into the interior space. This

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combination of exteriority and interiority, coupling and decoupling, imbues technological listening with a general onto-aesthetic condition of double mediality, distinguished by the paradoxical, yet usually commonplace and habitual, combination of mediation and mediatization into an integrated environmental double effect: both representation and non-­ representation, both interior and exterior, both social and private, both transmission of information from the outside and isolated affective presentification of a detached, immanent surround.5

 he Double Mediality of Technological T Listening In his seminal book The Audible Past (2003), Sterne proposes the term audile technique—‘audile’ meaning “of, pertaining to, or received through the auditory nerves” (Sterne 2003, p. 96). While it is thus in essence but another term for auditory techniques, Sterne specifically distinguishes ‘audile technique’ by a limited (albeit still quite extensive) set of learned practices and specialized habits for listening by the use of technological means. Hence, Sterne outlines a list of what he regards as the common orientations associated with audile techniques, of which I will briefly summarize the most important ones in this context: (a) Modern listening is a technical skill that can be “developed and used toward instrumental ends” (ibid., p.  93). (b) Audile technique entails a “discrete activity” (ibid.), building on the separation of the senses associated with modern media technologies. (c) Audile techniques transform the listening environment into a “private auditory space” (ibid.). (d) Audile techniques depend on a codification of sounds into signifying entities and on listening as a practice of decoding (ibid., p.  94). (e) Audile techniques co-­ develop with a general system of sonic mediation between absent sounds and the presence of embodied listening, “whereby proximal sounds become indices of events otherwise absent to the other senses” (ibid.). (f ) Audile technique constitutes a parameter for the accumulation of symbolic capital in that “virtuosity at audile technique could be a mark of distinction in modern life” (ibid.). And finally, (g) Sterne associates audile technique with specialized perceptual abilities of figure-ground

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segregation and of distinguishing between inside and outside: “Audile technique—and especially the separation of foreground and background sound into interior and exterior—was, thus, presupposed by the most basic functional criteria for sound reproduction” (ibid., p. 259). Sterne develops his understanding of audile technique through analyses of a particular selection of media technologies and their associated affordances of technical listening. As he notes, “[m]odern audile technique combines a relatively stable set of practical orientations toward sound and listening […] common to medicine, telegraphy, and the sound-­ reproduction technologies” (ibid., p.  93). Sterne explicitly chooses this approach to avoid the many clichés that have surrounded and misinformed the study of sound and auditory perception for centuries, and according to which hearing is idealized as a special domain of sensory communication sharply distinguished from the other senses, especially the visual. This view has, Sterne argues, fostered a set of standard assumptions about what hearing is, which have shaped the thoughts of many key writers in media and sound studies, including Walter Ong, Marshall McLuhan, Rick Altman and Barry Truax. Sterne presents the clichés and assumptions in an oft-quoted list of conceptual opposites between hearing and vision and their associated values and ideals, which he, in order to stress its “theological overtones” (ibid., p. 15), refers to as the audiovisual litany: The Audiovisual Litany Hearing is spherical Hearing immerses its subject Sounds come to us Hearing is concerned with interiors Hearing involves physical contact with the outside world Hearing places us inside an event Hearing tends toward subjectivity Hearing brings us into the living world Hearing is about affect Hearing is a primarily temporal sense Hearing is a sense that immerses us in the world Sterne (2003, p. 15)

Vision is directional Vision offers a perspective Vision travels to its object Vision is concerned with surfaces Vision requires distance from it Seeing gives us a perspective on the event Vision tends toward objectivity Sight moves us toward atrophy and death Vision is about intellect Vision is a primarily spatial sense Vision is a sense that removes us from it.

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Indeed, with this simple schematic opposition, Sterne successfully manages to articulate some important misconceptions that have haunted the intellectual history of sound and listening. Throughout his book, he continuously draws attention to a whole number of key aspects connected to sound technology and audition, which have conventionally been firmly associated with the visual side of the audiovisual litany—for example, the directional techniques of auditory attention toward cause and detail, and the obvious capacities of sound technology for distant communication and mediation of coded information—thus fully demonstrating the reductive essentialism of its assumptions. Sterne’s analyses have thus helped emphasizing crucial aspects of listening, which, at the time he published his book, had been somewhat neglected in the study of sound technology and mediated listening, including directionality, mediation, decoding of acoustic information and orientation to detail—aspects related to what Michel Chion a few years later would call “causal” and “code-oriented” listening (Chion 2016, p. 170). On the other hand, though, with his exclusive focus on audile technique as a form of casual, code-oriented practice, Sterne risks overemphasizing its role in the general history of technological listening on behalf of others.6 Sterne is well aware of the potential reductivism in his own approach. He explicitly acknowledges, for instance, that audile technique “denotes a particular orientation toward listening—but it is not meant to be taken as the only possible orientation toward listening” (Sterne 2003, p. 96). And as examples of other possible orientations, he briefly lists Barry Truax’s identification of the listener’s different orientations while listening in physical environments, Steven Feld’s ethnomusicological uncovering of listening as a multi-faceted life form among Kaluli people, and confessional speech and listening as commented by Michel Foucault and others. Yet, for one thing, these few examples do not to any extent include or concern the specifically technological dimensions of modern sound and listening, let alone its specific ways of staging the listening environment. And when Sterne himself considers sound technology and its general impact on listening in modernity, he largely restricts his focus to the audile technique of skilled directionality and decoding.

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Somewhat ironically, then, despite his intentions, Sterne’s analysis of modern listening by technological means arguably bares the risk of repeating the oppositional logic and reductive simplifications of the audiovisual litany that he so wished to avoid, now just with reversed conclusions: that modern sound technology and its co-developed audile techniques of listening are predominantly concerned with directionality, coding/decoding, mediation and detail, at the expense of and in contrast to affectivity and immersivity. And as a result, his analyses exclude or supplement key aspects of sound technology with particular relevance for the present study, including, more than anything, its environmental and affective implications for promoting and conditioning ambient listening. Indeed, Sterne’s understanding of sound technology in general, and of audile technique in particular, appears in large part to be motivated by a latent, but decidedly anti-ambient conception of modern sound technology. It is as if the very aesthetic and aestheticizing spectacle of sonic technologies—arguably a driving force in the general development of modern auditory culture—is tacitly bracketed by Sterne to help positioning audile listening in safe distance from the romantic malaises of linking sound with affectivity, immersivity and surroundability. Yet, not only the many technologies that Sterne excludes from his analysis, but also the ones he does consider—and arguably, to some extent, even the very notion of audile technique—obviously contain specifically ambient aspects. This is the case, for instance, in his aforementioned observation that “headphones […] isolate their users in a private world of sounds” (2003, p. 87). What mainly interests Sterne, though, is still the technicized learning of a specific decoding skill, in which significant and signifying ‘interior’ sounds are perceptually segregated from the ‘exterior’ auditory field. The immanent field as an environmental onto-aesthetic whole—how it feels to be in that isolated space of interior sounds, and what techniques and sensibilities of environmental listening it promotes—are largely ignored. The general consequence of this is that Sterne’s analysis leaves out the whole ambient dimension of modern sound technology, which is indispensable for any full and comprehensive understanding of the learned skill of listening by technological means.

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When I, in what follows, will examine the ambient dimension of modern listening technologies, I will therefore seek to do so in a way that includes all the aestheticizing and often highly immersive and spectacular dimensions of modern sound technology, but while also striving carefully to avoid falling back into the reductive gap laid open by the audiovisual litany. I will thus maintain, first, that ambient listening is but one form and mode of listening encouraged by modern sound technology. And second, that ambient, immersive, ubiquitous sensations, and the media and technologies that help promoting them, are in no way exclusive to sound and auditory perception. In other words, we must seek to conceptualize the ambient dimension of modern listening by technological means beyond the oppositional logic of the audiovisual litany. Yet, while keeping this crucial obligation in mind, the claim I wish to substantiate is still, however, that while it has emerged as one aspect of a larger cultural-technological complex of technological sensation and communication, the ambient technique nonetheless comprises a dominant form of listening by technological means in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. From the design of early electronic sound technology to current digital architectures and infrastructures of listening, stimulations of ambient practices and sensibilities are deeply embedded as a general aesthetic ideal in the industrial and media-cultural development of modern listening technologies. Throughout modern history, this ambient technique and techno-aesthetic attitude has developed along with the directional, focused, decoding and selective attitude that Sterne associates with audile technique. Following Don Ihde’s (2007) aforementioned distinction between two basic dimensions of listening—directionality and omnidirectionality/surroundability—I will therefore argue that audile and ambient techniques can be seen as constituting the two main components in a general scheme of modern audition, characterized by a double mediality of technological listening between audile and ambient techniques. What this double mediality of technological listening involves can be tentatively outlined by listing some of the most evident similarities and differences between audile and ambient techniques and their orientations toward sound and listening (Fig. 8.1).

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THE DOUBLE MEDIALITY OF TECHNOLOGICAL LISTENING AUDILE TECHNIQUE

AMBIENT TECHNIQUE

SHARED ORIENTATIONS

Isolation of the listener Privatized listening

Isolation of the listener Privatized listening

DIVERGENT ORIENTATIONS

Directional Detail Mediation between interior and exterior space Reproduction Representation Coding and decoding Information

Spherical Environment Mediatization of interior space Production Presentation Effect and affect Materiality

Fig. 8.1  The double mediality of technological listening between audile and ambient techniques

The double mediality between audile and ambient techniques potentially engages listeners in a complex situation of simultaneously being-in a mediatized, interior immanence and being-connected to an extra-medial environment through transmission of coded information from the outside. This double affordance is virtually present in all dimensions of technological listening promoted by the modern auditory dispositive, from early acoustic experiments with architectural sound design to current digital systems of sonic distribution. Whenever there is a production or a reproduction of sound by technological means, there is, at the same time, a media-aesthetic invitation to negotiate between audile and ambient sensibilities and modes of orientation. At times the two techniques are in direct conflict, compelling the listener to choose between more unequivocally audile or ambient modes. But just as often, they are closely integrated as co-existing affordances within a consistent listening environment. Keeping this basic double-mediatic affordance embedded in modern sound technology close in mind, I will now return to my main focus of exploring and conceptualizing the ambient dimension of sonic environmentality and its

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role in the techno-architectural development of the modern listening environment. First, this will include some general thoughts on how sound technology, at the very moment it produces and distributes sound, will inevitably also arrange a specific listening environment that affords and promotes certain affectivities and certain technicized forms of engagement with sound.

Staging the Ambient Listening Environment Sound technologies are environmental listening machines, each characterized by the specific way it affords a spatiotemporal, onto-aesthetic relationship between sound and listener. Apart from providing means for (re) producing, projecting and distributing sound, each sound technology materializes an environmental matter-medium by which it shapes and manipulates auditory sensations of being-in and being-with. Rather than being neutral carriers of sound, each technology thus entails a techno-­ material staging of a specific listening environment and a specific form of situated environmental listening. As Paul Théberge, Kyle Devine and Tom Everrett argue in specific relation to stereophonic sound, the “idea of staging places an emphasis on the ways in which we might think of stereo not simply as a static space in which sounds are represented (or reproduced), but as a more performative space that is produced through a variety of social and technical practices and, also, a space in which other cultural practices are enabled” (2015, p. 5). The technological (re)production and (re)presentation of sonic space thus takes place within an onto-aesthetic framework by which listening practices are affectively shaped and conditioned in specific directions. For example, while listening to a field recording in headphones, my experience of the environment (re)presented in the recording is continuously being shaped and co-­produced by the spatiomaterial properties of the headphone environment in and by which the field is actualized and staged for listening. Hence, the whole idea of a ‘soundscape’ is in part determined by the staging of a specific, usually stable and virtually ideal, audioposition in and by which the soundscape is being presented as a surrounding environment.7

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Apart from positioning listeners within a specific listening environment, sound technologies moreover arrange the physical listening space through various forms of techno-material framing, by which the audible environment is made to perform as an environmental whole, cut off, to various degrees, from the surrounding world of environmental sounds at large. Each sound technology, then, is in part characterized by the specific way it sets up a synthetic boundary or ‘horizon’ in the listener’s auditory field between inside and outside, included and excluded. The technological listening environment not only presents and distributes the sensible as an assemblage of audible sounds but also by actively regulating what is being permitted to sound within the techno-architectural framework, with what intensity and effect, and thus also what is being silenced and left out of ear. When technologies stage listening, they act as affective regulators of the border between interior and exterior space. Thus, as Mack Hagood notes, by functioning as a “controllable interface between subject and environment” sound technology becomes “a means of grappling with [the] process of presence- and absence-making, a way of managing the material and attentional unfolding of world and self ” (Hagood 2019, p. 4, 22). And this basic territorial regulation reveals how “the real essence of media use is not the transmission of information but rather the attempted control of affect, the continually changing states of bodies that condition their abilities to act and be acted upon” (ibid., pp. 4–5). The techno-material spaces in which sound is being produced and distributed thus play a direct role in the affective staging and shaping of listening as a subjective, social and cultural practice. As Jody Berland argues, describing what she calls “cultural technologies of space,” media users are not simply “listeners to sound” but “occupants of spaces for listening” who, by being there, help to produce definite meanings and effects. These ‘spaces for listening’ proliferate and fragment continuously with the development of new audio technologies. Technological and social changes combine to make them more diverse, more mobile, and more omnipresent. Such changes represent complex negotiations between corporations, consumers, producers, desires, and everyday life. They challenge us to take into account the complexity of these relationships while recognizing the modes of power at work in them. (Berland 2009, p. 132)

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Listening as a cultural technique is learned and performed in intimate dialogue with the continuously changing technological environments in which it takes place. Through habitual practice and experimentation, listeners learn to navigate and evaluate specific forms of techno-material framing, audiopositioning, spatial distribution and the double-mediatic balancing of directional and omnidirectional affects they afford. My aim in what follows will be to distinguish the specifically ambient aspects of this techno-material staging of environmental listening and, on this basis, to identify its broader implications for the production of ambient sensibility and subjectivity in modern and contemporary auditory culture. By thus limiting my focus to the specific ambient dimension of technological listening I, again, do not wish to imply that ambient techniques comprise the most essential form of listening, nor that it is more widespread and important that other, more object-oriented, directional and decoding techniques. Substantiating such an argument would necessarily involve, at the very least, a much more extensive focus on the empirical, socio-cultural particularities of individual and social media use and aesthetic listening practices, which is not the intention, scope and purpose of this book. Still, however, my aim is nonetheless to substantiate how the staging of ambient sensibility and subjectivity indeed comprises a dominant techno-aesthetic ideal in the historical development of technological listening, which in its own right has had an immense impact on modern auditory culture on a general level. I wish, in other words, to discern how aestheticized surroundability functions as a guiding principle behind the most widespread and commonplace technologies of listening, and thus how, as a result, ambient affordances, built into the very techno-­ material framework of modern sound, ceaselessly enable and encourage listeners to listen more ambiently. How is the ambient mode staged by sound technology as a central form of aestheticized listening in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? What distinguishes the technique of ambient listening and how is it implied in and encouraged by the auditory dispositive? In this endeavor, I will first consider the architectural staging of ambient listening in acoustic environments, before I turn to the ambient implications of technologically amplified listening. Acoustic and amplified environments, of course, often mix and commingle in actual practice, especially in contemporary settings, but they point to different

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ways of using technology to frame, position and envelop ambient listeners in the interior world of synthetic sound.

Notes 1. Importantly, there is an essential environmental and affective dimension of Foucault’s notion of the dispositive. As Deleuze notes in his short text on Foucault’s dispositive: “We belong to social apparatuses [dispositifs] and we act within them” (Deleuze 1992, p. 164). In an interview, Foucault has himself described his notion of the dispositive in the following manner: “What I’m trying to pick out with this term is, firstly, a thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, moral and philanthropic propositions—in short, the said as much as the unsaid. Such are the elements of the apparatus. The apparatus itself is the system of relations that can be established between these elements” (Foucault 1980, p. 194). In his text on the dispositive, Giorgio Agamben further expands Foucault’s notion to include a whole ecology of material and discursive circumstances, within which living beings are captured and affectively conditioned through various processes of subjectification: “I shall call an apparatus [dispositif] literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, control, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings. Not only, therefore, prisons, madhouses, the panopticon, schools, confession, factories, disciplines, judicial measures, and so forth (whose connection with power is in a certain sense evident), but also the pen, writing, literature, philosophy, agriculture, cigarettes, navigation, computers, cellular telephones and—why not—language itself, which is perhaps the most ancient of apparatuses—one in which thousands and thousands of years ago a primate inadvertently let himself be captured, probably without realizing the consequences that he was about to face” (Agamben 2009, p. 14). 2. I will in my analyses of listening technologies focus exclusively on the material aspects of the auditory dispositive. For further discussions of the auditory dispositive in relation to modern and contemporary sound, technology and listening in the twenty-first century, see Schulze (2013, 2018, pp. 85–110), and Schulze (2019, pp. 198–200). For a discussion of the

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auditory dispositive in early sound and listening technologies of the late nineteenth century, see Drie (2015, 2016). 3. Jonathan Sterne (2003) evokes a similar distinction between technology and technique inspired by Marcel Mauss’ classic analysis, from 1934, of the ‘techniques of the body.’ Sterne thus understands listening as a skilled activity learnt through habitual practice and co-developed with the evolution of sound and listening technologies. This idea of habitual practice as a technique shaped by societal-material dispositives is also central in Foucault’s late writings (especially Discipline and Punish, 1979, and The History of Sexuality, Vol 1–4, 1978–2021). Hence, Foucault famously speaks of the “arts of existence” as a “technique of the self,” and he suggests that “the study of the problematization of sexual behavior in antiquity could be regarded as a chapter—one of the first chapters—of that general history of the ‘techniques of the self ’  ” (Foucault 1985, p.  11). This Foucauldian idea of technique as learned practice, which in part forms processes of subjectification, is in turn the guiding perspective in Jonathan Crary’s influential studies (1990, 2001) of how nineteenth-century media technologies have framed the historical development of a set of “techniques of the observer” (1990). For Crary’s discussion of Foucault and the idea of the new disciplinary techniques of the subject as associated with the development of perceptual “norms of behavior,” see Crary 1990, pp. 14–18. Following this line of thinking, Bernhard Siegert has in turn introduced a broader socio-cultural perspective with his concept of “cultural techniques,” which includes basic learnt practices such as reading, walking and navigating (Siegert 2015). 4. Kittler (1999, 2010). As Kittler observes, in a discussion of Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, “media technology must first isolate and incorporate individual sensory channels and then connect them together to form multimedia systems” (2010, p. 172). 5. Learning how to navigate this synthetic double environmentality as a general “cultural technique” (Siegert 2015) arguably entails one of the most pertinent challenges in modern hyper-affective and hyper-aestheticized culture. Interestingly, the notion of double mediality I propose here as a key aspect of modern and contemporary media also resonates closely with the double etymological origin of the concept of medium in the Greek terms periēchon and to metaxý. As I have briefly discussed earlier, periēchon entails a basic notion of the medium as an elemental surrounding environment. In contrast, to metaxý—literally meaning ‘that which is in-­ between’—underlines the intermediary capacities of the medium; its role

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as mediator between separate milieus. To metaxý is the Aristotelian concept which Thomas Aquinas turned into the Latin medium in his translation of Aristotle’s writings on sensorial perception in the thirteenth century. Combined, periēchon (surrounding elemental medium) and to metaxý (mediating medium) constitute an elemental double capacity of the medium for simultaneously surrounding an isolated body and transferring energy and information from the outside (Hoffmann 2002, pp.  29–30; see also Hagen 2008; Kittler 2009; Schmidt 2017). On another note, the idea of double mediality can also be seen as constituting a form of ‘master diagram’ for the whole book. Most importantly, it informs my general conception and analysis of environmental sound and listening between mediatized, immanent surroundability and mediated, transcendental directionality. 6. A few remarks by Sterne can be highlighted to support this interpretation: “Listening is a directed, learned activity” (Sterne 2003, p. 19); “The history of audile technique thus offers a counternarrative to Romantic or naturalistic accounts that posit sight as the sense of intellect and hearing as the sense of affect, vision as the precise, localizing sense and hearing as the enveloping sense” (ibid., p. 95); “That the technicized auditory field had certain characteristics setting it apart from ‘direct audition’ is central to understanding the development of listening in the age of technological production. Foremost among these characteristics is the emphasis on directionality and detail against a ‘holistic’ perception of the auditory environment” (ibid., pp. 156–157). 7. Sterne (2015, p. 79). According to Neil Verma, who introduced the term, ‘audioposition’ entails a sensation of being placed, virtually or actually, in a techno-material sound environment, thereby suggesting that listeners “do not just ‘have’ a point of audition; they are ‘positioned’ by audio composition” (Verma quoted in Sterne 2015, p. 70).

