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Acoustic Projection and the Politics of Sound

Working Paper #41, Summer 2010

Seth Cluett

This working paper presents material taken from the second chapter of my
dissertation, Loudspeaker: Acoustic Display as Aesthetic Material. My dissertation interrogates the complex status of the loudspeaker as a model for
thinking about the nature of acoustic amplification in media technologies. In the vast
majority of its applications, the loudspeaker is a component within other media – the
telephone, radio, television, video, computer, and public address systems – and
although there is a rich critical and historical literature treating each of these host
media, the loudspeaker itself is often subsumed without reference under more
abstracted treatments of sound generally. Thus, though the loudspeaker is variously
discussed in art history, musicology, and media theory, it has never had a proper
written history. Drawing on texts from critical theory, art and architectural history, and
musical aesthetics, my thesis attempts to (re)situate the technology of the loudspeaker
within existing media and aesthetic discourse. I aim to construct a media-critical
history of the loudspeaker as a device by observing parallels between its use as a
mass-market content delivery apparatus and its deployment by musicians and artists
working in a range of media – art, architecture, music, performance, and installation –
since the turn of the century.

Full text version in PDF format.

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