Acoustic Master Narratives and Paralogies

Following Lyotard’s famous phrase of the grands récits that legitimize modernity’s claims to truth one may ask: what about sound? Is there such a thing as an acoustic meta-narrative that legitimizes modern knowledge through sound? Conversely, might there be an acoustic “paralogy” in which “sound-games” displace modernity’s totalizing claims? Using three historical works of reference (Kircher’s Musurgia, Rousseau’s Dictionnaire und Carl Einstein’s and George Bataillle’s Documents) in this paper I examine the place of sound in two partly competing, partly overlapping categories of modern knowledge: order and complexity. In so doing I ask how acoustic constructions of order and complexity might serve to legitimize (or delegitimize) some of modernity’s broader master narratives.