Bibliography Agamben, Giorgio. 2009. What Is an Apparatus? In What Is an Apparatus? and Other Essays, ed. Giorgio Agamben, 1–24. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Berland, Jody. 2009. North of Empire: Essays on the Cultural Technologies of Space. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

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Chion, Michel. 2016. Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Crary, Jonathan. 1990. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the 19th Century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ———. 2001. Suspensions of Perception: Attention, Spectacle, and Modern Culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Cruz, Maria Teresa. 2017. Medium, Dispositif, Apparatus. In Media Theory and Cultural Technologies: In Memoriam Friedrich Kittler, ed. Maria Teresa Cruz, 57–73. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Deleuze, Gilles. 1992. What Is a Dispositive? In Michel Foucault: Philosopher, ed. Timothy J. Armstrong, 159–166. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf. van Drie, Melissa. 2015. Hearing Through the Théâtrophone: Sonically Constructed Spaces and Embodied Listening in late Nineteenth-Century French Theatre. SoundEffects 5 (1): 74–90. ———. 2016. Know It Well, Know It Differently: New Sonic Practices in Late Nineteenth-Century Theatre-going. The Case of the Theatrophone in Paris. In The Auditory Culture Reader, ed. Michael Bull and Les Back, 2nd ed., 205–216. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Foucault, Michel. 1980. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977. Edited by Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon Books. ———. 1985. The Use of Pleasures: The History of Sexuality, Vol. 2. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Pantheon Books. Hagen, Wolfgang. 2008. Metaxy: Eine historiosemantische Fußnote zum Medienbegriff. In Was ist ein Medium? ed. S.  Münkerog and A.  Roesler, 13–29. Frankfurt a.M: Suhrkamp Verlag. Hagood, Mack. 2019. Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Hoffmann, Stefan. (2002). Geschichte des Medienbegriffs. Leipzig: Felix Meiner Verlag. Ihde, Don. 2007. Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound. 2nd ed. Albany: State University of New York Press. Kittler, Friedrich A. 1999. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ———. 2009. Towards an Ontology of Media. Theory, Culture & Society 26 (2–3): 23–31. Kittler, Friedrich. 2010. Optical Media. Malden, MA: Polity Press. Schmidt, Ulrik. 2017. Space as Elemental Medium: Architecture, Screen and Topological Space. In Architecture, Drawing, Topology, ed. C.  Dinesen, I.  Hyams, M.  Meldgaard, A.  Michelsen, and H.  Oxvig, 19–30. Baunach: AADR.

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Schulze, Holger. 2013. The Corporeality of Listening: Experiencing Soundscapes on Audio Guides. In Soundscapes of the Urban Past. Staged Sound as Mediated Cultural Heritage, ed. Karin Bijsterveld, 195–207. Bielefeld: trancript Verlag. ———. 2018. The Sonic Persona: An Anthropology of Sound. London: Bloomsbury Academic. ———. 2019. Sound Works: A Cultural Theory of Sound Design. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Siegert, Bernhard. 2015. Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real. Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young. New York: Fordman University Press. Sterne, Jonathan. 2003. The Audible Past. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2015. The Stereophonic Spaces of Soundscape. In Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound, ed. Paul Théberge, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett, 65–84. New York: Bloomsbury. Théberge, Paul, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett. 2015. Introduction: Living Stereo. In Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound, ed. Paul Théberge, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett, 1–34. New York: Bloomsbury.

9 Architectures of Acoustic Immanence

Mediatization of Acoustic Space The staging of acoustic listening spaces in Western culture is inseparable from a general ideal of controlled reverberation and intensified auditory sensation. This ideal can in part be traced back to the early days of modern acoustics in the late nineteenth century. New methods for advanced acoustic calculation and control, introduced around 1900, gave, as Emily Thompson argues, rise to a general “reformulation of the relationship between sound and space.” Sound “was gradually dissociated from space until the relationship ceased to exist […]. As scientists and engineers engaged increasingly with electrical representations of acoustical phenomena, sounds became indistinguishable from the circuits that produced them” (Thompson 2002, pp. 2–3). This new, essentially synthetic, ideal of acoustic sound “dissociated from space” was in sharp contrast to the conventional notion of acoustic space as a particular location, where sounds unfold in an unbroken and unmanipulated relationship with the physical surroundings. Indeed, the sonic ideal of modern acoustics directly opposes the whole idea of acoustic space as ‘natural’ and ‘organic,’ devoid of production and design. Acoustic space, from the ideal © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_9

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perspective of modern acoustics, is totally and utterly technological, synthetic, designed. Yet, on the other hand, the synthetic dissociation of sound from space in early modern acoustics doesn’t, obviously, involve any ontological elimination whatsoever of sound’s ‘natural,’ reverberatory connection to its physical surroundings. What it implies is rather the audible, onto-­aesthetic decoupling of a sound’s acoustic effect from its origin in the physical surroundings—its source and cause—so as to regulate and intensify the sensory impact of the former out in the listening environment. The sonic ideal that guided the early development of modern acoustics is, in other words, essentially an ideal of what we can distinguish as acoustic mediatization. It entails an ideal of sonic synthetization by acoustic-­architectural design, where sounds, decoupled from the inherent constraints of physical space, are set free to merge the more effectively with the regulated and fabricated vibrant surroundings as a groundless, free-­floating mattermedium; to become, as we just saw, “indistinguishable from the circuits that produced them”: source = effect = medium = environment. The dissociation of sound from its acoustic origin thus becomes a means not only for enhancing the presence of individual sounds, but for staging the entire acoustic listening environment as a consistent field, designed to perform and envelop listeners as a mediatized, detached, all-­ encompassing effect-space. There is, in other words, a deep and evident ambient inclination informing the modern ideal, shaped in early modern acoustics, of the acoustic listening environment as a synthetically designed surround. Still, however, in this generalized ambient ideal of acoustic mediatization, some forms of staging and some acoustic designs will always intensify the potential ambient sensation of interiority and surroundability more than others. Apart from the morphological and material characteristics of ambient sound discussed in Parts I and II—all of which will obviously influence the intensity of the ambient effect somewhat independently of the techno-acoustic framework—we can distinguish two key principles of sonic synthetization in acoustic design practice that are both essential factors in the overall ambient intensification of listening by acoustic means. First, it involves the intensified sensation of being enveloped in the effect-space as an immanent acoustic surround, staged by the acoustic elimination of exterior sounds and the implied synthetic disconnection of listeners from a sonic outside. Second, it

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concerns the ambient centralization of the listener within the surround, intensified through various synthetic processes of techno-aesthetic audiopositioning. In short, envelopment in interior immanence and centralization in surrounding space, being-in and being-in-the-middle.

Enhanced Reverberation The practice of staging the listening environment as an intensified effect-­ space by means of acoustic mediatization is, of course, not something that suddenly emerged with modern acoustics. It is part of a general, techno-cultural paradigm for staging acoustic space that was introduced centuries before modern acoustics, and later amplified sound, revolutionized sonic space design. Before the nineteenth century, mediatization of acoustic space by architectural-technological means was almost entirely limited to the principle of enhanced reverberation, often implemented to a point of radical excess. The fascination of the spectacular effects of acoustic reverberation is ancient, and countless important historical examples can be observed of the use of enhanced reverberation to intensify aesthetic experience. Apparently, the quality and intensity of reverberation was a key factor in the prehistoric selection and arrangement of sites for ritual practice. For instance, studies of paleolithic cave art have observed the preference for certain acoustic ‘hot spots’—interior sites where some frequencies are acoustically amplified or where the reverberation is particularly pronounced—as the location for many of most elaborate wall paintings, suggesting the central role of enhanced reverberation in early ritualized performance.1 Later in history, various architectural methods for amplifying reverberation were applied to actively improve the audibility of acoustic sounds in a specific site, most famously in the spectacular acoustics of the Greek amphitheater. Combining a demand for acoustic intelligibility with a growing need to contain a large audience, the Greek open-air theater used a controlled reverberatory design to simultaneously enhance intelligibility and expand the acoustic range of the auditorium. As Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter note, the Greek theater could tolerate neither the excessive reverberation time of large enclosed spaces nor, with the political need to accommodate large

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audiences drawn from a democratic society, the limited audience size of smaller enclosures. The open-air amphitheater would remain the only means of combining a large audience with oratorical clarity until the advent of electronic broadcasting in the twentieth century, with its widely distributed audiences. (Blesser and Salter 2007, pp. 94–95)

However, when enhanced reverberation was later employed as a key design principle in medieval and renaissance architecture, the intended effects stood in sharp contrast to the Greek theater’s ideals of acoustic clarity and range. One of the most notable historical examples of this is, of course, the Gothic and Norman cathedrals. The radically extended reflections of sound from the cathedral’s hard and rounded stone walls cause a massive, voluminous spread of free-floating vibration from all sides and throughout the entire effect-space. When there are only few individual and local acoustic obstructions to attach singular sonic events to specific locations, even the most distinct sound is onto-aesthetically emancipated from its acoustic origin, and it will tend to mix the more smoothly and intensively with all other sounds in an interior immanence of total ubiquitous vibration. Blesser and Salter describe this characteristic ubiquity effect of the cathedral interior—and the mediatizing dissociation of source and effect on which it depends—as an “enveloping aural ambience.”2 The enveloping ubiquity effect so characteristic of medieval cathedrals and similar large and empty spaces, however, is not a product of the radically extended reverberation time alone. The sensation is also intensified by the interior’s coloring of the sonic environment by acoustically dampening high-pitched sounds. In R. Murray Schafer’s account, the stone walls and floors of Norman and Gothic cathedrals produced not only an abnormally long reverberation time (six seconds or more) but also reflected sounds of low and medium frequencies as well, discriminating against high frequencies above 2,000 hertz owing to the greater absorption of the walls and air in that range. Anyone who has heard monks chanting plainsong in one of these old buildings will never forget the effect: the voices seem to issue from no point but suffuse the building like perfume. (Schafer 1994, p. 118)3

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In that sense, the acoustic design of excessive reverberation and the enhancement of rumbling, low-pitched vibration, as epitomized by the Gothic and Norman cathedrals, can be said to constitute the quintessential expression of a premodern architectural staging of ambient listening. By combining massive accumulation with an emphasis of low-pitched, non-localizable masses, the whole environment is meticulously designed to blend all sounds into a consistent, all-encompassing matter-medium of synthetic acoustic immanence.

Acousmatization and Mediatization of the Acoustic Interior When the medieval cathedral’s enhanced acoustic reverberation to produce ambient effects and stage ambient listening, it generally applied to the entire interior space as an integrated whole. However widespread and culturally influential it may be, this type of acoustic design comprises but a niche, though, in the modern history of the listening environment. Instead, the all-dominant model for the architectural staging of listening in a modern context is the divided interior, epitomized by the split structure of the modern theater, in which the space of sonic production and the space of listening are separated into detached sections with different functions and status. Hence, in terms of sound and listening, the modern theatrical division between the physical stage and the auditorium—a structure it inherited from the proscenium stage of the Greek theater— functions by dissociating listener, effect and source in a spatial constellation, which has some important similarities with the veiled scenario of acousmatic listening. Indeed, as discussed earlier, acousmatic listening is not essentially a product of electrical sound (re)production but part of a much longer tradition for the acoustic staging of a split relationship between sound production and the listening environment. As Brian Kane notes, modern audio technology “does not create acousmatic experience; rather, acousmatic experience, first discovered in the Pythagorean context, creates the conditions for modern audio technology” (Kane 2014, pp. 4–5). In addition to the veiled lectures of Pythagoras, the tradition of

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conditioning acousmatic experience by acoustic means can be observed in various audiovisual design strategies within the Christian church, such as the veiling of the priest and confessant in the catholic confessional, and in the practice of clausura, during sixteenth century, where nuns were proscribed to sing hidden from view behind grilles. Already the gothic cathedral can in effect be considered a form of acousmatic design. The profound dissociation of source and reverberatory effect was a central component in its acoustic aesthetics, which helped intensifying the auditory aura of otherworldly, angelic presence. Still, however, the ‘cathedral sound’ as acoustic effect is in essence not so much about acousmatic veiling and the ‘auratic’ staging of otherworldly transcendence, otherwise so instrumental in liturgical listening. Nothing is necessarily veiled from view. Excessive reverberation is therefore mainly acousmatic in a metaphoric sense, associated with the sensation of the sounds’ sources being ‘sonically veiled’ behind the massive, accumulated layers of reverberatory effects.4 Instead, the prime example of a specifically modern acousmatic staging of acoustic space is found in one of the most famous institutions in pre-twentieth-century theater design: the hidden orchestra in Richard Wagner’s concert hall in Bayreuth, built in 1876. As Theodor W. Adorno famously argues, the aesthetic essence of Wagner’s veiled orchestral pit, tucked under the proscenium stage, lies in its production of ‘phantasmagoric’ special effects, manifested, for instance, by the synthetic, spatially expanding experience of loud sounds coming from far away in Wagner’s Venusberg music, one of Adorno’s key examples (Adorno 2005). But as Kane demonstrates, the relationship between phantasmagoria, acousmatics and modern listening is considerably more complex than a mere introduction of new special effects suggests. The phantasmagoric veiling of the orchestral pit introduces a whole new architectural-technological framework for the acousmatic staging of audiovisual performance (Kane 2014, p. 99). I will argue, however, that the aesthetic effect produced by the hidden orchestra is in essence neither about evoking a mystic of veiled sonic production (as implied in the Adornian idea of phantasmagoria), nor about creating aesthetic tension between the veiled and the exposed (as implied in the idea of acousmatics). It is essentially about producing a synthetic sensation of acoustic mediatization by which sonic effects, onto-aesthetically decoupled from

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their sources, fill the listening space with a sense of detached, immediate presence. Kane describes a defining episode in the young Wagner’s life, which can help to illustrate this subtle but crucial difference between phantasmagoria, acousmatics and acoustic mediatization in the Bayreuth design: One day, while overhearing a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony from a room partly separated from the orchestra hall by a half wall, Wagner experienced how the music “came to the ear in a compact and ethereal sort of unity.”5 Thus, as Kane argues, while there is “no drastic change in the acoustical signal of the orchestra […], according to Wagner, the whole effect of the music is transformed when the ugly mechanism of production is phantasmagorically veiled” (Kane 2014, p. 102). Yet, this transformation is arguably not so much about the effect of acousmatic veiling itself and the tension it creates between veiled and exposed, source and effect. It is not only the source, but the whole spatial relation between source and event that is being veiled in Wagner’s design. Rather than exposing and aestheticizing the tension between immanence and transcendence, it stages a sensation of ‘pure’ and undivided acoustic immanence. This effect of ‘pure,’ mediatized immanence associated with a disguising of the very means of production is in part already implied in Adorno’s reading of the Wagnerian phantasmagoria. Inspired by Karl Marx—who saw the obscuring of the industrial production process as the phantasmagoric basis for the commodity’s ‘fetish-character’ so central to the capitalist system of exchange—Adorno argues how Wagner, by concealing the apparatus of sonic production, intensifies the ‘spectacular’ presentification of sound as a “self-producing” material “medium”: The occultation of production by means of the outward appearance of the product—that is the formal law governing the works of Richard Wagner. The product presents itself as self-producing […]. In the absence of any glimpse of the underlying forces or conditions of its production, this outer appearance can lay claim to the status of being. […] The great phantasmagorias that recur again and again occupy a central position in his work, one where all movement has its origins. They are all defined in terms of the medium of sound. (Adorno 2005, pp. 74–75)

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In other words, the hidden orchestra, and the emancipation of the sonic material it affords, writes Adorno, “intensifies the element of illusion by transferring the emphasis from the essence, the musical event in itself, to the appearance, the sound” (ibid., p. 87). In his reading of Wagner’s phantasmagoria, Adorno thus outlines a basic sonic effect which in some respects resembles what I have termed acoustic mediatization. In the acousmatic architecture, Wagner’s music becomes a mediatic-material force of synthetic movement, emancipated as a groundless self-generating event. By merging everything into a seamless, synthetic unit of audiovisual performance, originating in the same artificial sphere of phantasmagoric production, sound seems to transform into an autopoietic life-form of its own, a form of immanent second nature: By striving for “an artifice so perfect that it conceals all the sutures in the final artefact and even blurs the difference between it and nature itself,” Wagner’s phantasmagoria “presupposes the same radical alienation from anything natural that its attempt to establish itself as a unified ‘second nature’ sets out to obscure” (Adorno 2005, p. 87). Wagner’s phantasmagoric orchestra is the prime target of Adorno’s general critique of what he sees as the Wagnerian reification and commodification of sound as a ‘surface effect’—an effect he believed was closely linked to general societal developments of the time. Nevertheless, Wagner’s stage design must be regarded as the first, and undoubtedly one of the most distinct, examples of an emerging ambient paradigm in acoustic theater design at the time, which would later become the all-­ dominant standard for the architectural-technological staging of acoustic listening environments throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By veiling the means of acoustic production, Wagner eliminates the auditory sense of an environmental outside. However, the phantasmagoric mystery Adorno associated with Wagner’s design, would soon settle in a much more mundane standard effect of intensified material presence. By eliminating the sense of an outside, the hidden orchestra creates the spatial framework for the production and presentification of the musical event as a consistent, immanent field of detached matter-flow. A consistent field in which sounds are not so much experienced as being magically produced and mediated from elsewhere, but as (if ) they emerge from within the same physical environment as that of the listener. What this also

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means, however, is that the essence of Wagner’s acousmatic design is, in fact, not the production of acousmatic effects at all. It veils, but it is not ‘about’ veiling itself. Its aesthetics is not an acousmatic aesthetics. The acousmatic separation of the space of production (orchestra pit) and space of listening (the auditorium) no longer creates, to any significant degree, a sense of tension between presence and absence so essential to the acousmatic principle, but dissolves in the material immediacy of an all-encompassing effect-space. The acousmatic separation of source from effect becomes but a means for their onto-aesthetic reintegration in a unified and intensified acoustic immanence.

