Published at the end of last year by Errant Bodies, Christof Migone's Sonic Somatic: Performances of the Unsound Body is a scrupulous exploration that casts a fresh gaze at the sphere of contemporary art centred on sound.
The embodiment of Informe and interdisciplinary by vocation, Sound Art covers a series of experiments intrinsic to acoustic phenomena and auditive perception that require active audience participation and test people's ability to understand and process the experience.
In his dissertation, the author explains the focus of his research as an artist and theorist of Sound Art in all its complexity, reviewing a broad case-history of applications/implications related to sound. His starting point is a very specific one — the body — and the boundaries are immediately traced. Sound envelopes life, it is a phenomenon that accompanies our existence and is as unavoidable as it is ineffable. Sound is born with humans and everything is punctuated by an incessant and developing rhythm. Far from that produced by Musica Universalis — part of a harmonious world and ordered by perfect mathematical proportions — sound events are now primarily somatic, desublimated and pressingly material.
It begins with Soundmutesilence, in which sound is seen as an "air disturbance", a primarily physical event with the joint-participation not only of what normally is defined as such but also the whole realm of unsound, a term adopted by the author to define both silence and noise, seen as equally active concepts in the sphere of sound art.
It all originated with John Cage , way back in 1934, when he visited the anechoic chamber of Harvard University with a specific idea in mind: to listen to silence. Cage was disappointed. In a state of total isolation and concentration, the American composer caught himself listening to the sound of his nervous and circulatory systems at work. The result was a realisation that absolute silence is impossible to find. This episode constituted a crucial moment in the evolution of Sound Art, an event in which silence and emptiness become noise and plenitude, and that has given rise to many experiments centred on this upgraded concept of silence.
The interpretational analysis is further expanded in the last two chapters, Soundtimeslanguage and Soundspacebeyond, which explore themes introduced in the previous pages. The concepts of time, language and space in relation to Sound Art are, here, probed starting from a reflection on disorders involving language, primarily those afflicting stutterers, seen as a metaphor of the somatic overcoming the intellect.
This volume is both a philosophical and theoretical investigation of one of the most complex spheres of human aesthetic expression
"I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but, more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have".