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Digital Angst and the Phenomenology of Discontinuity

Conference presentation

ISSTC 2015, Limerick, Ireland. 12-13 August 2015.


Despite the fact we have lived with the technology for over three decades, many listeners remain fundamentally uneasy about digital audio. How can a sequence of ones and zeroes become a continuous sonic experience? Surely something is lost in the gaps between the samples? This paper traces an arc through Alberti's perspective theory, Zeno's paradoxes, Baudrillard's philosophy of the virtual, and the granular synthesis of Xenakis and Roads, in order to demonstrate that discontinuities are not a new characteristic of digital technologies. Rather, this characteristic was always already present, not only in previous analogue processes but also embedded in our perceptual apparatus.

I propose a corpuscular phenomenology of sound that reconsiders discontinuities not as absences, but as generative sites. Every dancing particle sounds the milieu, catalysing new and unexpected emergent content. Silence is not empty, but full of possibilities that artists of sound can explore.


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