Anti-reverberatory Purification Wagner’s Bayreuth revolutionized the acoustic staging of the relation between performance and listening space by synthetizing the entire sonic environment into a total event. The acoustic manipulation of the sonic material itself—that is, the design of the sound’s acoustic propagation and reverberation in space—was not, however, of any particular concern in his design. As mentioned, this lack of interest was made up for with the birth of modern acoustics around 1900. With the radical changes in the conception and design of sonic environments it brought about came also new aesthetic ideals. These new ideals introduced by modern acoustics are, more than anything, characterized by a harsh, direct and persistent revolt against uncontrolled and excessive reverberation. As such, they were in large part founded on and actively fostering decidedly anti-­ ambient sensibilities in favor of a purist ideal of clear, distinctive and detailed listening. As Emily Thompson notes: Reverberation, the lingering over time of residual sound in a space, had always been a direct result of the architecture that created it, a function of both the size of a room and the materials that constituted its surfaces. As such, it sounded the acoustic signature of each particular place, representing the unique character (for better or worse) of the space in which it was heard. With the rise of the modern soundscape this would no longer be the case. Reverberation now became just another kind of noise, unnecessary and best eliminated. (Thompson 2002, p. 3)

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The acoustic ideal of the early modern listening space around 1900–1930 can, in other words, be seen as a direct precursor of later hi-fi ideals of distinct sounds clearly mediated to the listener in a space freed from noise, distortion and muddling reverberation. In order to realize this ideal of clear and transparent acoustic mediation, modern acoustics introduced an, essentially anti-Wagnerian, architectural-technological model, the primary function of which it was to emphasize the separation between the production space and the listening space as an acoustic difference—the separation which both the cathedral and the hidden orchestra had sought to overcome and eliminate in various way. Enabled by an extended strategic use of acoustic calculations and the development of new materials and new design methods, which in turn radically improved the means for controlling and regulating a space’s acoustic reverberation pattern, the result was a highly controlled acoustic environment, split between two separate spaces, each with its own radically different acoustic properties. The primary aesthetic function of this new ‘hi-fi’ acoustic environment is to acoustically amplify the sound in the production space without simultaneously burying the product in a noisy chaos of excessive acoustic reverberation in the listening space. Reverberation and volume were intensified in the production space to amplify and synthesize the effect of the performance as a phantasmagoric whole. And in the listening space, reverberation time was radically reduced, made possible by new acoustic calculation methods such as Wallace Sabine’s reverberation formula (Thompson 2002, pp. 13–113). As a result, a sound simply did not sound the same in the two spaces, through which it propagated. The acoustic interior became a divided sonic space in the most literal sense. And as a consequence, it staged listening as a directional, typically frontal, practice, organized around the aesthetic ideal of acoustic detail and transparency in mediation. In other words, the modern concert hall, and eventually—as the new ideals and practices spread to all domains of acoustic-architectural design during the first half of the twentieth century—the modern urban interior as such, started to sound in ways that directly anticipated that of the early, electronically amplified sound environment.6 The acoustic interior listening space became an artificially controlled and amplified listening space.

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Notes 1. See Blesser and Salter (2007, pp. 74–76). During a visit to the Niaux cave in the French Pyrenees in the summer of 2022, I had a chance to observe this remarkable phenomenon myself. Comparing the central ‘black chamber,’ the chamber containing the cave’s main paintings (about half an hour’s walk into the cave), with other chambers with no or only few paintings, there was an immense and immediately observable difference in reverberation time. In the black chamber, reverberation time was roughly around 8–10 s; in other chambers it was around 1–2 s. For analyses of acoustic reverberation in Niaux and other caves, see Waller (1999, 2012). 2. Blesser and Salter (2007, p. 62). Blesser and Salter associate the enveloping reverberation with a sensation of mediatized ubiquity: “Aside from its influence on acoustic arena size and listeners’ spatial responsiveness, reverberation is unlike all other sounds. Because enveloping reverberation cannot be localized as a sound originating from a particular place, we refer to it as ‘enveloping aural ambience’” (ibid.). 3. Schafer draws on the Austrian music sociologist Kurt Blaukopf ’s description of how the “sound in Norman and Gothic churches, surrounding the audience, strengthens the link between the individual and the community. The loss of high frequencies and the resulting impossibility of localizing the sound makes the believer part of a world of sound. He does not face the sound in ‘enjoyment’—he is wrapped up by it” (Kurt Blaukopf, quoted in Schafer 1994, p. 118). 4. By comparison, the clausura—the effect of which have many similarities with the detached, reverberatory mass of the cathedral—is precisely based on a tense perceptual veiling of the source (the nuns) to stimulate a sense of angelic, otherworldly transcendence. Hence, as Kane notes, the “clausura can be understood as a technology that, despite its obviously repressive aspects, produced acousmatic situations in order to make the sensuous audition of the angelic voice all the more transcendent” (Kane 2014, p. 109). 5. Wagner quoted in Kane (2014, p. 102). In addition, Kane also quotes a strikingly similar passage in Søren Kierkegaard’s Either/Or (1843). Here, Kierkegaard’s protagonist Johannes describes how the experience of Mozart’s Don Giovanni changed significantly depending on the listeners’ position in relation to the orchestra: “I have sat close up, I have sat farther and farther back, I have tried a corner in the theater where I could completely lose myself in the music. The better I understood it […] the farther

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away I was. […] I stand outside in the corridor; I lean up against the partition which divides me from the auditorium, and then the impression is most powerful: it is a world by itself, separated from me; I can see nothing, but I am near enough to hear, and yet so infinitely far away” (Kierkegaard quoted in Kane 2014, p. 251). 6. As Thompson notes, “this modern sound was not simply the outcome, or output, of new electroacoustic technologies; it was also heard in rooms for live performance that were not wired for sound. Well before application of the new electrical technologies had become widespread, acousticians had begun to promote new acoustical criteria that minimized the significance of reverberation and emphasized the direct transmission and clear reception of sound. The modern spaces that embodied these new standards—from the Eastman Theatre to the Hollywood Bowl—thus produced sounds much like those increasingly being reproduced via microphones and loudspeakers” (Thompson 2002, p. 234).

Bibliography Adorno, Theodor W. 2005. In Search of Wagner. London and New York: Verso. Blesser, Barry, and Linda-Ruth Salter. 2007. Spaces Speak, Art You Listening?: Experiencing Aural Architecture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Kane, Brian. 2014. Sound Unseen. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. Schafer, R.  Murray. 1994. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. Thompson, Emily. 2002. The Soundscape of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Waller, Steven J. 1999. Rock Art Acoustics in the Past, Present, and Future. 1999 International Rock Art Conference Proceedings 2: 11–20. Waller, Steven J. 2012. Thunderous Reverberation and Rock Art Thunderstorm Imagery. In J. Clottes: L’art pléistocène dans le monde / Pleistocene art of the world / Arte pleistoceno en el mundo. Actes du Congrès IFRAO, Tarascon-sur-­ Ariège, Spécial de Préhistoire, Art et Sociétés, Bulletin de la Société Préhistorique Ariège-Pyrénées, LXV–LXVI, 2010–2011: 1725–1740.

10 Amplified Surrounds

Amplified Expansion and Centralization The modern, divided and technologically controlled acoustic listening space introduced a general model for organizing the relation between listener and sound that would also inform the architectural-technological staging of electronically amplified theatrical listening spaces throughout the twentieth century. Here, in the amplified theater, the acoustically split proscenium structure continued to nurture a specific techno-­ aesthetic ideal of clear, audible signal and detail-oriented listening. In addition, it also continued the basic principle of placing the listener in a distant, frontal audioposition, directed toward an isolated space of sonic production and performance from somewhere outside. This model of frontal and directional listening in an acoustically divided space, originating in the advanced acoustic interior of the modern concert hall, was basically maintained in the early years of electronic sound (re) production.1 During the first half of the twentieth century, this basic model for the staging of the listening environment was to be challenged continually in various parts of the burgeoning audio industry. This was partly due to an © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_10

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increasing desire for perceptual realism, which was already present to some extent in the early years of technological sound reproduction. In particular, a growing dissatisfaction flourished with the ways in which the ‘natural’ 360 degree listening environment of acoustic reality was largely eliminated in the divided and directed loudspeaker-environment (Théberge et al. 2015b, p. 5). In addition, the industry’s growing concern with limited, frontal audiopositioning was also justified in the nearly opposite desire to use the newly accomplished technological means to stage a more ‘spectacular’ listening experience through an ever more powerful and intense techno-aesthetic envelopment of listeners. Hence, already during the early years of electronic sound (re)production, ideals of perceptual realism went hand in hand with opposite ideals of spectacular, hyper-intensified artifice in discussions of how to stage an increasingly more surrounding listening environment.2 However, at least until the 1920s, new technological inventions in sound (re)production were still mainly focused on improving the quality and credibility of reproduction and on developing better possibilities for sonic amplification and public address (Thompson 2002; Sterne 2003). In short, mimetic realism and improved audibility in the reproduction process, rather than perceptual realism and spectacle in the listening space. A greatly improved reduction of signal to noise ratios and a significant increase in volume and frequency range, made possible by the introduction of electronic microphones and loudspeakers in the early 1920s, supported this quest for improved reproduction. But at the same time, it radically expanded the scope of the technically (re)produced sound environment. By increasing the minimum distance required between listener and (technological) sound source, electronical loudspeakers now, obviously, enabled a much larger amount of people to listen comfortably to the same technically (re)produced sound in the same physical space at the same time. The simple increase of the amplified signal’s volume range was thus in its own right a cardinal point in the development of an auditory mass culture. It enabled a vast variety of new possibilities for the staging of environmental listening, including events of largescale public address, communal domestic radio listening, functional background music in work and shopping spaces, and sound film. And at the same time, the radical expansion of the sonic environment and the possibilities for

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aestheticized environmental listening in everyday life, the development was also a turning point in the general cultural-technological staging of ambient listening.3 Perhaps even more decisive for the technological promotion of ambient listening, though, was the new possibility, so immensely commonplace today, of multiplying identical, simultaneous sound sources. With the monaural, multi-speaker PA system it thus became possible, for the first time in history, to envelope listeners in a total field of disseminated and distributed, yet identical sounds coming at the listener from all sides. With this literal expansion of the sonic environment in all directions, modern sound technology could now fill entire spaces with a mass of vibrant sonic matter not entirely different from the hyper-reverberant enveloping acoustic interiors of the medieval cathedrals. The norm of the frontally oriented listening space, which early modern acoustic and electronic sound environments inherited from nineteenth-century bourgeois concert and theater culture, gradually began to find new and more ambient alternatives for the staging of environmental listening—but now without the muddy uncontrollable chaos of excessive acoustic reverberation. The techno-aesthetic battle, in the early years of electronic amplification, between mimetic and perceptual realism and between directional and ambient listening persisted in the early years of stereophonic sound. Compared to mono, stereophony obviously provides a radical advancement in the technological possibility of separating individual sounds within the field. This improved the medium’s capacity for creating figurative tension between more and less important parts, which in turn afforded new audile techniques for selective and directional attention to detail. At the same time, however, and by virtue of the exact same technological innovations, stereophony also constitutes a historical milestone in the staging of ambient listening. Based on the technological principle of horizontal overlap between signals from two individual sound sources, stereophonic sound reproduction enables a much wider and more direct simulation of spatial depth and audio perspective in an otherwise relatively flat and centered sonic field in front of the listener. Most important here, though, is the essentially ambient attentiveness— already observable, if  only in principle, from the very introduction of

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stereophonic sound in the late nineteenth century—to stereo’s capacities for spectacularly placing the listener in what was thought of, and forcefully promoted by the industry, as the ‘ideal audioposition.’4 “What stereo is said to accomplish,” Tony Grajeda notes, “is an entire world of ‘favored’ seats, technologically installing a phenomenology of the ‘sweet spot’ for every listening subject” (Grajeda 2015, p. 47). This general ideal pervades the audio industry’s promotion of stereo from the very beginning, as it is unambiguously illustrated, for example, in a 1958 marketing campaign by Columbia Records proclaiming how stereo sound “puts you in the Center of Sound.”5 With the combination of a multi-speaker setup, spatial expansion of the environment and stereophonic centralization of the listener, the invention of stereophonic sound thus arguably comprises, on several parameters, a direct aural equivalent to the technological-­geometrical invention of visual perspective in early renaissance painting. Like visual perspective, stereo stages ambient sensations of being surrounded by combining a centralized and immobile positioning of the viewer/listener with an artificial, enclosed and expanded three-­dimensional space, into which this viewer/listener is virtually projected. As Grajeda observes, “one of the central contradictions” to the experience of stereophonic listening is thus that it “involved a motionless auditor surrounded by sound in motion. That is to say, sound had been ‘liberated’ precisely at a moment when the listener had been put in his place” (Grajeda 2015, p. 59).

Cinematic Surround Sound As just mentioned, the ideal of a static, centralized listener comfortably absorbed in a virtually expanded, enveloping field of vibrant sound was intensely promoted by the sonic industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the epitome of advanced hi-fi listening. As an ideal it was, however, quite far from the actual technological circumstances surrounding everyday listening at the time. The industry’s proclaimed control of sonic space and audiopositioning stood in direct contrast to the lo-fi realities of typical home stereos settings and public playback. The proclaimed ideals, however, would soon find a much more direct realization in the specialized and much more controllable audiovisual listening environment of

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the cinema theater, which underwent a radical technological transformation in the same period, especially with the introduction of stereophonic surround sound. Introduced for mainstream cinema with the CinemaScope format in 1953, cinematic surround sound envisioned an ideal—already cultivated acoustically in the concert halls of the first part of the century—for advanced technological mass listening centered around the aesthetic principle of what we could call a ‘communal sweet spot.’6 Without doubt, cinematic surround sound constitutes a culmination of the modern audio industry’s ambient aspirations and desires. Finally, an electronic system existed which, by producing and staging an actually surrounding environment out in the listening space, could directly afford, if not aggressively demand, the audience’s total absorption in the techno-aesthetic practice of ambient listening. The introduction of cinematic surround sound took place in a period when mainstream Hollywood cinema was still largely defined by the studio era’s hierarchical model of cinematic space structured around centralized, directional, object- and information-oriented listening with a surrounding, omnidirectional field of peripheral, secondary ambiences. This aesthetics of cinematic space was furthermore, as I have briefly mentioned, split between opposite ideals of realism and spectacle. This double schism of directional-omnidirectional and realistic-spectacular listening—a double schism, which to some extent saturates stereophonic listening on a general level—has arguably haunted surround sound from its early years till today’s digital surround sound. This is clearly expressed in the continuous struggle, also among present-day techno-acoustic engineers and sound designers, to balance intelligible dialogue with surround sound’s intensified sensation of an expanded, omnidirectional cinematic space (Wright 2015). Already in the early years of surround sound, practitioners sought to establish a form of balance by transferring the period’s ideals of a clearly defined, hierarchical and vococentric audiovisual scene to the surround sound environment. Sounds corresponding to significant onscreen events (dialogue and key action) were thus foregrounded in the surround mix and centered in the image-space through the frontal speakers, whereas background sounds (offscreen sound effects, music and environmental sounds) were spread out into the rear loudspeakers (and in later surround systems also channels beside and above the audience) to

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create “effects of spatialization” and “richly layered ambiences” (Buhler 2019, p. 273). This simple scheme of early surround sound—“to put foreground sound to the center channel and background and special effects elsewhere” (ibid.)—was continued without much alteration well into the 1990s. While radically expanding the sonic environment and intensifying the sense of physical envelopment, surround sound thus still largely maintained the conventional figurative hierarchy between foreground and background, established in very first years of monophonic sound film, now simply adding what was, also in the most literal sense, but a mere side effect, dynamically surrounding the stable, centered and well-­ defined dialogue and onscreen action. Expanded four-channel surround systems such as Dolby SVA, which were introduced in theaters during the 1970s and 1980s, did not substantially alter this basic model of the studio era. Hence, even at a time when ideals in sound design practice, as described in Part II, had begun to shift, profoundly and permanently, toward a synthetic dehierarchization and destabilization of the total audiovisual environment, and thus to redefine the whole relationship between sound and image, Dolby SVA was in essence still conceptualized as “monaural sound with an ambient field” (Buhler 2019, p. 273). Yet, while largely retaining the conventions of frontality and figurative segregation, Dolby SVA nonetheless had an immense significance in the general development toward a more intensified ambient staging of the listening environment by architectural-technological means. A key factor in this development is the aforementioned emergence of the superfield (Chion). The technological possibilities of a dramatically expanded frequency range and increased loudness combined with a much higher number of surround speakers gave the cinematic listening space a whole new depth and the ambient surround a much more vibrant and solid environmental materiality (Donnelly 2013, p. 357). Thus, by bathing the entire physical space in loud and ubiquitous, low-frequency sound (but still largely retaining the hierarchical design model of the studio era), Dolby surround sound initiated a fundamental change in the relationship between diegetic and physical space. As Mark Kerins notes, Dolby surround sound afforded an onto-aesthetic approximation between screen space and physical space. With its “spread of the diegetic world’s

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ambient sounds throughout the multi-channel sound space into the space of the theater,” it created an effect of “literally enveloping the audience in the sounds of the onscreen world.”7 The sweeping emancipation of environmental sounds in standard sound design practice after the mid-­1970s is, in this respect, directly supported by the technological affordance of surround sound to stimulate a complex, simultaneous mix of spectacular-immersive and realistic-diegetic sensations. With the expanded superfield of Dolby surround, the spectacular, hyper-affective experience of being actually enveloped in a total field of vibrant sonic matter merge with an opposite, hyper-realistic sense of medial transparency and frictionless transport into ‘another’ world of synthetic, fabricated wholeness. In short, the ambient audioposition in physical, actual space merge with the ambient point of audition in diegetic, virtual space.8 The superfield is thus not only a product of the aforementioned ambient dehierarchization of the audiovisual scene, which gradually emerged in contemporary film sound design during the 1970s. It is also directly linked to a specific technological development in multi-channel sound technology and the material expansion of the physical space of the auditorium it affords. The full potentials of this ambient affordance were not fully realized, however, until the introduction of 5.1 digital surround sound (DSS) in the 1990s (Buhler 2019, p. 275). Hence, in contrast to the frontally balanced Dolby surround environment of the 1970s and 1980s, DSS prompted a whole new conception of cinematic space among sound engineers and sound mixers, where the surround speakers were no longer considered as subordinate and secondary in comparison to the frontal speakers. Instead, all six channels (three frontals, two surrounds and one for low frequencies) finally began to be treated as separate, independent channels in a spheric, dehierarchized system. Consider the example of Dolby Atmos, Dolby’s latest standard DSS format introduced in 2013. Atmos expands the 5.1 format to a 9.1 channel system with up to 128 speakers placed around and above the audience. By making it possible to position individual diegetic and non-diegetic events in the physical environment with hyper-realistic precision, Atmos stages, to a much larger extent than earlier systems, the whole diegetic-­ material environment as an undivided, fully decentralized and spectacularly ‘real’ continuum of enveloping sound around the audience (Wright

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2015, p. 241). In direct contrast to both the damped, non-­reverberant acoustics of the early modern concert hall and the frontal directionality of stereo, recent DSS systems can in this respect be seen as a revitalization of the aesthetics of spatial listening associated with earlier pre-amplified production of intensified acoustic immanence; a ‘virtual cathedral’ of twenty-first-century audiovisual spectacle.9 The obvious difference being that this new amplified immanence is staged as a hyper-­realistic doubleeffect of being immersed in a diegetic-material, virtual-actual matter-medium. With the heightened autonomy of the surround channels and the intensified sense of spectacular diegetic-material surroundability it affords, DDS has extended the aesthetic potentials of surround sound far beyond the conventional hierarchical listening space promoted by Dolby Stereo. As a consequence, the superfield has gained a whole new importance in the techno-material staging of listening in contemporary cinema. To highlight this development, and to distinguish between the superfield in its Dolby Stereo-limited, hierarchically balanced version and the superfield in more spheric, dehierarchized DSS-environments, Mark Kerins has introduced the term ultrafield. The ultrafield differs from the superfield on several points. First, where “the superfield maintains a sonic continuity,” as Kerins notes, the ultrafield constantly shifts sounds around the multi-channel environment. Second, it encompasses a much broader array of sonic elements than its predecessor. Where Chion limited the superfield to ambient sounds and noises, the ultrafield encompasses not just these background sounds but the entire aural world of the film, including sound effects, dialogue, and diegetic music. (Kerins 2011, p. 92, my emphasis)

With the superfield, the sonic environment started to emancipate itself from the image space and expand into the surrounds. In comparison, the ultrafield in a sense reintroduces, although on whole new terms, a close relationship between image and sound and between the film’s visual environment (onscreen) and the surrounding sonic environment (onscreen, offscreen and nondiegetic). While the superfield presented a consistent sonic continuum, the function of which it was to ground and stabilize a fragmented image space, the ultrafield presents a constantly “shifting

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sonic environment” (Kerins 2011, p. 92), clinging to the evermore fluctuating montage of the visual space. The crucial difference between the ultrafield and earlier models, however, is that the ultrafield’s recoupling of the otherwise emancipated sonic environment with the diegetic onscreen action now takes place in a mutual and essentially dehierarchized relationship. Breaking with all of cinema’s classic design conventions of how to combine image and sound into a coherent space, “the ultrafield seeks not to provide a continuous aural environment, but rather to continuously provide an accurate spatial environment where aural and visual space match. In short, the ultrafield is the three-dimensional sonic environment of the diegetic world, continuously reoriented to match the camera’s visual perspective” (Kerins 2011, p. 92). All this may indeed indicate a return to a more fragmented and inconsistent environment in ultrafield-based DSS design, with environmental sounds chaotically popping up and disappearing in a hectic attempt to follow the rapid flicker of the fast-cut visuals. But, quite the contrary, the ultrafield’s a-hierarchical recoupling of visual space and ambient sound is arguably a decisive component in what we can distinguish as a general ambient intensification of environmental consistency in contemporary digital cinema. The dehierarchized mutuality of image and sound in DSS is a finetuned design product, the main purpose of which it is to synthesize, to a much more radical extent, the whole cinematic space into a smooth audiovisual continuum of total immanence by leveling out the environmental distinction between image space and sound space. Perhaps, with this crucial change from the superfield to the ultrafield, we are finally able to identify the central ambient principle that informs the aesthetic use of surround sound in contemporary cinema: That the primary, and in itself essentially ambient, purpose of digital surround sound is not, eventually, to stage a more ambient sonic environment. It is to stage a more ambient cinema.

