Dhvāni (Budhaditya Chattopadhyay) at the Rewire Festival 2021. Photo credit: Pieter Kers.
Within Arts and Humanities, sound studies have established itself as a vibrant and productive academic field in the last decade, resulting in a profusion of scholarly and artistic works, including numerous publications, conferences and major projects. In this developing body of work, however, there is an astounding absence of sound thinkers and makers from the Global South. The profusion of works has basically been Euro-American. Sounds in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East – broadly termed the Global South – have largely remained underexplored, although they contribute significantly to global outputs in audiovisual media. Does that mean non-Europeans cannot think critically in the realm of sound media? If we make an effort in assessing some of the literatures and aesthetic experiences on sound and listening in South Asia alone, we find a different narrative. There are important discourses existing having the potential not only to enrich the field but also to address some unresolved issues in sound studies, e.g. time and space. No wonder, canonical figures in sound arts, such as John Cage and La Monte Young changed the course of their artistic trajectories upon engaging with Indian music, contributing to a curious sonic confluence, that is the focus of the project’s inquiry.

The project will explore and revitalise this sonic confluence by investigating the following research question: What can the Eurocentric field of sound studies gain by examining sound practices and auditory cultures in South Asia in the areas of temporality, spatiality, chance, and subjectivity? The project’s multilevel methodology combines forms of academic inquiry with artistic and curatorial practices. A series of academic inquiries into the materials and available data will be conducted, leading to a monograph and a collection of interviews. The key scientific contribution of the project is to address inadequacies in contemporary sound studies by drawing on productive perspectives from South Asia. This is likely to have substantial impact on media studies interested in globalness and decoloniality. The project outcomes include publications, a series of exhibitions, and scholarly gatherings.

Research Partner

Faculty of Art, Music and Design (KMD), University of Bergen, Norway