Jacob Eriksen – Non-Listening: Affect, Hearing and the Sonic Everyday

The auditory disciplines in the humanities have often emphasized the dichotomic split between attentive or aesthetic listening and non-attentive or mere perceptive hearing, making the latter serve as a base for the former from where it can approach auditory phenomena. Thus listening has been regarded as superior to hearing, and rightfully so (it seems), as at the moment you become aware of your hearing you turn into the mode of listening. Consequently we cannot speak of hearing as anything else than the physical perception of sound.

Everyday urban environments surround us with a wide range of sounds to which we are not necessarily giving an attentive listen – more likely the opposite in our everyday numbing of the protecting blasé attitude – and are constantly affecting us. This means that hearing is not just the physical perception of sound, it is rather the affection of sound. To break down the hierarchy between affective hearing and listening and thus creating a symbiotic dialectic I will define the affective hearing as non-listening. How can we then possibly approach non-listening without entering the realm of listening?

In Steve Goodman’s book Sonic Warfare he is presenting Whitehead’s process oriented philosophy as a combination of Bergson’s duration or continuum on the one hand and Bachelard’s rhythmanalysis on the other. These are in combination a key to understand affect as ontology. Based on these theories the purpose of this paper is to introduce a concept of non-listening as a non-anthropocentric affective mode of being through which we can understand the act of hearing in sonic environments of everyday life.

Jacob Eriksen (1985) is a Danish sound artist, writer and researcher based in Berlin. He has studied musicology, philosophy and sound studies. Artistically his works are often very conceptual and explore the relationship between time, perception and awareness. He writes for the Danish journal for experimental music and sound art Seismograf.org.

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