Non-cinematic Surround Sound While DSS forcefully challenges the conventional perception of the cinematic environment as essentially directional and hierarchical, the ultrafield’s audiovisual dehierarchization of sound space and image space is, of

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course, never absolute. The ultrafield, then, should perhaps rather be regarded as a synthetic design ideal that has been developed and implemented to intensify the ambient sensation of surroundability within a general system of cinematographic conventions for conveying narrative structure and diegetic action, and in which some degree of frontal, screen-, human- and vococentric directionality will likely always remain. For that reason, while synthetic design strategies and advanced surround technologies that afford a hitherto unheard-of degree of environmental decentralization and audiovisual dehierarchization have become standard in contemporary digital cinema, not least in high-profile blockbuster movies and megaplex theaters, the ambient ideal of total, univocal sonic envelopment has found a more unequivocal expression in surround sound productions outside the cinema. This especially applies in the field of sound art and electro-acoustic music. Custom-built systems for decentralized environmental sound projection comprise an important niche in the history of sound art and experimental music. To provide just a few, famous examples, consider, for instance, the Philips Pavilion. Designed for Brussels World Fair in 1958 by Le Corbusier and Yannis Xenakis and with music by Edgard Varèse, it famously incorporated more than 300 loudspeakers and multiple visual projections. The main purpose with the vast sound and image system was, in the words of Philips sound engineer Willem Tak, to give “the illusion that various sound-sources were in motion around them, rising and falling, coming together and moving apart again, and moreover the space in which this took place was to seem at one instant to be narrow and ‘dry,’ and at another to seem like a cathedral.”10 Likewise, Karlheinz Stockhausen experimented, from the early 1960s on, with spheric projection in several of his major works, including a now legendary electro-acoustic performance of Kontakte in Cologne, 1960. In the German pavilion at the Osaka World Fair in 1970, he famously performed a series of works in the newbuilt Kugelauditorium, a small spherical concert hall specially designed for the performance, with 50 loudspeakers distributed around the compact space in 7 concentric circles. According to Stockhausen, the sounds in the spheric auditorium “could make complete circles around people, not only horizontal circles, but vertical circles […] or spiral movements of all different loops […]. Multiple sound sources could be made

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to swirl along arbitrary trajectories, intersecting and interleaving each other. This polyphony of spatial movements, and the speed of the sound, became as important as the pitch of the sound, the duration of the sound, or the timbre of the sound.”11 Today, similar techniques for decentralized sonic spatialization have become household components in much electronic music and sound art, but now typically by the use of advanced DSS systems.12 One of the most common of such systems is Ambisonics, invented in 1973. What distinguishes Ambisonics and similar advanced DDS systems from standard cinematographic DDS, and in some regards also from the custom-­ designed systems of early electroacoustic music, is first of all that it employs a non-site-specific, non-user-centric, and radically a-hierarchical approach to the (re)production and architectural staging of the sonic environment. Ambisonics is what could be called a spatially non-specific system. In contrast to the hierarchical standard of organizing the listening space around the distinction between central and peripheral zones, no components in the Ambisonics production process (from recording to mixing and projection) are pre-adapted to a specific performance space. Likewise, Ambisonics is designed so as not to encode audio output in relation to a specific arrangement of loudspeakers or an expected placement of the audience in the physical space. Instead, down to its basic techno-material structure, Ambisonics is oriented toward the production of a decoupled, objective and primordially non-hierarchical sound field. As Rozenn Nicol explains about the Ambisonics sound field: In general, stereophony and multichannel surround sound can be defined as loudspeaker and listener-centric channel-based methods, wherein sound reproduction is based on a specific set of audio channels associated for a given loudspeaker setup. Using these systems, each channel is contributing to a focused sound image for a listener located in the sweet spot. As opposed to stereophony and multichannel surround sound, the sound field approach [in Ambisonics and similar systems] is based on a non-speaker-centric physical representation of the sound waves. (Nicol 2018, p. 276)

Compared to classical surround sound, Ambisonics systems are, in other words, characterized by a remarkable lack of a priori distinctions between different categories, meanings and affective potentials in relation

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to a given sonic material, including any a priori distinction between central and peripheral sounds. Instead, it presents an isotropic sound field; that is, a sound field in which all sounds, on the techno-material level of the system itself, are treated equally without regard to their potential function, placement and effect in the overall environment. While stereo and classical surround sound produce surrounds according to a transcendental, preestablished scheme of perceptual surroundability (such as preconfigured notions of communal and personalized sweet spots, directional and omnidirectional sensation, and virtual distance between listener and sound), Ambisonics abandons all preconceived notions of spatial hierarchy to produce truly univocal fields of sonic matter organized on the physical level of sound waves and without regards to potential perception.13 Now, what are the onto-aesthetic implications of this subtle difference in organization for the technological staging of ambient listening? One important difference lies in the fact that the sonic environment produced in Ambisonics to a much higher degree resembles the material nature of actual acoustic environments: a univocal and essentially a-hierarchical sound field utterly indifferent to the presence and perceptual being of its listeners. Hence, while full cinematographic DSS, compared to stereophonic surround sound, shifts orientation from an object- and dialogue-­ centric approach to a space- and audience-centric approach, Ambisonics shifts orientation from the space of the audience—with their all-too-­ human perceptual conventions, habits and desires—to the objective matter-­ medium itself as an essentially non-anthropocentric field of a-­representational sonic flux. We move from a transcendental staging of the listening environment as potential information and experience to the staging of the sonic environment as pure, vibrant immanence. Which in turn implies an onto-aesthetic shift in orientation from the potential ambient effect of being centralized in space to the potential ambient effect of being in a decentralized space. To give an example of the use of Ambisonics in contemporary sound art, consider Janet Cardiff and George Bures Millers’ Forest (For a Thousand Years) (2012). The work is a 28-minute looping soundscape composition, acousmatically installed among the trees in Kassel’s Karlsaue Park during Documenta 13. As I have discussed elsewhere, the work is first and foremost a prime example of an atmospheric sound art

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installation, the primary effect of which lies in the way it unfolds an affective, quasi-narrative environment of site-specific presence (Schmidt 2019). The illusory atmospheric effect of site-specific presence, however, is enabled and intensified by the technological system’s underlying, but highly effective, decentralization of the sonic environment. In that sense, the decentralized and site-generic staging of a hyperrealist ambient spectacle functions as an onto-aesthetic precondition for the work’s synthetic presentification of a specific atmosphere. This ambient preconditioning of atmospheric environmentality resembles, in many respects, the onto-­ aesthetic function of the audiovisual ultrafield in contemporary cinema, now only with the material veil of the dense forest as the acousmatic apparatus.14 A central difference, though, is that whereas the ultrafield provides a dehierarchized ambient framework for a fragmented but still largely centralized and screen-oriented image space, there is no centralizing element in Forest (For a Thousand Years), to which the ambient field relates and must adopt. The screen-based imaginary is substituted by the material imaginary of the all-encompassing forest. Like a form of physical, abstract-concrete cinema, the whole techno-natural environment of Forest (For a Thousand Years) becomes a stage for the ambient listening to an atmosphere of synthetic site-specific presence. Another key difference, compared to stereo-based surround systems, can be observed in the way Ambisonics and similar field-based surround systems simultaneously avoid a morphological centering of the sonic environment and a perceptual centering of the listener in a specific audioposition. Despite avoiding any preconfigured ambient centralization of the listener, this non-anthropocentric objectivity is nonetheless a crucial factor behind Ambisonics’ embedded capacity for an intensified staging of ambient listening. Abandoning the sweet spot does not in itself reduce an environment’s potential for producing ambient effects of individual centralization. On the contrary, as I discussed in Part I, a morpho-material decentralization of the sonic environment potentially intensifies the ambient sensation of being in a total field of ‘pure’ environmental immanence. This observation is particularly relevant if we consider the staging of sonic environments in contemporary sound art installation. A dominant tendency, here, is to utilize the inherent techno-aesthetic affordances of

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field-based sound systems to produce immersive effects of decentralized immanence. Contemporary sound art installations have thus, as Will Schrimshaw notes, moved away from the “idealized centrality of the sweet spot,” typically associated with cinema, home stereos and electroacoustic concerts toward the staging of decentered environments of immersive listening. Yet, by doing so, contemporary installations have not in any way abandoned the ambient ideal of intensified surroundability. Centralization is rather reconceptualized and reconfigured from being an onto-aesthetic affordance of the environment itself to a sensory effect, which is spontaneously, ‘auto-affectively,’ produced by the listener. As Schrimshaw notes: In installation practice acoustic space still describes an enveloping environment that immerses the listener, yet this immersion discards the notion of the sweet spot in becoming an acoustic space without centre. […] To be without centre is to be without a sweet spot, yet the absence of a single centre upon which the illusions of acoustic space depend does not entail the absence of centres in general. Through the aesthetic sufficiency of immersion each listener becomes an individual centre […]. Divestment from a singular centre in installation practices leads to a proliferation of centres, each grounding an individual acoustic space through an ultimately auto-affective aesthetic sufficiency. The listener produces their own centre through the synthetic act of hearing. (Schrimshaw 2017, pp. 36–37)

Decentralization of the sound field allows, in other words, for a vast variety of different ambient sweet spots to emerge, now mobile, self-­ generated and detached from the static anthropocentric coordinates of stereophonic perspectivism. In that sense, the isotropic decentralization of the listening environment inherent in field-based surround systems arguably enables and promotes an aesthetics of ambient mobility in the staging of technological listening, which stereo-based cinematic and electro-­ acoustic sound systems and performance formats had essentially abated. The staging of ambient mobility in contemporary sound art installations, and its implied aestheticization of detached, personalized sweet spotting, is, of course, not a product of advanced sound field technologies

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alone. Both in principle and in practice, the isotropic distribution of sound in an a-hierarchical, decentralized spread throughout the environment is attainable without any use of advanced sound-field systems. The only necessary requirement is that it avoids any form of a priori centralization. This can, for instance, be achieved by using a simple monophonic setup, as in early pre-stereophonic PA systems. Or as in contemporary dance clubs, where DJs often “prefer to play tracks in mono to create an even spread of sound throughout the dance floor” (Théberge et al. 2015b, p. 26). Furthermore, apart from encouraging an aesthetics of individualized mobile sweet spotting, such forms of even, dehierarchized sonic distribution potentially opens a basic social dimension of ambient listening that is absence in most other configurations of sonic surroundability. An essentially individual sense of being centralized thus merges with the, at least in principle, opposed sense of participation and communality, of being-in-sound-together, so crucial to the phantasmagoria of live mass spectacle. It is a paradoxical form of mobile ‘collective centralization’ or direct ‘communal sweet spotting.’ By immersing “all participants in a diffuse, common experience” (ibid.), the group, the whole collective body of listeners, can potentially become its own sweet spot. The crowd as auto-affective assemblage becomes an onto-aesthetic extension of the embodied individual. The auditory dispositive’s different systems for the staging of ambient listening thus vary quite extensively, both in their spatial and techno-­ material configurations and their aesthetic potentials. Stereophonic systems—from home stereo to stereo-based surround sound—mainly function by affording and encouraging ambient listening through the staging of a hierarchically centralized space around individual immobile listeners. By contrast, isotropic systems—including not only advanced digital sound-field systems such as Ambisonics but also simple monaural multi-speaker systems—more directly stimulate a production of ambient sound as a non-anthropocentric, decentralized field of ubiquitous, a-­figurative vibration. The two forms both play a complex, multifaceted role in the general staging of ambient listening in modern and contemporary auditory culture, but they do so on quite different terms. Compared to the implied, transcendentally fabricated centrality of stereo as a potential sensation, isotropic systems are, by contrast, founded on

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the basic morpho-material principle of ambient sonic matter I proposed earlier: that morpho-material decentralization affords aesthetic centralization. We can, on this basis, distinguish two overall onto-aesthetic principles for the ambient staging of the listening environment: First, the synthetic centralization of immobile listeners, where individual listeners are affectively encouraged to occupy a pivotal position around which the whole environment appears to revolve. And second, the decentered, univocal distribution of sound, which envelopes potentially mobile listeners within a consistent, all-encompassing field of sonic immanence.15 While both principles in essence afford and stimulate the same basic production of surroundability, they nonetheless constitute two essentially different approaches to the staging of ambient listening: a transcendental, human-­ centric approach versus an immanent, sound-centric approach. Moreover, they also express, however subtly, two quite different socio-cultural ideals associated with the techno-aesthetic staging of ambient listening: the ideal of an immobile solitary listener, fixed in the center of an enclosed and regulated sonic interior, as opposed to the ideal of a mobile listener, auto-affectively producing its own center among others in an open, unregulated, communal and decentralized continuum. In short, insulated encapsulation versus infinite ubiquity. Ambient bubble versus ambient cosmos.

Notes 1. As Théberge, Devine and Everrett argue, even early stereophonic headphone-­based systems such as Clément Ader’s pioneering experiments with live transmission around 1880, “suggested that one of the roles of telephone technology would be to transmit and reproduce the cultural space of nineteenth-century spectacle and entertainment, the space of the theatrical stage” (Théberge et al. 2015b, p. 6). 2. For various discussions of the relation between realism and spectacle in twentieth-century auditory culture and with special attention to stereophonic sound and hi-fi culture, see Théberge et al. (2015a). 3. For a historical account of the crucial development into communal technological listening during the 1920s, see Thompson (2002, pp. 236–241).

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4. An early, famous example of this desire to simulate an ideal audioposition can already be observed in Clément Ader’s various Théâtrophone systems of the 1880s and 1890s, where he experimented with ‘realistic’ live stereo transmissions of Paris opera performances by placing microphones in the center of the auditorium and onstage directly in front of the singers (see Théberge et  al. 2015b, pp.  6–9; Drie 2015, 2016, pp. 209–210). 5. Columbia Records: “Let’s talk sound.” High Fidelity Magazine, September 1958, p. 67; quoted in Grajeda 2015, p. 39. 6. After pioneering early experiments in the 1940s such as Disney’s Fantasound system, CinemaScope introduced the first true stereophonic surround sound system. Its standard setup with four channels—three separate loudspeakers behind the screen (left-center-right) and a surround channel with speakers located in the rear corners of the theater— would become the dominant model for cinematic sound systems throughout the twentieth century. The recording engineer Lorin Grignon, who developed CinemaScope for Twentieth Century Fox in the late 1940s, organized his invention around two key recording principles, the main purpose of which was to create a synthetic sense of sonic expansion in the surround sound playback. First, his notion of sound spreading, describing a procedure in which large-scale sound environments could be “squeezed together” in recording by placing the microphones far apart to create a stereophonic effect of expanded sonic grandeur when the recorded sound was projected in the cinematic surround. And second, his notion of sound magnification, which envisioned how a close approximation of the microphone to individual sound sources in recording could yield an expansion of them when played back in the space of the auditorium (Malsky 2015, pp. 216–218). 7. Kerins (2011, p. 166). In addition, commenting on the pioneering use of surround sound in Star Wars (1977), Whittington describes how “ambiences are deployed in the theater space to fill in the spatial gaps caused by the limits of the screen. Thus, the reach of the film’s diegesis suddenly expands the length of the theater. The reach of the sound material ­positions the filmgoer within the film’s diegesis” (Whittington 2007, p.  122). The use of Dolby surround sound thus “offers a total sonic environment, which masks the real environment of the theater space to create a sonic space with no entry and no exit” (ibid.). 8. As a term, audioposition have obvious similarities with the cinematic term ‘point of audition’—derived from the well-established visual con-

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cept ‘point of vision’ (POV)—yet it differs in important aspects. According to Rick Altman, what he terms “point-of-audition sound” always “carries signs of its own fictional audition. As such, point-­of-­ audition sound always has the effect of luring the listener into the diegesis not at the point of enunciation of the sound, but at the point of its audition.” The cinematic listener becomes an “internal auditor” (Altman 1992, p.  60). Chion in turn distinguishes two different positionings associated with point of audition: first, it denotes the audio-spectator’s spatial sense of being positioned in the audiovisual scene, or more precisely within the diegetic “space represented on the screen or on the soundtrack” (Chion 1994, p. 90). And second, it can be used to describe the subjective position of a diegetic character “hearing what I hear” (ibid.). Hence, point of audition and audioposition both have direct implications for the staging of ambient listening. But whereas point of audition is used exclusively to describe the audiovisual perception of diegetic space, audioposition denotes the auditory sensation of being positioned in a material, physically surrounding space. The crucial difference between audioposition and point of audition I emphasize here is, to a large extent, comparable to the distinction, suggested by Rosemary Klich and Edward Sheer, between “sensory immersion” and “cognitive immersion” (Klich and Sheer 2012, pp. 127–153). For a different, but fascinating, analysis of point of audition in relation to baroque aesthetics, see Erlmann (2014, pp. 69–110). 9. As an interesting example of this, consider sound designer Chris Jenkins description of the re-recording and mixing procedure he used in creating the 9.1 Atmos mix for Man of Steel (2013): “My hope was that we could be subtle with it and not be like 3-D, even though we have the opportunity to do it. So what we ended up doing was taking music and using the whole room, so we have percussion and strings and brass up front. Long strings stay in the front, but short strings you can bring back to a quarter way back of the room. Choirs can play overhead. What you end up with is like a cathedral” (Jenkins quoted in Wright 2015, p. 242). 10. Tak quoted in Blesser and Salter (2007, p. 171). For an important critique of the actual artistic content that was presented inside the Philips pavilion, see Schulze (2018, p. 30). According to Schulze, the multifaceted ambitions behind the whole project to create a “state-of-the-art showcase for their advanced technological products” inevitably “paralyzed” the artistic sensibilities by “the technological overload provided by the ordering party, the Philips Corporation” (ibid.).

