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Posts tagged ‘sound’

“Nowhere Space:” Sonic Materiality and Sites of Reading

In Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound, Don Ihde writes: “Sometimes there is a ‘singing’ of voice in writing. I have often been shocked at ‘hearing’ a friend’s voice on reading his or her latest article or book” (xx). For the last year or so, I’ve been investigating the role of the ear in processes of reading and writing. As a grad student, my project, broadly, has been to bring the field of sound studies into dialogue with the discourses of rhetoric and composition. In doing so, I have needed to confront slippery aural modalities—when sound itself seems to toggle between vibrating physically in the air and echoing off the page into the minds of readers. Investigating these sonic slippages has led me to see the body as implicated in writing in unexpected ways. Ihde puts it this way: when we “hear” a piece of writing, “the other shines through in an auditory adherence to what is ordinarily soundless” (xx). How is it, after all, that a written text can at times be so strongly “heard,” even during silent reading?

In the introduction to his 1990 book, Reading Voices: Literature and the Phonotext, Garrett Stewart asks, perhaps for the first time among literary theorists, where reading occurs: “what…precisely,” he wonders, “is the site of reading, and why?” (17). From here, he goes on to suggest that reading may take place not in the “brain” but in the body, or rather in a delicate and complex combination of the two. This suggestion is notable for bringing the reader’s sensorium to bear on literary interpretation, a field in which readers and texts at times seem to be disembodied. Adriana Cavarero calls this a “strategic deafness to the plural, reciprocal communication of voices” that “devocalizes” written texts and the bodies that they come from (530). More recently, Brandon LaBelle takes up Stewart’s idea of a mixed physical and mental space in Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetic and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary.

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The Conversation: Mark Grimshaw

I first stumbled onto Mark’s work while searching for video game scholarship on “visemes,” the design term for a visual analog of a phoneme. Being somewhat familiar with Michel Chion’s work on audio-visual synchronization, I was curious what video game scholars were making of comparable (if more complex?) sound and synchronization issues in video game design. I was to delighted to discover Mark’s co-written essay “Uncanny Speech,” on just this subject, in his edited volume Game Sound Technology and Player Interaction (2011), and even more pleased to find that Mark had published what appears to be the first book-length study of game sound, The Acoustic Ecology of the First-Person Shooter (2008), a text that will no doubt become indispensable to sound studies, and is already making its way onto film, new media, and video game studies syllabi.

JAVIER O’NEIL-ORTIZ: With a background in sound engineering and degrees in music and music technology, what led you to work on game sound, specifically? How has your industry experience informed your approach to the study of game sound? Read more