Sonic Warfare. Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear - Steve Goodman (MIT Press, Usa, 2009)

Sonic Warfare
Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear
Steve Goodman

Sound can be deployed to produce discomfort, express a threat, or create an ambiance of fear or dread—to produce a bad vibe. Sonic weapons of this sort include the "psychoacoustic correction" aimed at Panama strongman Manuel Noriega by the U.S. Army and at the Branch Davidians in Waco by the FBI, sonic booms (or "sound bombs") over the Gaza Strip, and high-frequency rat repellents used against teenagers in malls. At the same time, artists and musicians generate intense frequencies in the search for new aesthetic experiences and new ways of mobilizing bodies in rhythm. In Sonic Warfare, Steve Goodman explores these uses of acoustic force and how they affect populations.

Most theoretical discussions of sound and music cultures in relationship to power, Goodman argues, have a missing dimension: the politics of frequency. Goodman supplies this by drawing a speculative diagram of sonic forces, investigating the deployment of sound systems in the modulation of affect. Traversing philosophy, science, fiction, aesthetics, and popular culture, he maps a (dis)continuum of vibrational force, encompassing police and military research into acoustic means of crowd control, the corporate deployment of sonic branding, and the intense sonic encounters of sound art and music culture.

Goodman concludes with speculations on the not yet heard—the concept of unsound, which relates to both the peripheries of auditory perception and the unactualized nexus of rhythms and frequencies within audible bandwidths.

Technologies of Lived Abstraction series

Steve Goodman is a Lecturer in Music Culture at the School of Sciences, Media, and Cultural Studies at the University of East London, a member of the CCRU (Cybernetic Culture Research Unit), and the founder of the record label Hyperdub. He produces bass-driven electronic music under the name kode9 and is also a member of the sound art collective Audint.

"By insisting on the primacy of vibration in the nexus of sound, affect, and power, Sonic Warfarecharts a transdisciplinary micropolitics of frequency that breaks with the orthodoxies of phenomenology and cultural studies and triumphantly succeeds in immersing us in the present of viral capitalism, pirate media, and asymmetric warfare. Steve Goodman's incisive critiques of Marinetti, Kittler, Attali, Virilio, and Bachelard take their place alongside illuminating readings of Spinoza, Deleuze, Guattari, Whitehead, Serres and others; the result is a speculative intervention into contemporary modes of affective modulation and collective contagion that exceed any sonic theory previously published this decade. Sonic Warfare is rigorous, affirmative, sober, and pitiless: in its ambition, its purpose, and its passion, it is nothing short of a breakthrough for contemporary sonic thought."
Kodwo Eshun, Course Director of Masters of Arts in Aural and Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of More Brilliant than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction

"In the beginning, there was rhythm. In Sonic Warfare, Steve Goodman surveys the soundscape in the midst of which we live today, tracking its various guises, from Jamaican dub soundsystems to US military infrasound crowd-control devices, from Muzak as mind-numbing sonic architecture to grime and dubstep as enhancers of postapocalyptic dread, and from the cosmic vibrations left behind by the Big Bang to the latest viral sound contagions."
Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor of English, Wayne State University

"Sonic Warfare sends a shudder through the hidden underbelly of sound. With uncanny brilliance, Steve Goodman writes through the depths of sub-bass to bring together noise weapons, pirate radio, and the philosophy and politics of rhythm in a vivid new evocation of the power of sound."
Matthew Fuller, David Gee Reader in Digital Media, Goldsmiths, University of London, author of Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture

Sonic Warfare Introduction:
It’s night. You’re asleep, peacefully dreaming. Suddenly the ground begins to tremble. Slowly, the shaking escalates until you are thrown off balance, clinging desperately to any fixture to stay standing. The vibration moves up through your body, constricting your internal organs until it hits your chest and throat, making it impossible to breathe. At exactly the point of suffocation, the floor rips open beneath you, yawning into a gaping dark abyss. Screaming silently, you stumble and fall, skydiving into what looks like a bottomless pit. Then, without warning, your descent is curtailed by a hard surface. At the painful moment of impact, as if in anticipation, you awaken. But there is no relief, because at that precise split sec- ond, you experience an intense sound that shocks you to your very core. You look around but see no damage. Jumping out of bed, you run outside. Again you see no damage. What happened? The only thing that is clear is that you won’t be able to get back to sleep because you are still resonating with the encounter.

In November 2005, a number of international newspapers reported that the Israeli air force was using sonic booms under the cover of darkness as “sound bombs” in the Gaza Strip. A sonic boom is the high-volume, deep-frequency effect of low-flying jets traveling faster than the speed of sound. Its victims likened its ef- fect to the wall of air pressure generated by a massive explosion. They reported broken windows, ear pain, nosebleeds, anxiety attacks, sleeplessness, hypertension, and being left “shaking inside.” (...)