A Sonic Anthropocene

Special double-Issue “Cadernos de Arte e Antropologia”

A Sonic AnthropoceneSound Practices in a Changing Environment

Guest editors: Ivo Louro (CIUHCT, FCT NOVA), Margarida Mendes (CRA, Goldsmiths College), Daniel Paiva (CEG, UL), and Iñigo Sánchez-Fuarros (Incipit CSIC)

Since it was first proposed in the early 2000s, the concept of the Anthropocene has gained currency as an interpretive framework to critically examine the increasing impact of human activity on the environment, suggesting the beginning of a new geological epoch. The extension of human agency over the functioning of Earth systems has caused mass transformations upon various material scales, leaving an imprint that has been considered a global geophysical force. This has further problematized both the epistemic and pragmatic application of the nature/culture divide, raising questions about the methodological intervention of various disciplinary fields.

Along with the prolific visual culture developed with the Anthropocene hypothesis — including a large number of infographics, maps and visual documentation of planetary transformations — the present socio-ecological changes equally require practices of listening and aural documentation that register the transformations in the acoustic landscapes of cities and natural environments. These practices of listening and aural documentation might further the capacity of registering the transient space that the Anthropocene occupies in the material domain, while opening up a space for an extended sensibility that accounts for transformations across scales, from the molecular to the societal and the planetary. This space of potential proposed by the Sonic Anthropocene brings forward new possibilities for involving aural documentation tools in environmental affairs, while holding on to the critiques addressed to previous ecological debates initiated in the sonic field, such as is the case of the acoustic ecology movement.

The Sonic Anthropocene attempts to devise critical and practical methodologies that place renewed attention in the registration of how a location’s soundscape shapes the possibilities for listening and sounding of situated people and other living entities, having into account the transformations of the surrounding environment, and the crescent pressure of exponentially industrialized societies and gentrified urban landscapes. From the hums and sonic bursts of deep sea drilling to the prospect of silent springs to come, by way of the trolley rattling and engineered-for-authenticity sonic ambiances of the tourist city, listening to Anthropocene topologies invites for new reflections on scale, presence, permanence, agency and the experience underlyed by the present political moment.

This double issue of Cadernos de Arte e Antropologia includes articles and soundworks by a variety of contributors whose common denominator is a certain aspiration to broaden the points of connection between artistic practice and scholarly reflection.