Design of affective experiences of environmental sound

The question of affect emerges in the daily realm of routine, and survival; of our physical and existential existence. …all systems are subject to affects as much as they are affective, and generative of positive and negative affects within and of a system. (Colman in Angerer 2017, 7)

As seen before, my research aim was to design and create aural experiences to incite affective responses of material vitalities and vibrational forces, that would engage an ecological re-wiring of the senses. Could this contribute to an ecology of affect? What kind of aural experiences would attune a person with self, others and/or the environment, to engage a transformation in her senses interplay and relationship with its surroundings? What kind of aural architecture design would transform our relationship with our surroundings, in such a mode as to act as a translator, a communication channel to vibrant matter? Architecture is a system that engages affective operations, as it affects timespace conditions and constrains its experience. I have found similarities in my approach with the three operations of the affective described by Angerer, as the gaping opening into which and from which affect arises (Angerer 2017, 11). Drawing from Angerer’s three operations of the affective (connective, disruptive, translation) (Angerer 2017, 11), and I have defined three operations of the affective, as parameters to design dynamic forms of aural architecture:

– transformation (disruption)
– translation, extended into the language of vibration
– attunement (connection)

I will now explain each of the operations in relation to my aural architecture practice.

Transformation

The ecological disruptions of the environment are only the visible part of a deeper and larger problem, concerning ways of living and being in society on this planet. The environmental ecology should be thought of as one piece with a social ecology and mental ecology, through an ecosophy of ethical-political nature. It is not to unify arbitrarily under an ideology of replacement of areas fundamentally heterogeneous, but to be underpinned by some other innovative practices for the restructuring of individual and collective subjectivities within new technical-scientific contexts and new geopolitical coordinates. (Guattari 1989, fourth cover)

The way in which our environment is built in western society is one of the causes of ecological disruptions, concerning ways of living and being. In this context, Felix Guattari presents an idea of ecology as an ecosophy (1) of ethical- political nature, and proposes the underpinning of society with “innovative practices for the restructuring of individual and collective subjectivities”. In this sense, I have engaged my aural architecture practice unfolding an affective micropolitics.

Micropolitics, affective politics, seeks the degrees of openness of any situation. … Just modulating a situation in a way that amplifies a previously unfelt potential to the point of perceptibility is an alter- accomplishment. (Massumi 2008, 7)

Drawing from Brian Massumi, micropolitics emerged in my practice as a creative concept to explore the potential of transversal interventions in a micro- scale, events to activate matter-energy, which may underpin our society. For, according to Massumi, “micropolitics is what makes the unimaginable practicable. It’s the potential that makes possible” (Massumi 2008, 20). As it was explained, the way the environment is built in western society affects field conditions and constrains its experience. This has also been described as spatiotemporal controls that affect homogenous experiences in space (Lacey 2014, 95). My stance was that through alternative temporal relationships and spatial tensions, new constellations could open up experience, as an opening into which and from which affect arises. This can be understood as an affective operation of transformation. This operation of transformation relates to the design methods experience of site and sensory variation.

Translation

The second operation of the affective relates to the development of communication and translation methods of vibrant matter. I wanted to create an aural architecture experience as a medium of translation (or transduction) of matter-energy. Jane Bennett claims that “vitality is shared by all things” and that we are in need to develop communication and translation tools of this vibrant reality, between humans, non humans and things (Bennett 2010, 89). I have explored my practice towards an amplified or enhanced experience of vibrant matter to engage the audience in an physical affective experience of vibrational forces, as a channel of communication with this reality. Through this operation of translation, I aimed for an aural architecture experience to open up acoustic communication (Truax 1984) (2) with the surroundings in a symbiotic way, as part of the same micro-macro-ecosystem. As will be seen in my practice, I became interested to engage acoustic communication through the soundscape composition, as a system of information exchange where sound mediated the relation of the listener to the environment (Truax 1996: 59). This operation of translation was experimented with the method of aural architecture design.

Attunement

This third operation of the affective corresponds to what Angerer has described as connective: “the first inscription of a movement as the opening of such an interval” (Angerer 2017, 60). It relates to what I have unfolded as an experience of attunement, on my enquiry on resonance and attunement. As it will be seen, an inquiry on the phenomenon of attunement has been conducted drawing from various disciplines such as music, cognitive science, philosophy of science, physics and psychology. In my practical case studies, I have experimented with an innate capacity of attunement (Morton 2014, online reference) to self and other beings, towards an understanding of our environment as an unifying field, of a multiplicity of relationships through vibrational forces. I became interested to explore how, through an affective experience of aural architecture, our mind and body could be triggered in a pre- conscious level to get attuned into being, to here and now, to a symbiotic real (Morton 2006). This operation of attunement relates to the site-specific acoustic installation and spatialisation.

These operations of the affective have been experimented in this research’s practical case studies. In the conclusion of this thesis, I will sum up the results.
Next, I will unfold the link between each set of methods to an operation of the affective. Then, a diagram will expand the dynamics of the design methods in relation with the operations of the affective.

Notes:

  1. Felix Guattari postulated the necessity of founding an “ecosophy” or ecological philosophy that would “link environmental ecology to social ecology and to mental ecology” (Guattari 1996, 264).
  2. What Truax called acoustic communication (Truax 1984) was a way to understand the complex system of meanings and relationships that sound creates in environmental contexts. He developed the acoustic communicational model as an interdisciplinary alternative methodology that included soundscape studies, acoustic communication and soundscape composition (Truax 1996: 58).

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