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11. Stockhausen quoted in Blesser and Salter (2007, p.  172). Of course, numerous other examples should be included to do justice to the larger historical development of experiments with custom-built surround sound systems in experimental music and sound art. This is obviously not my intention here. For a more elaborate discussion of central experiments in “spatial music” and spheric listening environments after 1970, see Blesser and Salter (2007, pp. 172–175). 12. Whereas performances of electroacoustic music are still often staged according to conventions inherited from the proscenium stage of the nineteenth-century concert hall, large-scale sound art installations thus often tend to engage the entire space in ubiquitous, decentralized ambient sound. As, for example, in the works of contemporary sound artists such as Janet Cardiff and Georges Bures Miller, Jana Winderen, Jacob Kirkegaard and many others. For the same reason, installations by Kirkegaard, Winderen, and Cardiff/Miller were among the key targets of Seth Kim-Cohen’s (2013) aforementioned critique of what he sees as an ambient turn in recent sound art, in part because they, according to a somewhat dubious logic, all exhibited their major works in New York in the autumn of 2013 (Kirkegaard and Winderen were included in MoMA’s first major exhibition of sound art, Soundings: A Contemporary Score, and Cardiff and Miller’s 40 Part Motet was presented at the Met’s Cloisters). 13. As Nicol notes, working with a sound field approach, as in Ambisonics, “is in contrast to binaural, stereo or surround sound systems, where the objective is to create perceived object(s), or auditory event(s). This directional information is interpreted as spatial properties by the auditory system. With the sound field approach, the properties that are controlled to create or to reproduce sounds are the physical properties of sound waves, whereas using binaural, stereo or surround sound techniques, the properties under control are at the perceptual level” (Nicol 2018, p. 276). 14. Forests, and similar sites where the density of the space prevents visibility, are in essence natural acousmatic scenarios, deeply rooting acousmatic listening in the evolution of audition. Francisco López makes this a central point in his poetics of field recording, and he introduces the term “environmental acousmatics” (López 2004: 86) to describe the listening situation inside the rain forest of La Selva, Costa Rica. 15. For example, as Théberge, Devine and Everrett argue, discussing the mobile, shared listening space and clubs and dance venues, the “idea of

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community or group listening calls into question the solitary, whitemale, suburban model upon which much of stereo’s promotional discourse is based” (2015, p.  26). Drawing somewhat comparable conclusions, R.  Murray Schafer argued, with reference to McLuhan’s idea of acoustic space, that the shared, dehierarchized space of ambient listening in live concerts may indicate a potential utopia of classless listening: “Another type of listening is produced in the indoor concert from which distance and directionality are absent, i.e., that of much contemporary and popular music as well as that of the living room stereo set. In this case the listener finds himself at the center of the sound; he is massaged by it, flooded by it. Such listening conditions are those of a classless society, a society seeking unification and integrity” (1993, pp. 117–118).

Bibliography Altman, Rick. 1992. Sound Space. In Sound Theory, Sound Practice, ed. Rick Altman, 46–64. New York and London: Routledge. Blesser, Barry, and Linda-Ruth Salter. 2007. Spaces Speak, Art You Listening?: Experiencing Aural Architecture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Buhler, James. 2019. Theories of the Soundtrack. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chion, Michel. 1994. Audio-Vision. New York: Columbia University Press. Donnelly, Kevin J. 2013. Extending Film Aesthetics: Audio Beyond Visuals. In The Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics, ed. John Richardson, Claudia Gorbman, and Carol Vernallis, 357–371. Oxford: Oxford University Press. van Drie, Melissa. 2015. Hearing Through the Théâtrophone: Sonically Constructed Spaces and Embodied Listening in Late Nineteenth-Century French Theatre. SoundEffects 5 (1): 74–90. ———. 2016. Know It Well, Know It Differently: New Sonic Practices in Late Nineteenth-Century Theatre-going. The Case of the Theatrophone in Paris. In The Auditory Culture Reader, ed. Michael Bull and Les Back, 2nd ed., 205–216. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Erlmann, Veit. 2014. Reason and Resonance: A History of Modern Aurality. New York: Zone Books. Grajeda, Tony. 2015. The ‘Sweet Spot’: The Technology of Stereo and the Field of Auditorship. In Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound, ed. P. Théberge, K. Devine, and T. Everrett, 37–64. New York: Bloomsbury.

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Kerins, Mark. 2011. Beyond Dolby (stereo): Cinema in the Digital Sound Age. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Kim-Cohen, Seth. 2013. Against Ambience. New York: Bloomsbury. Klich, Rosemary, and Edward Scheer. 2012. Multimedia Performance. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. López, Francisco. 2004. Profound Listening and Environmental Sound Matter. In Audio Culture, ed. C. Cox and D. Warner, 82–87. New York: Continuum. Malsky, Matthew. 2015. The Grandeur(s) of CinemaScope: Early Experiments in Cinematic Stereophony. In Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound, ed. P. Théberge, K. Devine, and T. Everrett, 207–225. New York: Bloomsbury. Nicol, Rozenn. 2018. Sound Field. In Immersive Sound: The Art and Science of Binaural and Multi-Channel Audio, ed. Agnieszka Roginska and Paul Geluso, 276–310. New York: Routledge. Schmidt, Ulrik. 2019. Sound as Environmental Presence: Towards an Aesthetics of Sonic Atmospheres. In The Oxford Handbook of Sound and Imagination, ed. Knakkegaard Grimshaw and Hansen, 517–534. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schrimshaw, Will. 2017. Immanence and Immersion. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Schulze, Holger. 2018. The Sonic Persona: An Anthropology of Sound. London: Bloomsbury Academic. Sterne, Jonathan. 2003. The Audible Past. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Théberge, Paul, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett, eds. 2015a. Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound. New York: Bloomsbury. ———. 2015b. Introduction: Living Stereo. In Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound, ed. Paul Théberge, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett, 1–34. New York: Bloomsbury. Thompson, Emily. 2002. The Soundscape of Modernity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Whittington, William. 2007. Sound Design and Science Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press. Wright, Benjamin. 2015. Atmos Now: Dolby Laboratories, Mixing Ideology and Hollywood Sound Production. In Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound, ed. P. Théberge, K. Devine, and T. Everrett, 227–246. New York: Bloomsbury.

11 Mobile Infrastructures of Everyday Listening

Before the 1970s, technologically constructed listening environments were typically immobile and designed for a specific site and performance formats. In that sense, the staging of mobile listening, so commonplace and pervasive today, constitutes a separate issue altogether in the history of auditory culture. New, lightweight headphone and portable playback technologies combined, from the late 1990s, with digital infrastructures for wireless networking and direct global distribution, stand out as the paramount enabling factors behind this development. Headphone-based portable systems and networked digital infrastructures are obviously intimately connected in current mobile listening practices, with one often being seen as a prerequisite for the other. They emphasize, however, quite different onto-aesthetic aspects of mobile listening with different implications for the staging of ambient environments, practices and sensibilities. Without doubt, audition has in the twenty-first century become inextricably entangled with the infrastructures that enable it on a whole other and more fundamental level than ever before. Infrastructures can, according to Brian Larkin, be understood in general terms as “built networks that facilitate the flow of goods, people, ideas and affects and allow for their exchange over space. They comprise the architecture for circulation, © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_11

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literally providing the undergirding of modern societies, and they generate the ambient environment of everyday life” (Larkin 2013, p.  328). Hence, not only the sonic ‘content’ we listen to, but also the physical channels through which it is distributed, and the actual and virtual environments in which we listen, have all become codefined entities in an overarching ecological system of commingled apparatuses, architectures, practices and desires. Sonic infrastructures thus comprise and actively shape, albeit often quite imperceptibly, the basic techno-material conditions for contemporary listening by interconnecting otherwise relatively isolated human and non-human agencies—digital receivers, archival platforms, algorithmic data selection, commercial interests, embodied skills and habits, negotiations of subjectivity and social interaction—into a smooth environmental assemblage of total distribution-experience-­ communication. Simultaneously being “deeply hidden, plainly obvious, and everywhere powerful” (Devine and Boudreault-Fournier 2021, p.  29), they provide the digital “commons” (Berlant 2016) for media-­ based experience and communication in the twenty-first century. This ‘infrastructural turn’ in contemporary auditory culture obviously has an immense, overpowering and potentially uncontrollable influence on what we listen to and how we do it. As I will seek elucidate below, it also has deep ambient implications. However, before I go into more detail with listening infrastructures, I will first consider the onto-aesthetic characteristics of the headphone environment and its implications for the staging of ambient listening. While mobile headphone listening undoubtedly constitutes one of the key components in the current digital infrastructure of mobile listening, headphones in themselves produce a unique and highly distinctive listening environment—with a whole set of ambient implications of its own—which is, at least in part and principle, disconnected from the broader issue of sonic infrastructures.

Headphone Bubbles and Their Surroundings With its rich history, from early binaural stethoscopes, telegraphs and amateur radio to the Sony Walkman (1979) and similar devices to today’s ubiquitous urban headsets, headphones must indeed be regarded as one

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of the most significant and widespread listening technologies in modern auditory culture. From an overall perspective, headphones can be seen as one of the epitomes of the general media-aesthetic principle of sensory isolation. The sensation of being isolated in the medium constitutes, as discussed earlier, a central ambient feature of much modern sound technology. In comparison to other architectures of sonic isolation, however, headphone listening turns, to a much larger extent, sensory isolation into a dominant aesthetic effect in its own right. Sonically decoupling the listener from exterior acoustic space, the listening environment is staged, in the most concrete sense, as a privatized sphere of sound, “a kind of personal space” (Sterne 2003, p.  158). Indeed, as it is continuously repeated in scholarship on sound and technology, listening in headphones ‘colonizes’ listeners in a ‘bubble’ or ‘cocoon’ of anti-social sonic privacy, detached from exterior sonic affects and communicative possibilities.1 This effect of screening listeners from their immediate acoustic surroundings has been a central part of the history of headphone listening from its first specialized manifestations to today’s pervasive everyday use, often accompanied by prospects of increased focus and productivity as well as user reports of spatial confusion when listening in headphones (Roquet 2021, p. 45). In sonic telegraphy and early telephone and radio communication, for instance, isolation was key in supporting the audile practice of decoding information and extricating sonic details from the outside by separating mediated signal from environmental noise. As Sterne notes, through technology and technique, listeners could transcend the ‘immediate’ acoustic environment to participate in another, ‘mediated’ linkage. […] Not only was hearing to be separated from the proximal auditory environment, but the act of communication itself was to be separated from the surrounding physical environment. […] As a bourgeois form of listening, audile technique was rooted in a practice of individuation: listeners could own their own ­acoustic spaces through owning the material component of a technique of producing that auditory space—the ‘medium’ that stands in for a whole set of framed practices. The space of the auditory field became a form of private property, a space for the individual to inhabit alone. (Sterne 2003, pp. 158–160).

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In his early study of the Sony Walkman, Shuhei Hosokawa makes a similar argument for aesthetic privatization. The Walkman, he notes, stages a “world of listening to music alone” in which the “listener seems to cut the auditory contact with the outer world where he really lives: seeking the perfection of his ‘individual’ zone of listening” (1984, p.  106). Headphones are often intentionally designed to underline this sense of being enclosed in an interior world of sound by reducing or cancelling exterior ambient sounds from the listening environment. Several specific applications and technologies have thus been designed throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the prime function of which it is to screen listeners from external noise—from sleep-aid machines and white noise apps to Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). Mack Hagood has coined the term orphic media to describe such technologies of aural isolation, accentuating how they serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. According to Hagood, orphic media are media that, by using various forms of filtering and modulation of the acoustic surroundings, operate as a mediating interface on the border between interior and exterior space to “provide control and customization of individuals’ sonic environments” (Hagood 2019, p. 3). Orphic devices such as acoustic sleep-aids, calm-inducing noise generators and noise-cancelling headphones can thus be seen as an even further intensification of the techno-aesthetic principle of isolation associated with headphone listening in general. It potentially imbues listening with a sense of protection from the incessant sociomaterial affectivities of the surroundings world. In that sense, simply by disconnecting the ecological entanglement of listeners with their immediate acoustic surroundings, headphones can actively intensify the ambient experience of being enveloped in and embraced by a form of detached environmentality. Yet, headphones not only isolate the listener in a detached world of sound. They simultaneously stage this interior listening space in contrast to and connection with the now silenced, sociomaterial surroundings in which the embodied listener is situated and from which he or she is being isolated and excluded. The bubble effect only becomes a true bubble effect precisely because it highlights and makes sensible the very distinction between an interior personal space and a silenced exterior space, which nevertheless remains affective and present. A bubble is a medium in a

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medium it is not.2 Without the felt presence of a quasi-excluded exterior space, no bubble effect. This means, in turn, that the bubble effect is never an effect of pure immanence. Its disconnection is always incomplete, accentuating the sense of synthetic detachment, withdrawal, of isolation from a surrounding outside which it is not. The bubble, in other words, is an effect of simultaneous isolation and relation, both decoupled from and coupled with exterior space. It entails a double-mediatic sensation of multiple, co-present environments, divided as if by an abstract acoustic membrane, which allows for a subtle flow of material affectivity between them as a form of ambient “low-level absorption.”3 Following this argument, we can distinguish two basic environmental scenarios associated with headphone listening: On the one hand, the double-mediatic listening scenario in which an interior sound space is staged and gains its effect in contrast to a co-present but silenced exterior environment. And, on the other hand, the scenario in which the isolated interior itself provides a specific form of detached, privatized listening space. While obviously being closely related in most actual practice, the two scenarios nonetheless entail quite dissimilar environmental listening situations, each with their own implications for the staging of ambient sound and listening. In the former, double-mediatic scenario, the isolated headphone listening is staged as something that takes place within, and in contrast to, a silenced but visually and physically present exterior space—a scenario that headphone listening in some respects shares with the simultaneously secluded and connected mobile listening space of the private car.4 Here, the isolating bubble potentially emphasizes the synthetic and multimodal qualities of the listening environment by constructing an affective relationship between a predominantly sonic interior and a predominantly visual exterior. Mobile headphone listening in this scenario becomes, as Michael Bull notes, a “seamless joining together of experience in a flow, unifying the complex, contradictory and contingent nature of the world beyond the user. The success of these aestheticizing strategies depends upon the creation of an all-enveloping wall of sound through which the user looks” (Bull 2007, pp. 39–40, my emphasis). Embodied listeners move around enveloped in a synthetic, double-mediatic bubble of emergent ‘audiovisual effects’ produced by serendipity in a ‘synaesthetic’ mix of

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decoupled sonic and visual registers. The bubble effect of mobile headphone listening—for example, while walking, running, commuting, or during educational or working activities—starts, in other words, to resemble a genuinely cinematographic effect.5 The specific site of the physical space is transformed into an abstract visual backdrop for the mobile headphone user’s synthetic audiovisual aestheticization of his or her surroundings as a quasi-private ambient surround.

Inside the Cocoon Compared to the implied double-mediatic audiovisuality of public headphone use, the sonic environment of the isolated headphone space itself comprises a whole other techno-aesthetic scenario with quite different ambient implications. It concerns the interior space of headphone listening, not as something which emerges in and in relation to a surrounding physical space, but as a space in its own right; an enclosed, disconnected matter-medium that produces its own techno-aesthetic spatiality. Despite its huge cultural significance, its long history and its widespread use, this crucial phenomenological, psychological and aesthetic dimension of modern auditory culture has, as Paul Roquet remarks, been largely ignored in media and sound studies (Roquet 2021, p. 44). On a general level, though, it is a common assumption in existing research that headphone listening produces a peculiar spatial effect of sounds appearing to emerge from inside the listener’s head.6 To industry developers and sound engineers, the phenomenon has been commonly known since the 1960s as the ‘sound in the head’ problem (Roquet 2021, pp. 50–51); a flaw, especially noticeable in relation to stereo recordings, that ought to be eliminated and expelled. Yet, others have noted the phenomenon’s distinct aesthetic potentials. For instance, as Murray Schafer figuratively notes, in headphone listening “the sounds not only circulate around the listener, they literally seem to emanate from points in the cranium itself.” And consequently, he claims, the headphone listener is no longer “surrounded by a sphere of moving elements. He [sic] is the sphere. He is the universe” (Schafer 1994, p. 119).

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Yet, as Roquet argues, despite appearing to emanate from somewhere inside the listener’s head, headphone sounds can still induce a sense of environmentality and produce what he calls “detachable ambience” (Roquet 2021). In contrast to any sense of acoustic site-specificity, detachable ambience is an utterly synthetic and inorganic effect. It envelops listeners in a non-place of environmental abstraction, “where sound masses float in an impossible space” (Stankievech 2007, p. 56). Listening in this private bubble of spatial abstraction resembles in essence a form of sonic thinking or auditory hallucination. Today, of course, to navigate this space has become a commonplace and sedimented part of contemporary technological listening, a ubiquitous cultural technique. Yet, before the 1970s, Roquet argues, headphone listening was still surrounded by a socio-cultural stigma, which was not only related to the anti-social implications associated with isolated headphone listening but also to the ‘sound in the head’ problem. The extreme popularity of the Sony Walkman, and other lightweight consumer headphones introduced in the late 1970s and early 1980s, helped to normalize the mostly unfamiliar and potentially awkward sense of being surrounded in a mobile abstract interior space. But more importantly, during the same period, significant changes were also made in the acoustic construction of the interior listening space itself, which enabled a more clearly defined sensation of detachable ambience. As Roquet argues, it was not until the moment where the technological design of headphone acoustics “became organized around detachable ambience that the headphone stigma began to fall away” (Roquet 2021, p. 45). But what is detachable ambience, more precisely? It can, in general terms, be distinguished as the intensification by design of ambient surroundability within the isolated interior space of headphone listening. Two aspects are of special significance here: First, detachable ambience gains its effect by onto-aesthetically expanding the interior environment through an “increasingly virtual ambient spatialization” (Roquet 2021, p. 45). Second, it is characterized by what the sonic industries refer to as ambient control, both in relation to increased possibilities for adjusting and customizing the ambient composition of the interior environment

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and to various ways of regulating the sonic relations between interior and exterior. Roquet brings attention to a Japanese consumer product released by Technics in 1977, the so-called Ambience Phone. By employing a special feature, the Ambience Phone enabled users to mix artificial echo and reverb onto any track played back in the system so as to create a virtual sense of ambient space around the interior sound field: Hence, as Roquet notes, instead of “hearing sounds emerge from the space between the ears, listeners would hear them coming from a pair of (virtual) speakers situated somewhere across the room” (Roquet 2021, p.  53). Thereby, Ambience Phone is “virtually repositioning stereo recordings back out into the surrounding world […] to fabricate a detachable ambience directly within the device” (ibid., pp. 55–56). Both the virtual spatialization and the ambient control features introduced by the Ambience Phone live on in today’s high-end consumer headphones such as Sony’s WH-100XM series.7 Together with auditory head-tracking and other recent features of virtual environmentalization, isolated headphone listening has thus begun to involve a much more direct staging of the abstract interior space based on one’s personal ambient preferences and sensibilities. And with the increasing pervasiveness of headphone listening in contemporary auditory culture, the everyday listening environment has not only become increasingly virtualized, customized and tangled up in commercial interests. It is also thoroughly staged with the specific purpose of intensifying the basic ambient sensation of isolated, privatized and centralized envelopment. In a culture of pervasive headphone use, a distinctly ambient environment of interiority and isolation has increasingly become the common auditory sphere or ‘ground’ on and in which listening and communication takes place, ambient and otherwise. As a consequence, also otherwise ‘non-ambient’ audile modes and techniques of directional, attentive headphone use (e.g., an important phone conversion, an intense televisual meeting, or an emotionally affective video in your social media feed) are increasingly being practiced and rehearsed in a techno-aesthetic surround of interior ambient affordances and affects. Even decidedly anti-ambient cultural practices and intentions are enveloped in the all-encompassing infrastructural presence of detachable ambience.

