by ANASTASIA A KHODYREVA and ELINA SUOYRJÖ
The Editorial for Following Sonorous Bodies
by Anastasia A Khodyreva and Elina Suoyrjö
We are honoured to introduce the issue where we are followed by and follow a multiplicity of sonorous bodies. The edition unfolded from our shared critical curiosities in the notion of sonorousness and found its current shape through a related series of events featuring the matter in question, its ethico-political powers and transformative potentialities. Here, we would like to sketch a non-linear map of the major sonorous encounters which infused the project at hand.
We first travel-hop (Barad 2017) to winter 2018/2019 and appear amidst Listening Being, a group exhibition curated by Elina Suoyrjö in dialogue with sound artist Marja Ahti at Titanik art space in Turku, Finland. The exhibition became our first shared sonic space, and it made us aware of the fact that sound/sonorousness is never "a private affair ... [but] always already a public event" (LaBelle 469-470); a vibrant co-composition of multiple agential materialities which touch us, confuse and invigorate us, which (promise to) query binaries of the inside/outside, here/there, familiar/strange and of sensorial ways of noticing and engaging with the sonorous. That is, the exhibition's sonic spacetime made us attentive to our situated and embedded practices of being, specifically of listening/hearing/musicking and relating.
From Listening Being, we travel-hop again, to Feminist New Materialisms - Matter(ing) And Methodologies' workshop (November 2018, Turku), co-organised by Localising Feminist New Materialisms' project team (where Anastasia A Khodyreva, Katve-Kaisa Kontturi, Milla Tianen, and Tara Mehrabi think together, all led by Taru Leppänen; funded by the Academy of Finland (2017‒2021).1 Among other goals, the workshop aimed to do theoretical-methodological justice to non-human agential matters enabling the worldings we live daily. We were urged to rethink the ethical implications of bracketing the non-human away (see also Tiainen 2018). In this vein, Nik Forrest's talk and sound performance shared during the event and now shapeshifted into their contribution in the present issue, aspired to reconsider habits of listening/hearing/attuning and, more broadly, habits to define what is heard, seen and encountered otherwise.
Attuning to Nik's thinking we paused to notice what/who is listened to carefully to or what becomes dismantled as the insignificant hum of the worldly. That is, what/how/why does one hear? Which bodies/voices are muted, silenced or not cared to be listened to? Why does not the dominant worldly pay attention to a range of less-ed - e.g., trans, black and brown, sexually violated, neurodiverse, dis-eased, homeless - bodies while they scream of lethal injustice? And, most importantly, how might one re-attune to their immediate milieu and revisit one's always politically embedded practices of hearing/listening/noticing/relating? How might one either enact one's own, or join attempts of disruptively sonorous interventions into the "normalicies" of the worldly hum, such as those of Black Lives Matter or the Abortion protests in Poland? Furthermore, how to attune to less sonorous interventions occuring daily or to quiet alternate sonic spacetimes which remain unheard, but need to be nurtured and amplified?
Invested in a more encompassing imaginary of what the sound and sonorousness, their material, conceptual, political and ethical dimensions are and might entail we share kinships with recent research which grows in-between sound, gender and technology recently discussed in Sonic Cyberfeminisms, the hot off the press Feminist Reviews issue edited by Annie Goh and Marie Thompson; with research which engages with the sonic matter to approach daily lived racial injustice (e.g., Stoever 2016; Eidsheim 2019) and focuses on the whiteness of disciplines focused on the sonic (e.g., Stadler 2015; Stoever 2016; Thompson 2017); with starting-to-be-heard scholarship of Indigenous sonorous stories and bodies (e.g., Robinson 2020); research which acknowledges and takes a stand against ableism engraved in widely shared imaginaries of the sonic (e.g. Leppänen 2017); and studies scrutinising the sonic as a matter appropriated by neoliberal technologies of reproduction (Thompson 2020a; 2020b).
Attuning to these scholarly trajectories we felt a visceral need to slow down, that is, to find or generate a safe space for the sonorous critical and creative re-engagements (Stengers 2004), and shared the open call proposing not to listen to sonorous bodies, but to follow them. Invigorated by the processual philosophy of Erin Manning (2013; 2016), vibrant theorisations of Jane Bennett (2010), subversive affordances of the politics of imperceptibility (Grosz 2011; Kontturi 2018), the quantum hope for alternate worldings galvanised by the Baradian feminist new materialism (e.g., Barad 2007; 2012; 2017) and multisensorial queer futurities of José Esteban Muñoz (2009), we imagined an event of following not being about "shadowing a few steps behind, but about opening oneself up to a movement that exceeds the position one holds, the experiences one has, or the knowledge one possesses" (Kontturi 9; see also Tiainen, Kontturi and Hongisto 2015). Instead of interpreting as "explaining" or "classifying", we were taken to carnally engage with lived materialities and "to embrace the 'work' of [the sonic], its materiality, affective, and relational doings ... beyond the representational function, offering something new instead of what is already known" (Kontturi 10). Attuning to Mattie Sempert's contribution to the issue we might say that the methodology of following "outrun[ran] the subject by placing movement - process - at the center of experience" and promised to enrich our knowledges of how social differentiation occurs and how to disobey inside/outside, subject/object, mind/body dichotomies, not only as theoretical concepts but materialities which shape lethal experiences of unheard bodies.
