You Can’t Trust Music, Chapter 2: Sonic Boom

You Can’t Trust Music, Chapter 2: Sonic Boom


Courtesy of e-flux. 

July 28, 2022
You Can’t Trust Music, Chapter 2: Sonic Boom

The second chapter of YCTM: Sonic Boom moves from the sonic militarization of outer space into the inner spaces of the psyche. The martial and the spectral interrelate in the sonic unconscious by relying on a shared stake in the unknown. Phantomic sounds lead us through trauma and coping to conspiracy theory, shocked forests, ancestral inquiry, divination, solitude, and catharsis: They are the “the encrypted, unspeakable secrets of past generations,” (1) and reflections of our own memories and desires.

Felicia Atkinson’s The house that Agnes built from her recent record Image Language (2022) sets a dialogue between the inside and the outside as the conversation between house and landscape. Accompanying the track is the poetic text SPACE IS AN INSTRUMENT. Using space, Stefana Fratila’s I want to leave this Earth behind, part 2/2 (2022) further speculates on interplanetary weather with a soundscape of Mars. Approaching the idea of outer-space exploration through the lens of her own experiences with disability she explains how the “scientific and fictional destabilize social conventions, such as political and gender tropes, by making speculative spaces accessible.”

Sung Tieu’s Brain Waves is a sonic record of her own brain responding to a simulation of a phenomena collectively called Havana Syndrome, used in the making of her work Moving Target Shadow Detection (2022). Discussing Tieu’s work in her essay, Your Brain on Belliphonic Sounds (2022) researcher Pujita Guha elaborates on the larger history and conspiratorial weight of sonic warfare, and “the use of surround sound and sonic violence in covert operations to abnegate any trace, responsibility, or culpability.”

That culpability is further addressed in This forest was built to be bombed by Shock Forest Group (Katya Abazajian, Sheryn Akiki, Daria Kiseleva, Jelger Kroese, Susanna Gonzo, Nicolás Jaar), compiled during and after their 2019 residency at a former bullet factory on the Hembrug site in Zaandam: surrounded by a forest that was planted to hide and withstand the effects of heavy artillery. The remnants of weapons, lodged in tree trunks, have altered the acoustics of the trees that command the sound piece ENTITY (2019). But according to researcher and historian of science and colonial botany Chanelle Adams, “our relationships with plants may never escape the aboutness of human history unimpacted. Through our narrative inclinations, plants have already been recruited into our drama. The violence of taxonomy, forced migrations, enslavement, and economies of monoculture are already tangled in the roots.” She writes on Julian Yi-Zhong Hou’s Grass Drama (2020), a work of mystical bio-fiction that plays out between plants, cross-generational connections and inherited addictions. In the accompanying track “Solitaire,” Hou marks the connection between the chance-based pass-times like solitaire and smoking being a transmutation of traditional divination practices into capitalist temporalities: “both an indication of struggle and a function of survival.”

You Cant Trust Music (YCTM) presented by e-flux is a research project connecting sound-based artists, musicians, writers, composers, and writers and exploring the way that landscape, acoustics, and musical thought contribute to the formation of social and political structures. It is presented on a platform designed by Knoth&Renner and developed by Knoth&Renner with Jonas Holfeld.

YCTM on is made possible with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts. It is produced by e-flux and developed in partnership with M WOODS, NTT InterCommunication Center (ICC), Liquid Architecture, Kunsthall Trondheim, and Infrasonica. This chapter owes special thanks to Jayne Wilkinson, Theresa Wang, Jamie Ross, Robert Steenkamer, NASA, Amal Issa, Julieta Aranda, and Shelter Press.

YCTM is curated by Xenia Benivolski.

(1) Colin Davis, “Hauntology, spectres and phantoms,” in French Studies, Volume 59, Issue 3, July 2005, pp 373.

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