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Infrastructures of Environmental Distribution In certain respects, the ideal, epitomized in contemporary headphone listening, of a continuous, hyper-aestheticized sonic environment that follows mobile individual users around can be seen as a radicalization of Satie’s idea of furniture music as an unobtrusive cloud of acoustic affectivity surrounding peoples’ everyday activities. Yet, one crucial difference, of course, is the fact that headphone listening doesn’t involve any actual production or modulation of sound in a shared physical space. The headphones’ ‘aural furnishing’ is individualized as a synthetic form of personal interior sound design, prosthetically fixing a virtual ambient sound field to the embodied mobile listener like a private sonic coating. Perhaps for that reason, it is rather another form of environmental sound design that is typically, albeit at times somewhat ironically, identified as the most direct realization of Satie’s avant-garde concept in modern and contemporary auditory culture: commercial, functional background music in public spaces in the form of mood music, elevator music, music for offices, shops and shopping malls, Muzak, music on hold and so on.8 At first impression, the various forms of commercial background music might seem to have many affinities with the ambient music of Brian Eno and similar composers. Yet, apart from the stylistic divergences that obviously do exist between them, commercial background music typically strives to avoid the discreetly disturbing atmosphere of ambiguity that Eno explicitly intended to induce. The most important dissimilarity in this context, however, regards the evident divergence in their implied functionalities. In contrast to Eno’s ambient music, and to Satie’s concept of furniture music for that matter, commercial mood music has a deep propensity for environmental distribution, built into its basic material and techno-aesthetic configuration, by which it imbues the listening environment with a discreet but ever-present affective stimulation of ambient practices and sensibilities. Commercial background music is—on a whole different scale and level than other forms of intentionally ambient music—infrastructurally mediatized, always already adapted to the environmental distribution network through which it flows.

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So, while functional mood music might share certain morphological characteristics with Eno-style ambient music, its aesthetic design builds on a whole different principle of instant, continuous distributability, which adds yet another ambient dimension. In that sense, commercial services of musical distribution—from pioneering telephone-based services such as Clément Ader’s Théâtrophone (1881) and Thaddeus Cahill’s Telharmonium (1896) to Muzak (1935) and similar wired distribution services—do not so much stage ambient listening environments and stimulate ambient modes of perception because they play genuinely ambient forms of music (they may, of course, very likely do so). It is primarily because their continuous infrastructural circulation is promoted and aestheticized as a general ambient principle. Not only is the “apparatus for disseminating music,” as Sterne notes in his analysis of sound in shopping malls, “built into the Mall’s infrastructure [and] managed as one of several major environmental factors” (Sterne 1997, p.  22). The functional sonic environment itself sounds infrastructural and distributed.9 By staging the sonic environment as a generic design product, uprooted from the acoustic particularities of the physical surroundings, the infrastructural aesthetics of Muzak and similar commercial forms of functional music bares an essential challenge to the notions and experiences of site-specificity and local identity conventionally associated with public space. Infrastructural ambience is sound designed and adapted for the generalized “any-space-whatever” of globalized consumption, synthetically “deconnected or emptied” and “released from its human co-ordinates” (Deleuze 1986, p. 123, 125). Dominant yet unobtrusive, controlling and regulating yet undemanding and encouraging, this public music, designed to “invisibly accompany any kind of activity” (Kassabian 2013, p.  4), seems to come from nowhere and everywhere at the same time, ubiquitously enveloping everything in a diffuse haze of affective regulations, camouflaged as motivation, functionality and availability. In its earliest manifestations, Muzak was mainly concerned with the affective regulation of individual activities in work and consumption environments by synchronizing embodied practices to discreet ambient variations in the sonic infrastructure. During the twentieth century, however, Muzak and similar services of functional, commercial ambience expanded the focus

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from a mere regulation of behavior. Through subliminal environmental stimulation, or what Steve Goodman has termed “quantum modulation,” the sonic infrastructure developed into an ever more imperceptible ambient control mechanism for the managing of individual and collective moods. As Goodman notes, Muzak’s strategy of sonic intervention shifted as a response to the already sensorially overloaded environment [from] the surveillance of stimulus progression that constituted an early form of sonic discipline by Muzak, to the horizontality of background, atmospheric control in quantum modulation that no longer needs to correct individual action directly. Quantum modulation affects mood rather than just trying to manipulate attention.10

When sonic infrastructures thus turn into ambient mood regulators, the very act of engaging in public listening becomes a delicate and precarious matter. The staging of ambient listening is transformed from a relatively innocent aesthetic ‘furnishing’ of public and private space—Satie’s ‘softening’ and ‘neutralizing’ of unwanted ambient noises—to a powerful generalized instrument for the unobtrusive everyday production of a distributed, ambient subjectivity.11

 treaming Infrastructures and Bubbles S of Ubiquity With the current digital revolution, the ambient “infrastructuration” (Edwards 2019) of public sonic space, initially implemented by functional background music, has expanded radically, and it now constitutes the basic framework for most aspects of technicized listening. More than anything, this is manifested, of course, by mobile, ever-present streaming technologies. Streaming in its present form is distinguished by combining a generalized infrastructure for asynchronous distribution (Internet, Wi-Fi, mobile receivers, etc.) with new digital formats developed specifically for infrastructural distribution. Whereas earlier ‘physical’ sonic formats such as lac and vinyl records, magnetic tapes and compact discs were designed for storing and replaying sound, digital compression

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formats used in sonic streaming—such as mp3, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis— have incorporated the very capacity for networked distribution as an essential part of their techno-aesthetic operability. They are perceptually coded for distributed listening (Sterne 2012; Søchting and Schmidt 2019). And while the distributive properties of such formats are seldom directly audible in themselves, their implied distributability nonetheless marks the whole listening environment with a subtle presence of an underpinning infrastructural matter-flow. Obviously, traditional mass media such as radio and television can, as Raymond Williams (1974) already argued, in a certain respect also be seen as mechanisms for the programming and distribution of matter-­ flow. The televised sense of flow, however, not only concerns the perceived ‘content’ as an intensified sense of continuous, serialized variation—the smooth gluing together of individual programs, and segments within programs, into a synthetic whole, which was Williams’ main focus. It is also observable on the material level of the distributed televised image itself. As Maurizio Lazzarato notes about the electronic video format (potentially distributed as television): If cinema has revealed that the world is a flow of images and that the world of images is in continuous variation, video technology initiates a further deterritorialization of these flows. It reveals not only the movements, the infinite variation of images, but also the time-matter of which these images are made: electromagnetic waves. Video technology is a machinic assemblage that establishes a relationship between asignifying flows (waves) and signifying flows (images). It is the first technical means of image production that corresponds to the generalized decoding of flows. (Lazzarato 2019, pp. 81–82; my emphasis)

Hence, like in current digital streaming formats, distributabilty is printed into the very materiality of the televised video image as a sensible effect of spatiotemporal deterritorialization. Its performative mode is not projection (site-specific)—as in cinema, which presupposes a direct ‘organic’ correlation between projection-time and reception-space—but transmission (site-generic) between virtual, dislocated spheres. Furthermore, by being essentially deterritorialized, all the individual televised events blend

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into a common flow of ‘generalized time-matter,’ so essential to the mediated effect of virtual communality in live mass spectatorship. This projection of individual viewer-listeners into a virtual flow of generalized time-matter undoubtedly comprises one of the most distinctive features of classic broadcast media, eventually culminating in the virtually uninterrupted presence of flow television and flow radio. And it also indicates a deep ambient inclination, in classic broadcast media, toward the production and distribution of a continuously more consistent and synthetized environment in continuous variation. This very model of transmitted flow, however, is also what constitutes the main point of divergence between one-to-many broadcasting (radio, television) and current digital streaming infrastructures, also in what regards their ambient potentials and implications. The mass effect of generalized spatiotemporal matter-flow is obviously still preserved in streaming infrastructures, but it no longer builds on an underlying sense of transmissivity. Rather, the onto-aesthetic essence of digital streaming arguably lies in its paradoxical but distinctly ambient effect of distributed immanence, evoked by the ‘platformized’ combination of virtual omnipresence as ubiquitous availability (total distribution); non-transmitted, user-centered mediatization (immanence); and generalized, desubjectified modulation (algorithmically automated continuous variation). For this reason, digital streaming onto-aesthetically dissolves the sense of transmission—the sense that information-matter is now being transported into the user’s environment from somewhere outside. Where television as an environment evokes an aesthetics of mediation between spheres (inside and outside), in and by which viewers are connected in events of mass viewing, streaming as environment rather evokes an aesthetics of decoupled mediatization, of being enveloped in the immediate omnipresence of endless distributed matter (immanence). Streaming is, obviously, a process of mediation, but its onto-aesthetic effect is an effect of mediatization. Furthermore, as it is well-known, digital streaming enables industries and individual listeners alike to privatize and customize the distributed matter-flow by integrating features such as algorithmic recommendation and randomization, autogenerated streams and playlists, and interactive mood control into a smooth, single continuum of simultaneously personalized and distributed immanence. However commonplace it may

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seem to current digital users, this condition of infrastructural listening arguably embodies one of the grand ambient paradoxes of contemporary sonic media culture: that our everyday listening environments are increasingly promoted, designed and aestheticized to produce the intensified effect of what we, with a deliberate contradiction in terms, could call bubbles of ubiquity. They afford the aesthetic privatization and customization of a generalized, distributed immanence, which nevertheless remains fully effective as generalized and distributed. Listening to an autogenerated playlist in your headphones while commuting to work becomes an ultra-specific, subjective ambient staging of your own streaming bubble in and by means of an already ambient, but radically generalized, automated and desubjectified matter-flow. Its effect lies in the staging of a simultaneously private and common, local and global, personal and de-­ personalized, situated and deterritorialized listening environment. Both a privatized bubble and a generalized any-space-whatever. Both personal, ‘interactive’ control and ambient industrial-commercial control. Both decoupled interiority and networked exteriority. Both being-in and being-with.

Notes 1. Bull (2000, 2007), Weber (2010), Everrett (2014), Hagood (2019). For example, as Michael Bull writes, with its “enveloping acoustics iPod users move through space in their auditory bubble” (Bull 2007, p. 3); “hermetically sealed in their sound world” (ibid., p.  15); causing an auditory “solipsism of the user” and “feelings of separateness” (ibid., p.  43). This aspect of isolation and detachment has made listening in headphones a moral issue, both historically and in present urban culture, concerning, among other things, the anti-social implications and safety risks of being auditorily excluded from the acoustic surroundings when headphones are used in public space (Everrett 2014). 2. This is a paraphrase of Carl Andre’s famous description, in an interview with Lucy Lippard from 1968, of the environmentality of minimalist sculpture: “a thing is a hole in a thing it is not” (Andre in Lippard 1973, p. 40).

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3. As Ruth Herbert argues, the use of portable sound devices in public space “has resulted in the everyday prevalence of a type of low-level absorption that involves both music and surroundings” (2011, p. 88, my emphasis). 4. Bijsterveld et al. (2014, pp. 1–8). See also (Bull 2004; Blesser and Salter 2007, pp. 192–194; and LaBelle 2008). 5. For an analysis of the resemblance between urban headphone use and the cinematographic experience, see Bull (2000, pp. 85–96). 6. See (Gibson 1966, p. 86; Schafer 1994, p. 119; Bull 2000, p. 43, 186; Stankievech 2007, pp. 55–59; Blesser and Salter 2007, pp. 187–191). 7. As Roquet explains, the WH-100XM series “includes a smartphone app with ‘Ambient Sound Control’ options for listeners to select or have automatically chosen for them based on the headphones’ on-board sensors. The app includes settings for listening in place, while walking, running, and in transit; the option to apply various concert hall and arena acoustics; and, closest to the original Ambience Phone function, a set of ‘Sound Position Control’ options for virtually displacing the auditory perspective of a stereo sound recording to one of five locations further away from the head” (Roquet 2021, p. 58). 8. Kahn (1999, p. 179), Lanza (2004, pp. 17–18). Joseph Lanza, for example, conveys how “Satie was like the Futurists in developing a blueprint for sound environments that originated with the most anti-bourgeois intentions but ended as a middle-class champion. He affirmed his role as Muzak’s true progenitor in a 1920 manifesto advocating musique d’ameublement” (Lanza 2004, p. 17). 9. This capacity for infrastructural adaption as a musical feature makes Joseph Lanza draw the conclusion that mood music “is perhaps the twentieth century’s most authentic music, tailored exclusively for the electronic revolution. These recordings fully exploit the intended use of the hi-fi and stereo as domestic appliances with all of the environmental controls of thermostats, air-conditioners, and security systems” (Lanza 2004, p. 70). 10. Goodman (2010, p.  145). Goodman’s analysis of Muzak follows Deleuze’s argument for a socio-cultural change, around the same period, from a society of discipline and surveillance, as theorized by Foucault, to what Deleuze calls “societies of control” (Deleuze 1990). 11. In a similar vein, Brandon Labelle has argued that Muzak and other ambient services a key components in the general production of a more

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distracted subjectivity: “Might Muzak be actually heard to uncover the background itself, as such a forceful and signifying elemental feature within the modern environment? And further, to introduce distraction also as a positive vocabulary for (un)scripting the self within social spaces? The background may stand as the very site for the nurturing of new contact, performing to draw out peripheral and minor energies, and to give residence to the overlooked. Muzak, and other ambient technologies […], occupies the background precisely because it functions to generate or trigger new subjectivity” (Labelle 2010, p: 185).

Bibliography Berlant, Lauren. 2016. The Commons: Infrastructures for Troubling Times. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 34 (3): 393–419. Bijsterveld, Karin, Eefje Cleophas, Stefan Krebs, and Gijs Mom. 2014. Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel. Oxford and New  York: Oxford University Press. Blesser, Barry, and Linda-Ruth Salter. 2007. Spaces Speak, Art You Listening?: Experiencing Aural Architecture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Bull, Michael. 2000. Sounding Out the City: Personal Stereos and the Management of Everyday Life. Oxford: Berg. ———. 2004. Automobility and the Power of Sound. Theory, Culture and Society 21 (4–5): 243–259. ———. 2007. Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience. London and New York: Routledge. Deleuze, Gilles. 1986. Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. London: The Athlone Press. ———. 1990. Postscript on the Societies of Control. October 59: 3–7. Devine, Kyle, and Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier (2021). Making Infrastructures Audible. In Audible Infrastructures, ed. Kyle Devine and Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier, 3–55. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Everrett, Thomas. 2014. Ears Wide Shut: Headphones and Moral Design. PhD dissertation, Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario. Edwards, Paul N. 2019. Infrastructuration: On Habits, Norms and Routines as Elements of Infrastructure. In Thinking Infrastructures, ed. Kornberger Martin, Geoffrey C. Bowker, Julia Elyachar, Andrea Mennicken, Peter Miller,

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Joanne Randa Nucho, and Neil Pollock, 355–366. Bingley: Emerald Publishing. Gibson, James J. 1966. The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company. Goodman, Steve. 2010. Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Hagood, Mack. 2019. Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Herbert, Ruth. 2011. Everyday Music Listening: Absorption, Dissociation and Trancing. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate. Hosokawa, Shuhei. 1984. The Walkman Effect. Popular Music 4: 165–180. Kahn, Douglas. 1999. Noise, Water, Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Kassabian, Anahid. 2013. Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Distributed Subjectivity. Berkeley: University of California Press. LaBelle, Brandon. 2008. Pump Up the Bass: Rhythm, Cars, and Auditory Scaffolding. Senses & Society 3 (2): 187–203. ———. 2010. Acoustic Territories. London and New York: Continuum. Lanza, Joseph. 2004. Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Larkin, Brian. 2013. The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure. Annual Review of Anthropology 42: 327–343. Lazzarato, Maurizio. 2019. Videophilosophy: The Perception of Time in Post-­ Fordism. Edited and translated by J.  Hetrick. New  York: Columbia University Press. Lippard, Lucy R. 1973. Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Roquet, Paul. 2021. Acoustics of the One Person Space: Headphone Listening, Detachable Ambience, and the Binaural Prehistory of VR. Sound Studies 7 (1): 42–63. Schafer, R.  Murray. 1994. The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. Søchting, Rune, and Ulrik Schmidt. 2019. Hvad er et format? [What is a Format?]. Konsthistorisk tidskrift/Journal of Art History 88 (1): 17–32. Stankievech, Charles. 2007. From Stethoscopes to Headphones: An Acoustic Spatialization of Subjectivity. Leonardo Music Journal 17: 55–59.

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Sterne, Jonathan. 1997. Sounds Like the Mall of America: Programmed Music and the Architectonics of Commercial Space. Ethnomusicology 41 (1): 22–50. ———. 2003. The Audible Past. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. ———. 2012. MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Weber, Heike. 2010. Head Cocoons: A Sensori-Social History of Earphone Use in West Germany, 1950–2010. Senses & Society 5 (3): 339–363. Williams, Raymond. 1974. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. London: Fontana.

12 Epilogue: Generic, Inattentive, Asocial

Throughout the history of modern auditory culture, listeners have continuously been compelled to negotiate their affective being and develop new aesthetic and communicative practices in relation to the ambient conditions of their sonic environments. The specific expressive and affective potentials of each ambient event are determined by a whole range of different factors, including degrees of mediatization, massification, isolation, expansion, objectlessness, decentralization and ubiquity. Together these and several other factors provide environmental sound with a basic potential to affect and envelop listeners in sensations of sonic surroundability, both as they unfold in rare occasions of extraordinary intensity and as a part of the continuous and repetitive habits and trivialities of everyday auditory life. It is possible to distinguish two general interrelated levels on which this onto-aesthetic production of sonic surroundability takes place: First, as a basic dimension of sonic environmentality, ambient sound can expose the potential emergent surroundability of sonic matter and the sonic environment. On this level, surroundability is not opposed to ecological and atmospheric sensibilities but functions as an overarching periēchon for all environmental sounds, brought together in an elementary form of © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6_12

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spatiotemporal envelopment: a medium of all mediums. To be ambient on this level means that the sonic environment affords and expresses surroundability as an onto-aesthetic precondition of all environmental effects. It not only allows for the emergent material production of specifically ambient sensations (of massification, ubiquity, continuous variation etc.), but also for the potential emergence of non-ambient and not-so-­ ambient effects within the overall ambient framework of emergent surroundability, including effects of individuation, relationality, particularity, representation, teleology and directionality. On this level of emergent surroundability, being-in is not opposed to being-with. It is the onto-­ aesthetic precondition for environmental sensations of connectivity and relationality in the first place. On this level, all sonic environments are potentially ambient. On another level, however, ambient surroundability is an effect that must be actively exposed, emphasized or produced through various aestheticizing strategies and practices. Here, an environment can be staged, designed and transformed through processes of techno-material production and aestheticized listening with the specific purpose of intensifying its surround effects. On this level, the production of surroundability is often implemented in contrast—at times in direct opposition—to the atmospheric and ecological dimensions. The less distinct the ecological sense of interconnectivity between individuated systems and parts, and the less accentuated the atmospheric sense of site-specific presence and situated moods, the more intense and powerful the ambient effect. On this level, in other words, being-in is opposed to being-with. Some sonic environments are more ambient than others. While they are both part of the same basic onto-aesthetic principle of sonic surroundability, specific manifestations of ambient sound can thus differ considerably in terms of their forms of expression, their circumstances of production, and their aesthetic and socio-cultural implications. Most notably, while the emergent ambient potentials of sonic matter can potentially be experienced by listeners in all situations, the level of techno-­ material production and aestheticized listening specifically allows for the promotion and utilization of such potentials by synthetic means. It is as if the potential emergent surroundability of sonic matter comprises a ‘natural resource,’ embedded in the sonic environment, which can be

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turned into a product through technological and performative processes of extraction, concentration, multiplication, framing and distribution. Sound as ‘nature’ becomes a readymade form of ambient design. As I have sought to illuminate throughout the book, since the mid-nineteenth century—and continuously supported by techno-industrial inventions and the increasing commercialization of sound—this product of sonic surroundability has developed into one of the most widespread and influential expressions of sonic modernity: from experimental drone music to the ubiquitous design of pop massification to performative noise; from the cinematic construction of audiovisual space to the mobile synthetization of everyday auditory life by design; from the increasing reverberatory control of our auditory commons to the hyperaestheticized vibrancy of urban event space; from vast pre-modern architectures of acoustic immanence to current techno-sublime spectacles of noise-cancelling privacy and ambisonic all sound. Not only as an emergent potential but also on the level of its techno-material production—as a product, and because of its status and ubiquitous availability as product—ambient sound comprises an ever-present environmental condition for modern and contemporary auditory life. Even the most emergent and readymade processes of sonic surroundability are, of course, never neutral. Whether emergent or actively produced, ambient sound is a powerful component in the continuous territorialization, deterritorialization and reterritorialization of sonic space. On both levels, ambient sound promotes certain sensibilities, actions and expressions while rendering others less attractive, feasible or relevant. It continuously encourages, however discreetly, listeners to negotiate and regulate their affective involvement with the surrounding environment. Hence, ambient sound not only enables potential sensations of environmental intimacy, comfort, exclusivity and spectacular immersivity, but also of being invaded by or disconnected from the sonic surroundings. Surroundability can be soothing and calming. It can be intense, transformative and utterly meaningful. But it can also be disturbing and aggressive, incessantly violating our affective borders of listening and aural communication. It can make precarious listeners withdraw into an audioposition of encapsulating privacy, a hyperpersonalized sonic immanence.

