“Dead Silence: ecological silencing and environmentally-engaged sound-art”, a short essay on exactly the topic spelled out by title, is to be published in Leonardo Music Journal (Vol. 23). It features discussion of some wonderful ecologically-minded sound work by Katie Paterson (Langjökull, Snæfellsjökull, Solheimajökull) and Sally Ann McIntyre (Collected Silences for Lord Rothschild, Huia Transcriptions), set in the context of a critical reassessment of soundscape theory, Douglas Kahn’s concept of Cageian silencing, and Cage’s seminal contributions to environmental listening. This was a very satisfying piece to write, which has whet my appetite for further “scholarly” research in the form of an essay on electricity and the ontology of electronic music (I admit it’s kind of orthogonal to environmentally-engaged sound-art…). In any case, here’s the abstract for “Dead Silence”:
Silencing and musicalisation, as defined by Douglas Kahn, are valuable means to call attention to the sonically liminal. They create a frame within which acoustic silence can be attended to, either as a conceptual phenomenon or as the dead silence of sounds and soundmakers subjected to ecological silencing. Through critical discussion of silence in Kahn’s writing on John Cage, as well as in acoustic ecology and soundscape composition, an outline of ecological silencing is developed and applied through examination of environmentally engaged sound works by Sally McIntyre (NZ) and Katie Paterson (GB).