A following body which imagines itself beyond or against the dualisms of mind-body, rejects stasis and opens up towards the sonorous both as a literal sonic phenomenon and a lush politically charged figuration at once present "in multiple locations and leak[ing] across the borders and definitions that attempt to contain it; ... exceed[ing] the capture of a singular present" (Forrest 2021). Following its own sonorousness fluctuating in relation to situated milieu, this body queries an immediate and potentially ableist imaginary of an act of listening/hearing with one's ears only. This body notices the multisensorial full-ness of relatings. This body is a listening/hearing bodying. It actively acknowledges "the integral role of intersubjectivity, corporeality and materiality in the making and experiencing of ... sounds (Cusick 1994; Abbate 2004; Eidsheim 2011)" (Tiainen 105). In this vein, all the contributions invested in an idea of "the whole body [which] thinks" (Sempert 2021) and lives as "the first archive, the first recorder" (Holmstedt 2021).
Our theoretical, conceptual and methodological imaginaries were unlikely to be fully accommodated by writerly form/ats characteristic of the modern Western academia and its approaches to documentation and dissemination of research results. It still tends to disregard embodied affectively powerful narratives in favour of knowledge wiped clean of messy textured processes of its becoming and traces of writers' situatedness and wider material circumstances of research production. For us, this is no issue of a form per se. Instead, this is a political matter and a matter of one's accountability to the arguments and results one builds and shares. In this regard, we invited the contributions which would query (to varying degrees and if needed) the how of critical projects and would be eager to embrace the processual vibrancy of research resulting in more nuanced knowing of phenomena under scrutiny. The issue's forms echoed each other, seeped into each other, cited each other, rhymed with each other, challenged each other, co-constituting and co-emerging in relation to respective processes of following. Remarkably, each of the contributions craves for more engagements, details, extensions or remixes. Each asks questions rather than gives ultimate answers. Each offers, as Janna Holmstedt put it, "hooks for the imagination" (Holmstedt 2021). That is, all are invested in recurring perceptual experiments instantiated by projects of following.
Following our theoretical framings, sonorous imaginaries and hopes the contributions whisper, vibrate, listen to, touch, drool, salivate, walk, dream, record, all "entering a wave of life unfurling ... taken up in its motion" (Kontturi 8; see also Deleuze 121). In this issue, a methodology of following shapeshifts relationally and twitches rhyming with what is followed, how and why. It unfolds as hearing-touching in Nik Forrest's powerful study of the queerly sonorous and of the sonorously queer bodies, transfigures as listening-dreaming in Brandon LaBelle's essay while Chantelle Mitchell and Jaxon Waterhouse attune to Moon Ribas attuning to the seismic sensations in her artistic practice. Ed Garland offers an autophenomenographic following of a sonorous rheumatoid body while Salomé Voegelin's autoethnographic accounts stitched into provocation invigorate us to "seek the participatory possibility to practice and rethink notions of being an autonomous body, in physical distance, while being-with." Mattie Sempter's interpretation of following-slobbering becomes a stimulating though "uneasy practice of bodying word-sounds", of languaging or rather onomatopoeic 'word-making.' In turn, following her actual-virtual community of sonorous companions Janna Holmstedt proposees to soundwalk, to mimic and become a worm in search for more ethical ways of sensing and be(com)ing. In his video piece and essay, Geoff Robinson proposes walking, listening, following, and bird calling as gestures that may bridge durational and spatial layers across two specific sites in Turku, while illuminating the human induced causality of the colonial and environmental conditions we currently live in. Likewise using the media of video and essay, Jo Pester takes us on a journey to think about the possibilities for human/nonhuman communication, considering fireflies/humans/extraterrestrials.
Kristen Sharp rewrites following as a "relational doing" when invites us, the readers, into a series of emails, "sporadic events of communication" dovetailed with a series of evocative annotations which "sit alongside and within the text" of an interview with Eric La Casa, an artist who listens to what and where "home" might be. Pälvi Rantala shares a vulnerable account of poetic, multilingual and multivocal embrace of insomnia to query its idea as a condition of embodied non-normalcy. Instead, the writer encourages to reconsider insomnia as a spacetime of subversive possibilities and whispers towards unlikely or uneasy alliances (e.g. Ngai 139) with bodies veiled by the capitalist nighttimes. For that, she approaches insomnia as clearly embedded in the imposed neoliberal temporalities "carved so" that certain bodies are never able to escape exhaustion, those which, as Nik Forrest puts it, are less-ed by the existing power structures.