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There is, in other words, a deep politics of sonic surroundability connected to the ways in which ambient sound continuously cultivates auditory practice on an environmental, social and subjective level. Most notably, it establishes a complex double-scenario around listeners, in which sonic surroundability, on the one hand, constitutes a prominent feature in the commercial and political regulation of affective being in postcapitalist control societies, and, on the other hand, provides the means for affective protection from such powers through techniques and technologies of auditory framing, isolation and privatization. At one and the same time, ambient sound furnishes a common ground for the aesthetic habituation of everyday life, opens new levels of affective control through public governmentality and promotes new aesthetic forms of auditory askesis through individual counteracts of protection and withdrawal. In this complex scenario, the politics of ambient sound exposes a general necessity to actively negotiate what forms of social and subjective life that are, and should be, enabled or disabled in each specific situation of sonic surroundability, and to critically consider how and to what extent this condition is reflected in the very material basis of the modern auditory dispositive. In what forms, to what extent and with what consequences do we want to feel surrounded by sound? Ambient sound has occasionally been targeted for and preferred by a particular audience or selected group of people.1 However, because of its ubiquitous cultural dissemination, it eventually affects all forms of sonic practice in contemporary pan-Western societies to various degrees. Ambient sound, on this general level of environmental affectivity, is not primarily something individuals actively choose to engage with (or seek to avoid). When modern and contemporary subjects learn and practice the cultural technique of listening in the first place, they inevitably do so, in part, through their repetitive, habitual involvement with ambient sound and ambient technologies. Negotiating the double-mediatic surroundability-­ directionality complex is thus an essential part of individuals’ ongoing technical cultivation of their auditory life with environmental sound in general and with environmental listening technologies in particular. And in this generalized, electro-acoustic dispositive of sonic surroundability, subjects are taught—with all their different motives and desires—what it is like to become, and to desire to become, (more) ambient.

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But what is it, more precisely, that these ambient subjects learn? What forms of subjectivity are being produced and promoted by the ubiquitous effects and affects of ambient sound? In this last section, I will briefly specify what I see as some of the key political and ethico-aesthetic implications of the general techno-material production and aestheticization of ambient sound: 1. Generic. A key characteristic of ambient sound, which differentiates it from the other basic environmentalities (atmosphere and ecology), concerns the ambient environment’s problematic relationship with the particular. Objectivity, dehumanization, objectlessness, lack of individualized expression and other effects so characteristic of sonic surroundability imbue ambient environments with a sense of generalization and non-particularity. By contrast, both atmospheric and ecological environmentalities afford, to a much larger extent, sensations of environmental particularity. In different ways and to various degrees, their environmental effects are centered around the material and codified expression of specific hierarchical relations between separate spheres, boundaries, objects and individuals. In comparison, ambient environmentality rather entails environmental dehierarchization, non-relationality and a-­signifying deterritorialization. While a sonic atmosphere expresses the mood or tone of a particular place, and while ecological processes express the specific immanent relationality and interconnectivity of different sonic spheres and their various milieus, ambient sound presents sonic space as a generic total surround, void of expressive pregnancy and territorial negotiation. A sonic atmosphere says: ‘this is how this particular place sounds, this is how it feels to be here,’ and a sonic ecology says: “this is how the environment’s multiple spheres, elements and forces are connected in particular ways, this is how it feels to be entangled with all the different human and non-human elements of the sonic environment.” Ambient sound says: “this is a surrounding sonic environment, this is how it feels to be surrounded by sound.” Ambient sound is generic totality against particularity and individuality. Abstract, a-signifying materiality against signifying codification. Preindividual, a-figurative differentiation and decentering against individuation, figurativity and centralization. Regularity, repetition and continuous variation against organic development and directional teleology. Deterritorialization against territorialization.

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2. Inattentive. Another crucial factor in ambient sound’s production of subjectivity concerns its special implications for the problem of attention. On a general level and in its individual manifestations, ambient sound thus entails a basic challenge to attention, which affects all forms of ambient practice to a varying extent. The synthetic, massified and mediatized matter-flows, the objective, a-figurative and preindividual distribution, the continuous variations of repetitive and sustained sounds in environmental circulation, the techno-aesthetic staging of all-­ encompassing surrounds, the synthetic expansion and spreading out of the auditory field, the radical immanent consistency of the environment as a unitary whole—all these central components of ambient sound contribute, in various ways, to the affective production of a fluid, distributed, unfocused and inattentive subjectivity. In essence, they render superfluous any attentive and focused auditory engagement in favor of a general aesthetics of inattention. When nothing in the environment stands out (as figure, object, individual or center) and everything blends into an a-figurative continuum, nothing in principle calls for special attention. Directional attention to individual and particular sounds in the environment recedes in favor of a non-directional and, per definition, inattentive sense of a total surroundability. Taking this into account, the double mediality discussed earlier between directionality and surroundability can be seen as constituting a general ethico-aesthetic scheme of sonic subjectification between attentive and inattentive modes of sensation. On the one hand, we have the object-oriented attentive aesthetics: an aesthetics of confrontation by stable, individuated sound objects, decoding of sonic information and the relational sensation of environmental being-with. On the other hand, we have a field-oriented aesthetics of inattention concerned with ambient effects of generic unobtrusiveness, inorganic fluidity, dehierarchization, deindividuation and the non-relational sensation of being-in. It goes without saying that this latter aesthetics of inattention is not about disinterestedness, anaesthetics or a waning of affective intensity. Ambient sensations can be overwhelming and all-encompassing; they can engulf the whole situation and invade all parts of the sensorium; they can be all about envelopment and they can be far too much. Yet in all cases it is the inattentive mode that can most effectively unfold the environmental

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ubiquity and consistency of ambient sound. Surrounding, decentralized, ubiquitous and distributed sounds afford surrounding, decentralized, ubiquitous and distributed sensibilities. ‘Attentive surroundability’ and ‘attention to everything’ are oxymorons. Inattention is the basic mode of ambient subjectivity. 3. Asocial. A central factor in this aesthetics of inattention concerns the way ambient sound, as we have seen, involves a basic onto-aesthetic dissolution of subject-object relations and intersubjective connections in favor of a deindividualized and essentially a-human environmentality. The material desubjectification of the ambient environment thus arguably stimulates a corresponding reduction of the sense of being intersubjectively related to other subjects that are virtually or actually present in the environment. In other words, ambient sound potentially implies not only an onto-aesthetic but a decidedly socio-aesthetic isolation of the sensing subject. Ambient subjectivity becomes a detached, encapsulated and in principle asocial subjectivity.2 It involves the affirmative sensation that the subject, and nothing but the subject, is occupying a central and privileged position in the environment—the sweetest spot, the “place in-the-­ middle-of-which one is” (Spitzer 1942, p. 194). And a morpho-material and onto-aesthetic precondition of this effect is precisely the felt absence of other subjects. Ambient subjectivity builds on the onto-aesthetic production, confirmation and preservation of a solitary, centralized self as an unchallenged authority by whom the world is given perspective and meaning as ambient. The ambient subject is first and foremost ambient because it is and feels isolated and exceptional. Indeed, if all this is true, a self-orientated, asocial and potentially solipsistic subjectivation arguably pervades  sonic modernity as an affective material force deeply embedded into the ambient fibers of auditory culture. Yet, we must still remember that ambient affordances and affects, even when they mainly stimulate sensations of solipsistic omnipresence, are but one dimension of a general sonic environmentality and but one side of the double-mediatic staging of listening between surroundability and directionality. Moreover, we must remember that all this is never simply either good or bad, but something which constitutes a basic material and onto-aesthetic condition of modern environmental sound and listening. On the other hand, though, it may of course become good or

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bad depending on how it is being actualized for whom and in what context. It all depends on how the politics of sonic surroundability are negotiated. What possibilities of action, communication and sensory engagement are enabled or prohibited by specific ambient environment? Who are invited and included in the surround and who are not? Who has the privilege of being engaged in sensations of solipsistic omnipresence? Who feels attracted to and represented by a culture of ambient sensibility and who do not? To what extent are acts of avoidance and escape possible and alternative environmentalities  available.  The question, in other words, is not so much whether ambient sound conditions listening toward inattentive, solipsistic omnipresence, but rather if, how, and to what extent this conditioning, in each specific situation, also allows other forms of subjectivity, sociality and modes of attention to become affective and part of the environmental engagement. Is there, for instance, a potential for critical distance and reflexivity in ambient listening and, if so, how can it be actualized in specific situations? What socio-political conditions for sonic intimacy, community, democracy and citizenship can we hope for in an auditory life saturated by ambient capitalism, ambient politics, ambient attention management and ambient desires? Do ambient environments and ambient sensibilities in fact offer new lines of flight in an over-loaded life of post-capitalist desiring-production? Small micro-utopias of non-confrontational and non-relational immanence, where subjects can regain energy and develop new strategies for dealing with the pressures from capitalist norms and ideals of hyperattention, competency, adaptability, and the eternal readiness for new participatory engagements and ecological entanglements? Or does the ubiquitous affectivity of ambient sound rather indicate an ethico-aesthetic need for new directions in auditory culture that can help ambient listeners navigate beyond the inattentive, a-social and a-critical contentment of self-indulgent isolation, which lure in all ambient sensibilities as a dormant force? Undoubtedly, this book doesn’t provide a clear and unequivocal answer to such pertinent questions. Instead, my deliberate intention has first and foremost been to explore the basic philosophical potentials of thinking the sonic environment as environment and to conceptualize the material and onto-aesthetic implications of its ambient dimension. On this basis, I have sought to illuminate how the ambient production and

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aestheticization of sonic surroundability has gained a gradually deeper and more pervasive influence on auditory life—for good or for worse. The starting point for this endeavor was to distinguish ambient sound as a basic philosophical and aesthetic ‘problem’ for sound studies and media philosophy by posing the first and most elementary questions: What is ambient sound? How is it produced? How does it affect us? What does it mean to engage in an act of ambient listening?

Notes 1. Hence, like countless other cultural activities in human history, some of the key technologies in the history of ambient listening—home stereos or noise-cancelling headphones, for instance—have been associated with a specific type of listener: the white, male, upper-middle-class, middle-aged, well-behaved and docilely immobile listener (Théberge et  al. 2015a, b; Hagood 2019). My aim has, obviously, not been to maintain or foster essentialist notions of a specific cultural impact of ambient sound. On the contrary, I have sought to conceptualize ambient sound and listening as a general and generalized dimension of sound and modern auditory culture, which allows for a wide range of different expressions, uses, connotations and cultural valuations for different people in different ways at different times and in different contexts and situations. While, say, home stereo as a commercial product in the 1950s may have been primarily targeted for a specific group of users, the potential delights and discontents of the sonic surroundability it provides and promotes are for all. 2. I have explored this socio-aesthetic dimension of ambient environmentality more extensively, and in specific relation to screen-culture and contemporary architecture as movement-space, in Schmidt 2015.

Bibliography Hagood, Mack. 2019. Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control. Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Schmidt, Ulrik. 2015. The Socioaesthetics of Being Surrounded: Ambient Sociality and Movement-Space. In Socioaesthetics: Ambience – Imaginary, ed. Anders Michelsen and Frederik Tygstrup, 25–39. Leiden: Brill Publishers.

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Spitzer, Leo. 1942. Milieu and Ambiance: An Essay in Historical Semantics [Part 2]. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 3(2): 169–218. Théberge, Paul, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett, eds. 2015a. Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound. New York: Bloomsbury. ———. 2015b. Introduction: Living Stereo. In Living Stereo: Histories and Cultures of Multichannel Sound, ed. Paul Théberge, Kyle Devine, and Tom Everrett, 1–34. New York: Bloomsbury.

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Index1

A

Abstract-concrete, 62, 116, 134, 144, 154n6, 227 Accumulation, 81, 86, 89, 149–151, 155n10, 173, 188, 207 Acousmatic, 80, 117–124, 129n3, 129n4, 129n5, 130n6, 130n7, 131n7, 134, 135, 137, 140, 207–211, 213n4, 227, 233n14 Acousmêtre, 122, 129n5 Acoustics, 9, 14, 23, 27n10, 55, 58, 110, 113, 117, 119–121, 123, 128, 137, 140–142, 144–146, 155n10, 175n6, 178n18, 183, 187, 190, 193, 196, 203–212, 213n1, 213n2, 215–217, 222, 226, 228, 234n15, 239–241, 243, 245, 246, 250n1, 251n7, 257

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), 240 Ader, Clément, 230n1, 231n4, 246 Adorno, Theodor W., 151, 208–210 Aestheticization, 1, 5, 19, 22, 53, 109, 122, 133, 134, 137, 228, 242, 259, 263 Affective regulation, 246 A-figurative differentiation, 89, 90, 92, 95, 96, 259 Agamben, Giorgio, 184, 197n1 Aion, 97, 98, 102n15, 102n16 Altman, Rick, 160, 175n5, 176n8, 189, 232n8 Ambiance, 6–8, 20, 21, 28n10 Ambience, 6–8, 27n9, 162, 163, 167, 169, 175n4, 175n6, 176n7, 206, 213n2, 219, 220, 231n7, 243, 244, 246

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.

1

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2023 U. Schmidt, A Philosophy of Ambient Sound, Palgrave Studies in Sound, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-1755-6

281

282 Index

Ambisonics, 225–227, 229, 233n13, 257 Amphitheater, 205–207 Anthropomorphism, anthropomorphic, anthropomorphization, anthropomorphizing, non-­ anthropomorphic, 53, 56–58, 69n3, 77 Any-space-whatever, 246, 250 Aristotle, 7, 26n7, 40, 199n5 Atmosphere, 6–8, 10, 11, 27n9, 28n12, 28n13, 42, 72n10, 152, 162, 163, 167, 169, 176n6, 227, 245, 259 Attention, 1, 2, 6, 14, 15, 19, 24n2, 27n10, 31n23, 43, 45, 46, 51, 53, 110, 129n3, 150, 164, 172, 175n4, 183, 190, 217, 230n2, 244, 247, 260–262 Audile techniques, 14, 135, 188–192, 199n6, 217, 239 Audioposition, audiopositioning, 194, 196, 199n7, 205, 215, 216, 218, 221, 227, 231n4, 231n8, 232n8, 257 Audiovisual continuum, 170, 223 Audiovisual litany, 13, 14, 29n18, 189–192 Auditory dispositive, 184, 185, 193, 196, 197n1, 197n2, 198n3, 198n2, 229, 258 Augoyard, Jean-François, 6, 80, 100n4, 100n5 B

Background noise, 59, 73n14, 175n4, 175n6

Beck, Jay, 169, 177n13, 177n14, 178n18 Being-in, being in, 8, 16, 22, 23, 37–47, 48n7, 51, 61, 81, 83, 122, 162, 163, 184, 193, 194, 205, 226, 227, 250, 256, 258, 260 Being-with, 46, 47, 53, 61, 69, 83, 194, 250, 256, 260 Bergson, Henri, 102n16 Berland, Jody, 195 Binaural, 233n13, 238 Blesser, Barry, 205, 206, 213n2 Blom, Ina, 152 Böhme, Gernot, 7 Bordwell, David, 171, 172 Born, Georgina, 145, 153n5, 154n5 Bregman, Albert S., 66, 72n9, 94, 96, 102n14 Buchanan, Brett, 30n21 Buhler, James, 167, 174n3, 177n12, 220, 221 Bull, Michael, 241, 250n1 Burtt, Ben, 165 C

Cage, John, 9, 43, 58, 59, 61, 70n5, 84–89, 96, 97, 100n7, 101n9, 101n10, 102n15 Cardiff, Janet, 226, 233n12 Cathedral, 206–208, 212, 213n4, 217, 222, 224, 232n9 Centralization, 22, 44–47, 59, 205, 215–218, 227–230, 259 Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya, 162 Chion, Michel, 65, 119, 120, 122, 123, 126, 127, 129n5, 130n7, 131n11, 131n12, 166–168,

 Index 

170–172, 174n2, 174n3, 176n10, 176n11, 177n16, 178n17, 190, 220, 222, 232n8 Chow, Rey, 72n8 Chun, Wendy, 24n3 Citton, Yves, 24n2 Concert hall, 14, 153n4, 208, 212, 215, 219, 222, 224, 233n12, 251n7 Confrontation, 60, 61, 260 Connor, Steven, 144 Conrad, Tony, 56, 86–88, 97, 101n9 Consistency, 23, 72n8, 77–79, 100n6, 103n18, 110, 111, 114, 115, 117, 127, 134, 139, 141, 142, 146, 147, 149–151, 163, 169, 223, 260, 261 Continuity, 23, 46, 77, 81, 96, 98, 99, 103n17, 147, 161–163, 171–173, 178n17, 222 Continuous variation, 96–99, 103n18, 145, 173, 248, 249, 256, 259, 260 Corbusier, Le, 224 Cox, Christoph, 16, 97, 102n16 Crary, Jonathan, 30n19, 186, 187, 198n3 Cruz, Maria Teresa, 184 Cull, Laura, 100n7 D

Debussy, Claude, 54 Decentralization, 8, 44–47, 59, 62, 224, 227, 228, 230, 255 Decontextualization, 117, 119, 121, 122 Dehierarchization, 164, 220, 221, 223, 259, 260

