Invisible Places - Sounding Cities, the symposium of the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology, Viseu, Portugal. July 2014.
This paper applies conceptions of "place" derived from the disciplines of human geography, ethnomusicology, and phenomenology to the practice of field recording. There are three main concepts: Edward Casey's formulation that place precedes space as "the first of all things"; the acoustic epistemology of Steven Feld, as developed from his field work; and Tim Ingold's definition of landscape as "dwelling-place". These have in common Maurice Merleau-Ponty's insistence that being is always being-in-place.
I propose that the haptic nature of sound makes it particularly suited to the expression of this cross-modal phenomenology. Every act sounds a place, bringing it into being within a certain circumambiance. Place is a product of an ongoing reflexive and discursive process by which we encode meaning in the milieu. Hence, field recording practitioners cannot appeal to any a priori world that they might document objectively. Rather, they should acknowledge their own active participation in recoding the field.
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