SOUND ARCHEOLOGY: The Unearthing of A Material Aurality In Sound Art


How can we form-shift, probing with our ears into the substrates of the earth? What does the gusty storm sound like to that which is slowly eroding away? What do sentinels of the sea hear when they are stranded on the land? And how can we—as artists—investigate these slow formations of history through the senses of the ancient witnesses? Questions like these emerged from a series of process-based interactions with sites and materials and sparked the initial inspiration to combine sound practices with the subject of archaeology. 

A speculative proposition, a developing theoretical framework, a pseudo field guide, and an artistic exercise, Sound Archaeology is all of the above and, at its core, trans-disciplinary. 

The central hypothesis of Sound Archaeology is built on the fundamental shift in sound theory from the materiality of sonic phenomena to the aurality of materials. It supposes that as organisms and objects of the earth adapt to the ceaselessly changing environment in their lifespans, vibrational signals excavated from within them demonstrate the aptitude of archiving histories of a different temporal scale. Such ontological shift would endow human passengers like us with a crack of an opening through which we are able to peek with the “ears” of materials into the past. 

The following of the presentation is by no means an exhaustive inquiry into a new form of sound art but rather a hybrid collage of subjective recounts of bodily experience, cited research references, and work processes. It will first touch on inventing new probes of recording the fields. Then, we will explore the application of material aurality in converging environmental recordings, human voices, and historical artifacts in the context of immersive sound art. And finally, we will introduce our ongoing project in collaboration with local communities derived from our recent field studies in the Atacama region of northern Chile.