283

Deindividuation, 138, 149, 156n11, 260 DeLanda, Manuel, 99n3, 100n3 Deleuze, Gilles, 12, 16, 18, 21, 26n6, 28n14, 30n21, 30n22, 31n22, 39, 40, 78, 79, 81, 84, 90, 92–94, 96–98, 99n3, 100n6, 101n12, 102n15, 102n16, 103n18, 103n18, 137–139, 145, 146, 184, 197n1, 246, 251n10 Demusicalization, 149, 173 Design, 2, 14, 19–23, 38, 42, 43, 57, 72n12, 94, 109, 133–135, 140, 141, 148–152, 153n3, 155n10, 159–173, 174n2, 175n4, 176n9, 176n10, 177n15, 183, 185, 192, 193, 203–212, 220, 221, 223, 224, 243, 245, 246, 257 Design effect, 148, 149 Desubjectification, 59, 261 Deterritorialization, 8, 122, 149, 248, 257, 259 Devine, Kyle, 194, 216, 229, 230n1, 233n15, 238 Difference in itself, 92, 93 Directionality, 13–16, 19, 30n20, 31n23, 60, 61, 190–192, 199n5, 199n6, 222, 224, 234n15, 256, 260, 261 Dispositive, see Auditory dispositive Distributed listening, 248 Distribution, 2, 4, 12, 20, 21, 45, 47, 57, 95, 135, 136, 149, 152, 174n2, 184, 193, 196, 229, 230, 237, 245–249, 257, 260 Doane, Mary Ann, 161

284 Index

Donnelly, Kevin J., 173, 220 Double mediality, 23, 188–194, 198n5, 199n5, 260 Drone, 55, 61, 71n6, 86, 88, 94, 100n4, 103n17, 147, 149, 155n10, 172, 257 E

Ecology, 2, 6, 9–11, 24n2, 83, 109–112, 197n1, 259 Edwards, Paul N., 247 Einstein, Albert, 99n1 Electronic sound, electronic music, 100n8, 137, 141–144, 146, 165, 192, 215–217, 225 Encapsulation, 116, 230 Eno, Brian, 43, 44, 61, 62, 68, 73n13, 94–96, 110, 116, 117, 136, 245 Envelopment, 6, 7, 12–14, 29n17, 103n17, 111, 114, 205, 216, 220, 224, 244, 256, 260 Environmentality, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8–12, 14, 16, 19, 26n6, 38, 45, 51–59, 61, 64, 68, 69, 89, 109–112, 117, 137, 140, 163, 193, 198n5, 227, 240, 243, 250n2, 255, 259, 261, 263n2 Erlmann, Veit, 232n8 Evens, Aden, 103n17 Everrett, Tom, 194, 216, 230n1, 231n4, 233n15, 250n1 Expansion, 1, 81, 84–86, 171, 172, 215–218, 221, 231n6, 255, 260

F

Fetish-character, 209 Field, 9, 12, 13, 17, 22, 23, 31n23, 54, 60–62, 64, 66, 68, 71n6, 72n11, 72n12, 73n12, 77–81, 83–92, 94, 96, 98, 99n1, 100n3, 101n10, 118, 139, 144, 146, 147, 159, 164, 165, 171, 173, 174n1, 191, 194, 195, 199n6, 204, 210, 217–221, 224–229, 233n13, 239, 244, 245, 260 Field effect, 23, 77–99, 110, 135, 139 Field-oriented, 99n2, 260 Field recording, 64, 94, 194, 233n14 Field theory, 77 Figure-ground, 66, 68, 72n10, 92, 93, 177n14, 188 Fixed time, 97 Flat ontology, 99n3, 100n3 Fluid, 98, 145, 164, 260 Flux, 30n22, 40, 41, 65, 72n8, 90, 98, 109, 226 Foucault, Michel, 184, 190, 197n1, 198n3, 251n10 Fried, Michael, 55, 62–64 G

Galloway, Alexander, 26n6 Generic, generic sound, generic space, 8, 10, 20, 43, 44, 95, 96, 134, 138, 139, 144, 149, 168, 173, 246, 255–263 Gestalt psychology, Gestalt theory, 66, 67, 94–96

 Index 

Gibson, James J., 11, 12, 15, 28n14, 30n19, 38, 39, 67, 68, 78, 83, 119 Gilmore, James H., 24n2 Glass, Philip, 55, 103n17 Godard, Jean-Luc, 164, 165, 176n8 Goodman, Steve, 16, 100n5, 247, 251n10 Grajeda, Tony, 218 Greek theater, see Amphitheater Grignon, Lorin, 231n6 Grimshaw, Mark, 18 Großmann, Rolf, 125 Guattari, Félix, 12, 26n6, 28n14, 40, 79, 84, 90, 93, 94, 96–98, 100n6, 101n12, 102n15, 103n18, 104n18, 145, 146 Guillebaud, Christine, 9, 27n10, 28n10 H

Hagood, Mack, 18, 25n5, 26n5, 195, 240, 250n1, 263n1 Hansen, Mark B.N., 3, 18 Hasse, Jürgen, 28n12 Headphones, 20, 23, 116, 117, 187, 191, 194, 237–245, 250, 250n1, 251n5, 251n7, 263n1 Heidegger, Martin, 6, 10, 12, 22, 28n14, 45, 46, 48n6, 48n7, 53 Helmholtz, Hermann L. F. von, 91 Herbert, Ruth, 251n3 Holman, Tomlinson, 162 Holt, Macon, 156n12 Home stereo, 218, 228, 229, 263n1 Hörl, Erich, 2, 10

285

Hosokawa, Shuhei, 240 Husserl, Edmund, 6, 30n20, 55, 65, 71n7, 90 I

Ihde, Don, 13, 15, 16, 18, 30n20, 192 Ikoniadou, Elini, 101n12 Immanence, 16, 23, 52, 53, 81–89, 91, 93, 96, 99, 100n6, 100n7, 101n10, 111, 113–117, 122, 124, 130n6, 134, 142, 144, 147, 149, 150, 159–160, 169, 170, 172, 174n2, 193, 203–212, 222, 223, 226–228, 230, 241, 249, 250, 257, 262 Immersion, 16, 29n17, 81–89, 228, 232n8 Inattention, 260, 261 Individuation, 39, 46, 47n1, 138, 187, 239, 256, 259 Infeld, Leopold, 78 Infrastructure, 20, 21, 23, 24n2, 135, 185, 192, 237–250 Installation, 20, 64, 71n6, 94, 227, 228, 233n12 Interference, 4, 55, 89–92, 111, 144, 146 Isolation, 8, 115, 186, 187, 239–241, 244, 250n1, 255, 258, 261, 262 J

Joseph, Branden W., 84, 86, 87 Judd, Donald, 56, 60, 69n3

286 Index K

M

Kahn, Douglas, 29n17, 59, 69n1, 70n5, 71n5, 84, 85, 88, 100n8, 101n9, 251n8, 101n8 Kane, Brian, 16, 25n5, 30n21, 65, 71n7, 121, 122, 124, 130n6, 134, 207–209, 213n4, 213n5 Kassabian, Anahid, 80, 100n5, 246 Kerins, Mark, 171, 172, 178n17, 220, 222, 223, 231n7 Kim-Cohen, Seth, 20, 21, 233n12 Kirkegaard, Jacob, 233n12 Kittler, Friedrich A., 175n3, 185, 198n4, 199n5 Koffka, Kurt, 66, 72n10 Köhler, Wolfgang, 66 Krauss, Rosalind, 64, 101n10

Machinic phylum, 90–92 Massification, 8, 138, 140, 141, 146, 147, 149–152, 156n11, 255–257 Materiality, 3, 21, 22, 26n6, 55, 90, 109, 112, 133, 137–139, 145, 148, 168, 220, 248, 259 Matter-flow, 91, 92, 137, 138, 145, 210, 248–250, 260 Matter-medium, 4, 26n6, 40, 90, 91, 109, 110, 112–118, 127, 129–130n5, 134, 135, 137–139, 143, 144, 147, 160, 163, 169, 170, 186, 194, 204, 207, 222, 226, 242 McCormack, Derek P., 27n9 McLuhan, Marshall, 125, 131n9, 189, 234n15 Mediation, 115–117, 120–125, 127, 129n4, 131n7, 131n9, 134, 135, 142, 149, 159, 187, 188, 190, 191, 212, 249 Mediatization, 1, 3, 22, 23, 40, 109–128, 128n1, 129n2, 130n6, 130n7, 131n9, 133–135, 137–141, 144, 147–150, 152, 153, 159, 165, 174n2, 188, 203–205, 207–211, 249, 255 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 28n14, 44, 65 Mertens, Wim, 69n2, 96 Miller, Georges Bures, 226, 233n12

L

LaBelle, Brandon, 251n11, 252n11 Lacey, Jordan, 27n9 Langer, Susanne K., 28n15 Lanza, Joseph, 48n3, 251n8, 251n9 Larkin, Brian, 237, 238 Lastra, James, 169 Lazzarato, Maurizio, 248 Léger, Fernand, 42, 47n2 Leiber, Jerry, 148 Licht, Alan, 71n6 Ligeti, Györgi, 146, 147, 149, 154n6, 155n10, 164 López, Francisco, 20, 233n14 Lucas, George, 165, 168, 176n7

 Index 

Milner, Greg, 154n7, 154n9, 155n9 Minimalism, 54–56, 60–62, 97, 103n17 Mono, monaural, 23, 217, 220, 229 Moorefield, Virgil, 154n7, 155n10 Morris, Robert, 54–56, 60, 70n3 Morton, Timothy, 27n9, 73n14, 131n11 Murch, Walter, 165, 168, 169, 174n1, 176n7, 177n14 Musique concrète, 118, 130n7 Musique d’ameublement, 22, 41–43, 48n3, 48n4, 251n8 Muzak, 73n14, 245–247, 251n8, 251n10, 251n11, 252n11 N

Nicol, Rozenn, 225, 233n13 Noise, 20, 42, 43, 56, 59, 69n1, 70n4, 70n5, 73n14, 86, 94, 135, 160, 161, 168, 170, 172, 173, 175n4, 175n6, 212, 216, 222, 239, 240, 247, 257 Non-melody, 95 Non-pulsed time, 97 O

Objectivity, 23, 52–62, 69n1, 77, 227, 259 Objectlessness, 23, 59–66, 68, 77, 78, 255, 259 Object-oriented, 60, 61, 99n2, 160, 161, 163, 175n4, 196, 260 O’Callaghan, Casey, 25n5 Oliveros, Pauline, 15, 56, 97, 146

287

Onto-aesthetics, 16–19, 30n21, 57, 82, 83, 111, 113, 142, 164 Ortega y Gasset, José, 54 Ouzounian, Gascia, 14 P

Periēchon, 6, 7, 26n7, 27n8, 198n5, 199n5, 255 Peters, John Durham, 3, 24n3, 25n4 Phantasmagoria, 208–210, 229 Phonogeny, 124–128, 131n10, 131n12 Pine, B. Joseph, 24n2 Point of audition, 199n7, 221, 232n8 Pop, 20–22, 41, 42, 123, 147–153, 154n7, 155n10, 156n12, 257 Post-phenomenological, 18, 19 Preindividual differentiation, preindividual being, 89–92, 101n11 Presence, 7, 11, 15, 30n20, 45, 46, 52, 53, 55, 60, 61, 66, 80, 113–115, 120, 123, 126, 127, 130n5, 134, 144, 160, 162, 163, 167, 172, 175n6, 176n10, 177n15, 188, 204, 208–211, 226, 227, 241, 244, 248, 249, 256 Presentification, 113, 116, 123, 188, 209, 210, 227 Production, 1, 2, 5, 11, 17–19, 21, 23, 37, 40, 45, 46, 47n1, 51–54, 56, 59, 61, 62, 80, 81, 84, 87, 89, 96, 98, 99, 110, 112, 113, 115, 116, 124, 126–128, 130n6, 133,

288 Index

135–143, 145–152, 154n8, 154n9, 155n10, 159–164, 166, 174n1, 174n2, 175n4, 183–188, 193, 196, 199n6, 203, 207–212, 215, 222, 224, 225, 229, 230, 245, 247–249, 251n11, 255, 256, 259–262 Production sensibility, 133–139, 147 Pulse, 97 Pythagoras, 118, 129n3, 207 R

Recording, 115, 116, 126, 129n3, 135, 136, 142, 148–151, 154n7, 154n9, 155n10, 160, 161, 164, 165, 176n7, 185, 186, 194, 225, 231n6, 242, 244, 251n7, 251n9 Reich, Steve, 55, 61, 97, 103n17 Rendering, 1, 127, 131n11, 131n12, 257 Repetition, 23, 43, 61, 72n8, 81, 85, 98, 99, 103n17, 103n18, 129n3, 147, 149, 150, 154n8, 259 Reproduction, 4, 5, 21, 23, 27n10, 114, 115, 117, 118, 121, 125–127, 134, 135, 140–142, 144, 147, 159, 161, 164, 183, 186, 189, 193, 194, 207, 215–217, 225 Reproduction sensibility, 133–139, 164 Resonance, 11, 24n2, 91, 92 Reverberation enhanced reverberation, 205–207 excessive reverberation, 205, 207, 208, 211

Reyland, Nicholas, 173 Riley, Terry, 55, 61, 103n17 Robinson, Dylan, 27n10 Room tone, 162, 163, 175n4, 176n7 Roquet, Paul, 73n13, 239, 242–244, 251n7 S

Salt, Barry, 161, 175n5 Salter, Linda-Ruth, 205, 206, 213n1, 213n2, 232n10, 233n11 Satie, Erik, 22, 41–44, 48n3, 48n4, 61, 245, 247, 251n8 Schaeffer, Pierre, 25n5, 65, 66, 71n7, 72n8, 117–121, 129n3, 129n4, 130n7 Schafer, R. Murray, 9, 66, 67, 70n5, 72n11, 72n12, 129n4, 206, 234n15, 242 Schrimshaw, Will, 16, 20, 21, 82, 228 Schulze, Holger, 125, 131n10, 232n10 Siegert, Bernhard, 198n3, 198n5 Silence, 42, 43, 58, 59, 102n15, 117 Simondon, Gilbert, 39, 40, 47n1, 68, 89, 101n11 Site-specificity, 53, 243, 246 Sloterdijk, Peter, 1, 24n1 Smalley, Denis, 119 Smith, Tony, 60, 62, 63 Søchting, Rune, 248 Sonic matter, 4, 38, 39, 41, 55, 57, 65, 88, 90, 110–112, 133, 136, 143, 144, 147, 149, 150, 152, 164, 217, 221, 226, 230, 255, 256

 Index 

Sonnenschein, David, 177n15 Sound art, 5, 16, 20–22, 42, 53, 56, 64, 71n6, 82, 84, 85, 94, 118, 133, 134, 141, 144, 145, 153n5, 154n5, 224–228, 233n11, 233n12 Sound design, 20–22, 38, 42, 72n12, 133, 134, 141, 149, 151, 152, 153n3, 159–173, 174n2, 175n4, 176n9, 177n15, 193, 220, 221, 245 Sound mass, 144–147, 155n10, 164, 243 Sound object, 65, 66, 71n7, 71n8, 72n9, 118, 119, 121–122, 129n3, 260 Soundscape, 6, 9, 10, 27n10, 28n11, 28n10, 66–68, 72n11, 117, 149, 155n10, 156n12, 194, 211, 226 Sound studies, 5, 6, 10, 13, 16, 21, 28n10, 42, 124, 141, 189, 242, 263 Soundtrack, 167–173, 178n17, 178n18, 232n8 Spectacle, spectacular, 2, 5, 20, 22, 123, 134, 154n6, 165, 169–173, 191, 192, 205, 209, 216, 219, 221, 222, 227, 229, 230n1, 230n2, 257 Spector, Phil, 148–151, 154n7, 154n8, 154n9, 155n10, 155n9, 164 Spielberg, Steven, 165 Spitzer, Leo, 5–7, 12, 26n7, 27n8, 29n16, 48n5, 99n1, 99n2, 261 Staging, 10, 23, 54, 86, 100n7, 109, 174n2, 176n7, 183–197,

289

203–205, 207, 208, 210, 211, 215–217, 219, 220, 222, 225–230, 232n8, 237, 238, 241, 244, 246, 247, 250, 260, 261 Standardization, standardize, 20, 149, 151, 154n8, 156n11, 184, 185 Stankievech, Charles, 243 Steintrager, James, 72n8 Stereo stereophonic, 194, 217–219, 226, 228, 229, 230n1, 230n2, 231n6 stereophony, 217, 225 Sterne, Jonathan, 9, 13, 14, 27n10, 29n18, 28n10, 134, 135, 186–192, 198n3, 199n6, 199n7, 216, 239, 246, 248 Stockhausen, Karlheinz, 142, 143, 146, 153n4, 165, 224, 233n11 Stoller, Mike, 148 Streaming, 3, 20, 23, 247–250 Subjectivity, 5, 18, 19, 22, 31n23, 53, 57, 62, 69n2, 184, 185, 187, 196, 238, 247, 252n11, 259–262 Superfield, 170–172, 178n18, 220–223 Sweet spot, 218, 219, 225–229 Synthesizer, 146, 175n3 Synthetization, synthetic, synthesis, 8, 22, 23, 25n4, 25n5, 57, 96, 114, 117, 123, 130n6, 133–153, 154n9, 155n10, 156n11, 155n9, 160–162, 164–166, 168–170, 174n3, 175n4, 177n14, 185–188,

290 Index

195, 197, 198n5, 203–205, 207, 208, 210, 220, 221, 224, 227, 228, 230, 231n6, 241–243, 245, 248, 256, 257, 260 T

Taine, Hippolyte, 12, 29n16 Technique of listening, 258 Technology of listening, 20, 23, 183–185, 187, 192, 197n2, 198n3, 198n2, 239, 258 Teleology, 256 Territoriality, territorialization, deterritorialization, 8, 122, 149, 248, 257, 259 Thacker, Eugene, 26n6 Theatre of Eternal Music, The (TEM), 86–89, 101n9, 101n10 Théâtrophone, 231n4, 246 Théberge, Paul, 154n7, 194, 216, 229, 230n1, 233n15, 263n1 Theremin, Léon, 143, 144 Thibaud, Jean-Paul, 6–8 Thompson, Emily, 203, 211, 212, 214n6, 216 To metaxý, 199n5, 198n5

230, 233n12, 238, 243, 247–250, 255–259, 261, 262 Uexküll, Jakob von, 10, 12, 28n14, 28n15, 44, 70n5 Ultrafield, 222–224, 227 Univocity, univocal, 77–82, 96, 100n3, 100n6, 114, 123, 134, 137, 164, 169, 170, 173, 224, 226, 230 Unobtrusive, 22, 44, 64, 67, 77, 245–247 V

Vague essences, 90, 92 van Drie, Melissa, 197n2, 231n4 Varèse, Edgard, 144–147, 149, 153n5, 155n10, 164, 224 Vibration, 4, 71n6, 85, 88, 90–92, 110, 111, 144, 147, 206, 207, 229 Vococentrism, 131n12, 166, 176n10, 177n14 Voice, 9, 56, 57, 70n4, 79, 112, 113, 117, 118, 122, 126, 128, 129n4, 142, 146, 166, 169, 174n3, 176n10, 177n13, 177n14, 206, 213n4 W

U

Ubiquity, ubiquitous, 8, 23, 44, 80–86, 88, 89, 91, 92, 99, 100n4, 100n5, 100n8, 110, 113–115, 129n5, 130n5, 150–153, 155n10, 173, 183, 192, 206, 213n2, 220, 229,

Wagner, Richard, 198n4, 208–211, 213n5 Waller, Steven J., 213n1 Warhol, Andy, 115 Wertheimer, Max, 66 Whittington, William, 162, 165, 169, 174n1, 174n2, 175n4, 176n7, 231n7

 Index 

Williams, Alan, 164, 175n6, 176n6 Winderen, Jana, 233n12 Windsor, Luke, 119, 120 Wright, Benjamin, 219, 221, 232n9 X

Xenakis, Iannis, 146, 149

291

Y

Young, La Monte, 56, 71n6, 84, 86–88, 97, 101n9, 101n10, 103n17, 146 Z

Zak, Albin, 154n8, 154n9, 155n10, 154–155n9 Zepke, Stephen, 17, 30n21