Underwater Music: Tuning Composition to the Sounds of Science
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This article attempts to audit underwater music. There are two primary venues for underwater music: field settings of the ocean and lab settings of swimming pools. For the field tradition, underwater music emerges from the noise of the Cold War, revealing the songs of whales and harboring evidence of global warming, of sea creatures under stress, etc. For the lab tradition, the pool is a stage to realize the aesthetic of Cagean modernism. It becomes a space to play with meanings of water. While the field setting is “wild” and entangled with nonhuman sounds and the lab setting is more social, cultural, or anthropocentric, artists working in both settings seek to evoke an “immersive” experience. In both settings the transductive properties of water must be managed to invoke water as a material accomplice in this enterprise, this aim of soaking listeners in the sublime surround of sound submerged.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Anthropology Program; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Humanities
The Oxford Handbook of Sound Studies
Oxford University Press
Helmreich, Stefan. “Underwater Music: Tuning Composition to the Sounds of Science.” Oxford Handbooks Online (December 2, 2011).