Based on the range of sonorous bodies followed and following within the space of this issue we, as a (virtual) community of researchers and artists invested in ethico-political potentialities of the sonic, are to intensively continue our respective critical projects with a focus on and care for the less-ed bodies and their small but loud stories of endurance and survival. This need and commitment are not "mere" projects of giving voice, an intention which is notorious for reproduction of structures of oppression and, hence, a proposition vastly criticised by feminist scholars/writers/artists/activists. This is a proposition to learn to listen to and ally with voices which have always been present, "already know how material embodiment is imbricated in the ongoing negotiations of sociopolitical life" (Forrest 2021) and, hence, are able to hint ways of communal and worldly survival, but keep being equated to inconsiderable noise.
Lastly, we consider spaces alike current issue to be a variation of more breathable spacetimes which would be unimaginable without the academic and artistic communal commitment to support and be in dialogue with the contributors and their invigorating ideas. The ideas which evolved into solid, though not sealed or static contributions of the issue as well as those which sparkled in response to our open call, but are yet to evolve and find their readers would not find their present embodiments if not supported by the reviewers who share our political inclinations. In this regard, we would like to acknowledge and pay our whole-hearted respects to the reviewers whose careful engagements allowed for the issue to happen regardless of the turbulence of the pandemic times, namely, Olga Cielemęcka, Katve-Kaisa Kontturi, Meri Kyto, Taru Leppänen, Nina Lykke, Christof Migone, Norie Neumark, mirko nikolić, Hannah Pezzack, Adam Potts, Ian Rogers, Monika Rogowska- Stangret, Wibke Straube, Anne Tarvainen, Marie Thompson, Milla Tiainen, Pinar Türer, Heikki Uimonen and Anna Westbrook. We would also like to thank Kati Roover and Ella Vihervuori for their eloquent visual responses to the issue's contributions.
Barad, Karen. Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke university Press, 2007.
-- "On Touching - The Inhuman That Therefore I Am". differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 23(3). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012, pp. 206-223.
-- "Troubling Time/s and Ecologies of Nothingness: Re-Turning, Re-Membering, and Facing the Incalculable". New formations 92. London: Lawrence and Wishart, 2017, pp. 56-86.
Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009.
Deleuze, Gilles. Negotiations, 1972-1990. Translated by Martin Joughin, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
Eidsheim, Nina Sun. The Race of Sound: Listening, Timbre, and Vocality in African American Music, Durham: Duke University Press, 2019.
Grosz, Elizabeth. Becoming Undone: Darwinian Reflections on Life, Politics, and Art. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.
Kontturi, Katve-Kaisa. Ways of Following. Art, Materiality, Collaboration. London: Open Humanities Press, 2018.
LaBelle, Brandon. "Auditory Relations." The Sound Studies Reader, edited by Jonathan Sterne, Routledge, 2012, pp. 468-74.
Leppänen, Taru. "Unfolding Non-Audist Methodologies in Music Research: Signing Hip Hop Artist Signmark and Becoming Deaf with Music." Musical Encounters with Deleuze and Guattari, New York and London, 2017.
Manning, Erin. Always More Than One: Individuation's Dance. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012;
-- The Minor Gesture. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016.
Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York University Press, 2009.
Ngai, Sianne. Ugly Feelings. Cambridge: Hayward University Press, 2007.
Robinson, Dylan. Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies. University of Minnesota Press, 2020.
Stengers, Isabelle. "The Cosmopolitical Proposal". Making Things Public:
Atmospheres of Democracy, edited by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 994-1003.
Stadler, Gus. "On whiteness and sound studies." Sounding Out!, 6 July 2015. Web. 10 April 2021.
Stoever, Jennifer Lynn. The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening. New York: New York University Press, 2016.
Tiainen, Milla, Ilona Hongisto and Katve-Kaisa Kontturi. "Framing, Following, Middling: Towards Methodologies of Relational Materialities." Cultural Studies Review 21(2), special issue "New Materialisms," 2015, pp. 14-46.
Tiainen, Milla. "Sonic Performance and Feminist Posthumanities: Democracy of Resonance and Machinic Sounds." A Feminist Companion to the Posthumanities, eds. Cecilia Åsberg and Rosi Braidotti. New York: Springer, 2018, pp. 103-115.
Thompson, Marie. "Whiteness and the ontological turn in sound studies." Parallax, 23(3), 2017, pp. 266-282;
-- "Sonic feminisms: doing gender in neoliberal times." In M. Bull and M. Cobussen, eds. The Bloomsbury Handbook of Sonic Methodologies. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020a, pp. 543-556.
-- "Your womb, the perfect classroom': prenatal sound systems and uterine audiophilia." In Feminist Review, 127, 2020b, pp. 73-89.
- Other organisers of Feminist New Materialisms - Matter(ing) And Methodologies workshop were Marjo Kolehmainen and Annukka Lahti. ↩