TEMP”AURAL” MEMORY The role of historicity, recollection, recording and archives in sonic culture

That the socio-cultures of hearing and the sonospheres of listening have been extended by the impact of technical media in modernity is an academic commonplace by now. The following thoughts rather focus on technologies themselves as archaeologists of acoustic and sonic phenomena such as the Siren songs and archaic sound recording, confronting “hearing history” with archaeology of listening.

The sonic (understood here in its German neologism das Sonische) differs from a simply physical notion of sound (Klang) by its strict dependance on technical embodiments and algorithmic implementations; in audio recording, the forms of electronics make a difference indeed. Different from scripture-based storage, sonic memory represents a different kind of archive where symbolic endurance of sound recording is confronted with material entropy:  message confronts noise. Apart from case studies of institutional sound archives proper, is there a sound of the archive itself? Taking into account sonic delay and media-based time axis manipulations, acoustic archaeology furthermore inquires the “sound” of tradition. Questioning the historicity of musical articulation leads to the discussion of time-invariant presence affects resulting from technological reproduction of sound –  “archiving presence”.

Active media archaeology remembers past sonospheres by technical media. Listening to the sonic archive in such ways not only succeeds in unexpected audio-recordings and other revelations of the sonic past but to new forms of articulation (sonification) of recordings themselves. Listening to modernity, conceived as sound from the archive, does not simply lead to an extended notion of cultural history but to a different modelling of cultural time in terms of resonance. The message of the media of modernism is “acoustic space” (McLuhan). A privileged alliance between sound events and operative electronic media turns out the moment once their common denominator has been detected: both come into being only when being in time.