Eduardo Abrantes

Title: Sounding Things, Breathing Voices – The Phenomenology of Presence in Acoustic Phenomena

Abstract: In its investigation concerning the horizons of time and space, phenomenology has struggled with, among other avatars, the dominance of visual categories in the history of philosophical thought. Yet thought is manifest in speech, and speech is driven by breath – when in silence one inhales, one then exhales through the reverberation of phonema, gathered into words. What does thought sound like? How does an embodied presence manifest itself so unequivocally through sound, an invisible medium? How does listening open to a notion of the interior/exterior in the field of perception?

Moving past the visual and into the sonorous – into a phenomenology of sound, of listening and embodied presence – has been a focus of recent philosophical studies engaged in an effort to move against the grain of tradition. For Husserl sound is a determining element in the constitution of space through its resonating nature; while for Heidegger it appears as a manifestation of being as an event, a happening in the world that simultaneously situates and assaults the fluid stability of the dispositional condition – both thunder and lightning and the intentionality of silence.

Contemporary authors such as Don Ihde (“Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound” 1976), Giorgio Agamben (“Potentialities” 2000, “Language and Death” 1991), Jean-Luc Nancy (“On Listening” 2007) and Adriana Cavarero (“For More than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression” 2004) have explored the many possibilities of the phenomenology of embodied sound and musical expression. Be it the horizon of acoustic perception, the tension between language of meaning and its pre-verbal stratus, the experience of reverberation in thought or the presence of the other as vocalized being, many paths converge in the ontological nature of the sonorous phenomena.

From Artaud to Butoh, from Michael McClure to Meredith Monk, from Alfred Wolfsohn to Lydia Lunch, performance practice and theoretical research have been at the foreground of the research concerning the matters of the aural. This paper attempts to chart the main phenomenological approaches in the realm of sound, focusing on the particular character of the human voice and its resonating, expressive presence. Breath and rhythm, the aesthetics of musical expression and the interplay of listening and vocalizing, are taken as examples of a rich and fruitful pathway to phenomenological reconsideration of the sonic singularity of every individual.

Bio: Eduardo Abrantes (Lisbon, b.1979) graduated in Philosophy/Film Studies at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the New University of Lisbon. Between 2003 and 2004 collaborated in the Educational Service of the Cultural Centre of Belém, Lisbon, and curated for Luzboa -International Biennial of Light of Lisbon. From 2004 to 2005 was executive editor of Númeromagazine, also participating in Número New Media and Film Festival, and the Brazilian Itau Cultural video art showcase. In 2005, was a curatorial residency researcher at the CIA.IS in Reykjavik, Iceland. He concluded the Gulbenkian_Deutsche Film und Fernsehakademie Berlin directing course in 2007, and he is preparing his joint PhD candidacy to FCSH UNL/KHiO Oslo Academy of Fine Art, in the fields of Philosophy and Film in the context of phenomenology of sound and acoustic presence.

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