Publication — Sound Unheard

Publication faisant suite à la journée d’étude éponyme au Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes en avril 2019 organisée par l’équipe Pratiques et Théories de l’art contemporain (EA 7472) de l’Université Rennes 2. Publication en ligne dans la rubrique Auditive Perspektiven de la revue (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin).

Extrait de la Musurgia Universalis de Athanasius Kircher


The unheard often remains unnoticed. What we hear and what we do not, what we notice and what we do not is determined not only by our physiological aural capacities but by a complex intermingling of social, cultural, political and technological factors. The different contributions to this publication focus on artistic and literary works that concentrate on the unheard sonic spectrum of the past and present. The cultural, social or political phenomena questioned here are related to frequencies below or beyond the threshold of perception, to overlapping sound fields or to auditory distraction. The sounds they make use of or express have been obliterated, disguised, “drowned”. Listening to the unheard thus means to reveal or seek explanation for the silencing, concealment or disappearance of these sounds. 

Beyond this dimension of lack of perception, of ignorance or of disregard, another subliminal meaning associated with the unheard appears here, especially when it encounters the unheard-of: what is “surprising because not known about or previously experienced”. Thus, the sense of the hidden and of discretion is confronted with the sense of the unprecedented as well as the shocking. The authors of this publication tackle the understanding of that which can be at once shocking and discreet, heard and unheard. From the analysis of different typologies of the inaudible to the reflection on the politics of the unheard, the contributions question the notions of muted sound, voice and accent, sonic interruptions, parasites, tactics of sound erasure, temporal deferral, silencing techniques and practices of listening. Sound Unheard includes contributions from scholars in sound studies, art history, post-colonial studies, musicology and art theory. This edition of Auditory Perspectives was conceived by Jan Thoben and Anne Zeitz and developed in discussion with the authors. It is part of the eponymous research project initiated by Anne Zeitz and made possible by the research laboratory PTAC-Pratiques et Théories de l’art contemporain, Université Rennes 2. The edition was prepared by several workshops with the authors starting from 2018 at the Goethe-Institut Paris as well as a symposium at the Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes in February 2019 (organized with Séverine Cauchy and Yann Sérandour). The research project is related to two exhibitions, a lecture and performance programme and a seminar, each of which is presented in this publication.

Open peer review by: Clélia Barbut, Daniele Balit, Séverine Cauchy, Katja Gentric, Maud Jacquin, Sébastien Pluot, Matthieu Saladin, Sabine Sanio, Jan Thoben, Elvan Zabunyan, Anne Zeitz 

with the participation of: Jeff Guess, Larisa Dryansky, Daniela Silvestrin and Yann Sérandour. 

SOUND UNHEARD – Table of Contents

1 Essays

Typologies of the Inaudible and Forms of Listening

Matthieu Saladin The Inaudible as an Effect. Tactics of Sound Erasure in Max Neuhaus

Séverine Cauchy Rodney Graham’s Unexpected Interrupters

Maud Jacquin and Elsa Polverel “Dissolving your Ear Plugs”. The Unheard in Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening Practice

Parasites and Noise

Sébastien Pluot A Matter of Fidelity

Jan Thoben Media Parasites, Specificity and the Unheard

Towards a Politics of the Unheard

Katja Gentric [Un]performing Voice. Simnikiwe Buhlungu / Euridice Zaituna Kala

Daniele Balit Quiet Discomfort. On Silence as Aural Discrimination

Archives and Sounds from the Past

Elvan Zabunyan The Muted Sound of Speaking Silence

Anne Zeitz Akustische Räume, Für Augen und Ohren, Musique en conteneur, Der befreite Klang. Retracing the Heard and Unheard Curatorial Practice of René Block from the 1960s to the 1980s

Clélia Barbut Temporal Drag – Scores for Memory. Reflections on an Interview with Christina Kubisch

2 Exhibitions and Additional Programmes

Échos magnétiquesChristina Kubisch at the Musée des beaux-arts de Rennes (curated by Damien Simon and Anne Zeitz in collaboration with Clélia Barbut)

Sound UnheardAn Exhibition at the Goethe-Institut Paris (curated by Daniele Balit, Katharina Scriba and Anne Zeitz)

Inaudible Matters. Electrical Walks Paris (Christina Kubisch), performances and lectures at the Gaîté Lyrique Paris  (organized by Marie Lechner and Anne Zeitz)

“Écouter par les yeux” (Listening with the Eyes). Reflecting on exhibitions, sound works and archival documents with René Block and Christina Kubisch Seminar at the German Center for Art History in Paris (organized by Mathilde Arnoux and Anne Zeitz)

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