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LOST IN TRANSLATION: SOUND IN THE DISCOURSE OF SYNAESTHESIA

Audience at Francisco López performance, Hillside Gallery, Tokyo, 2000. Photo: Atsushi Koyama.

In the late 1940s, radio engineer-turned-composer Pierre Schaeffer celebrated a defining property of audio recording and radio transmission: the ability to separate sounds from their visible sources. This affirmation cut against the grain of modern thought, for no lesser cultural critics than Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, and Max Horkheimer had assailed these technologies for dulling our auditory sensibility. Schaeffer, however, argued that records and radio triumphantly subvert the hegemony of vision to make possible the experience of “sound as such.” In doing so, Schaeffer continued, they revive a neglected form of listening he termed “acousmatic,” in deference to the ancient akousmatikoi, disciples of Pythagoras who were made to listen to their master’s voice while he was hidden behind a curtain. (1)

Schaeffer’s position remains a significant one within the practice of sound

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