Paul Jasen

Surrounding Sound is meant to be an evolving publication. Over time, we hope to see the dialogue circle outward into more specialized territories, unforeseen perspectives, and hopefully some debate.  Each contribution should, therefore, be considered an invitation to expand a dialogue already in progress.  Indeed, the essays collected here have their origins in conversations between nearly two dozen sound-minded contributors, including architects, artists, musicians, philosophers, anthropologists, makers, acoustic engineers, and media theorists.  The 2012 edition of Electric Fields was a rare chance to put these various thinkers and creators in one place, and what follows is a product of the weekend's rich exchanges.

This project centres on the open-ended equation sound+space.  Our aim with Surrounding Sound was to pose four broad (maybe impossibly big) sonic cultural questions, and then let all of the complicating details flood in.  Accordingly, the essays collected here don't attempt to document the event (although we have provided audio and summaries of the panels), but rather to use it as a starting point for further investigations.  Each, therefore, represents just one in a multitude of possible trajectories through this conceptual field.

How does space shape sound? Matthew Edwards begins with the material basics of vibration, reverberation, and resonance, before turning to the experiments of artists and musicians who make sonorous space their medium.  How does culture shape sound?  For Dipna Horra, answers take biographical form, via an art practice that explores the "unhomely" sound spaces of transnational displacement and polylingual memory.  Can sound be spaceless? Common sense says that sound needs a medium, but Greg J. Smith argues that various modes of digital re-encoding, de-materialization, and refraction may force us to consider the possibility of aspatial sound.  How does sound shape knowledge? My own contribution investigates the relationship between sound and ideas, looking beyond merely what we claim to know about sound, to ask how sound itself works to make and unmake our understanding of the world. 

These are just four rotes through sound+space.  Of course, each of our questions could produce any number of responses.  We hope they will.  So please check back as Surrounding Sound gains continues to grow.