writing sound, part 5

[…]

So the question here seems to be: how do I occupy the space between listening and writing? I think of reference in Writing Sound as I read Chapter Two in Pandora’s Hope by Bruno Latour, entitled Circulating Reference 7: the French sociologist describes the procedures carried out by soil science experts and geographers to translate soil samples from a forest into a map of a forest, and compares such procedures to the use of reference: to ‘pack the world into words’ 8, he says. In the same chapter Latour shows how ‘in losing the forest we win knowledge of it’ 9. I would like to draw a parallel between the transition from forest to map, and the transition from listening to writing, with particular regards to the function of reference: that is, packing into words the world of listening, while being removed from it. 

In losing a sound we gain knowledge of it: in words.

In Latin the verb ‘referre’ means ‘to bring back’, and this bringing back occurs across layers of transformations. Latour further clarifies such process of transformation in a recent article 10, looking at how the correspondence between territory and map does not occur as an abstraction, but in practice and through reference. He writes of the navigator, who works out a route not based on some abstract correspondence between map and territory, but on the detection of cues on site and in real time between one steppingstone and the next. Each detection is not a ‘deadly jump’ but a ‘deambulation’: a walk through and about a number of steppingstones 11. The gap between two steps is packed with reference to layers of experience and observations; with laboured operations, detours or even falls and dead ends. Likewise when I write sound I navigate, I walk around the changing landscape of a listening experience as it is recalled in words, through reference to layers of knowledge, moments of being, of forgetting and of undoing. Writing Sound advocates variety and it opens up to multiplicity of outcomes. It presents and propagates one’s history. It is shaped across one’s personal experiences, collections and recollections of words and sounds and places.

To stop walking around them means they will no longer be audible.


7 Latour, Bruno. (1999). Circulating Reference. In: Pandora’s Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, pp. 24-79.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Latour, Bruno, November, Valerie and Camacho-Hübner, Eduardo. (2010). Entering a Risky Territory: Space in the Age of Digital Navigation. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 28, pp. 581-599.

11 Latour calls the outcome of this process ‘the miracle of reference’.

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