Synthetic Listener

Talk given at Continuous Verb, MMCA, Seoul, 28 October 2016.

1. Into The Forest

There is sound. And therefore—since what is meant by ‘sound’ can’t be adequately captured by the mere description of physical compression waves, since sound must also be perceived and recognized in order for it to be sound—there are listeners. But who, or what, listens?

I ask this question here in order to inquire about the the relation between sound and the subject, and the part that sound plays in the production of the capitalist subject; and to speculate on how the possibilities of the creative use of synthetic sound might extend beyond the production and reproduction of such subjects.

So it’s the world we live in now—a world of sound that is synthetic, artificial, acousmatic, technically dissected and reassembled, reproduced, and transmitted—that I want to examine.

But to begin with, I want to take you elsewhere, into one of those environments to which sound theorists often turn when seeking a natural, original, or authentic world of sound with which to counter the synthetic soundscape of the contemporary world: we’ll go to the forest, where, before pitching your tent, I want you to lay down on the ground and listen.

Firstly, discontinuous clusters of birdsong form the evanescent constellations of a sonic firmament, marking out a space given volume and animation by the scattering of their punctual, irregular refrains; a space which is further filled out and textured by the rustling of leaves and foliage manifesting the passage of the breeze, and the trickling of water from a nearby stream; all of these combining to produce a gently stimulating auditory texture which, while complex and unpredictable in its detail, is easily relegated to being a background ambience, relaxing and unthreatening, where the pressures of the contemporary world, sonic and otherwise, can be allowed to recede, where there is nothing out of place. A world-picture that seems whole and integrated, as does the auditory subject contemplating it.

Then, repeated shockwaves, faint but palpable, pass from the earth into your body, transmitted directly into your bones, their vibrations damped by your flesh; in itself this series of physical occurrences offers little information, but, supplemented by a series of dull thuds carried through the air to your ears, it enables you to deduce the repeated swings of an axe as someone chops wood for the campfire nearby; and even to anticipate the next in the rhythmic series of blows, prompting the beginnings of a musical response.

You are already between listeners separated by millenia. When the amphibians left the seas two or three hundred million years ago, with their heads resting on the ground, they relied entirely on bone conduction of vibration for hearing. The vibrations in the earth were transmitted from the bones of their lower jaws to the bone surrounding the inner ear. It was only slowly that their organs, adapted to picking up vibrations in the denser medium of water, adapted to airborne sound.

And do you think our closer ancestors, those who hunted and gathered, found the sounds of the forest relaxing? Weren’t they instead on the alert for animals, either predator or prey, always vigilant, and no doubt too attuned to the environment to perceive it as a mere generic ambience? That sylvan atmosphere that you are enjoying is the product of a very modern coding, the artefact of a collective ear belonging to a culture that has tamed and subsequently pastoralised nature.

As darkness falls, suddenly behind your head you hear a scuffling that is unmistakeably the movement of a fellow animal: you have encroached upon the ecological niche of some other creature. Your listening now places you within a territorial system, alerted to a possible threat, and you instinctively use the sound to gauge the size of the animal, its exact spatial location, and its relative position in the predatory chain, straining your ears to pick up more information. But eventually the creature retreats back across the forest floor, an unknown.

To calm your nerves, you reach out and turn on the radio. You easily switch to a new mode of listening, not at all bothered by the incongruity of this acousmatic emission, the sudden appearance of a remotely reproduced, heavily coded, sophisticated sonic form in the midst of the peaceful scene. A song from the early 90s is playing and, as your body performs micro-gestures synchronised to its cadences, you are flooded by memories of the first time, and every subsequent time, that you heard it: comforted, nostalgic maybe. The song ends, and the voice of the announcer now brings you to yourself, in a voice addressed to nobody in particular, activating another part of your brain that is an evolutionary latecomer, making you yet another kind of listener, an instantiation of a general type, a listener with language, but who can only receive, and whose attention is commanded from afar.

And then… awareness of another human body, warm against yours, an arm sliding around you, and—as close as can be to the delicate shell of the ear, a familiar mouth shaping the syllables of your own name: a unique sound of which this specific enunciation—its singular timbre and articulation inextricable from the warm breath and the scent of the body and the intimate familiarity—may well rouse animal depths and plunge you into erotic revery, giving ‘the impression’, as Proust says, in a volume concerned both with love and with names, ‘of having been held, for a moment, in her mouth, naked’—yet at the same time, literally by the same token, it brings forth a whole host of other virtual figures: Parents, Teachers, Bosses, everyone who has ever employed your name to summon, praise, or chastise you, used this sound to secure you firmly not only within language, but also within identity, and in a relation to authority, reaffirming your proper place within yet another territorial system. A sonic marker, a unit of articulation that stitches together the I that you are here, with your lover, in the forest clearing, with every other instance of you across space and time, past and future: a call that gathers you into yourself, and which, because it plays this critical role, is at once transparent—usually not even consciously registered as a sound—and impossible for your ear to ignore: your own involuntary response to it confirms its effective designation of your place in the order of identities.

But don’t let any of this consciously enter your mind now; just allow yourself to be lulled by the warmth and the caressing rustle of the trees, awaiting the intonation of another magical formula. Here it comes: I … love …


Interrupting, cutting through this patchwork of sounds and territories, and abruptly revealing its intersection with another fabric, a friendly yet implacably firm tone shatters the calm; the sound is certainly located in physical proximity to you, indeed your hand reflexively, unconsciously gropes in the dark for the device that emitted it. But the sound has already instantaneously summoned and superimposed upon the scene yet another set of coordinates. They descend like a cage, placing you with utmost precision at a virtual point that is no less definitive of your identity than the name whispered in your ear. This emplacement brings with it a new set of duties: a demand to participate, to represent yourself, and to enter into circulation. Regardless of the channel or interlocutor, no matter what the nature of the message—emoji fun, work email, voicemail notification, trending topic, software update, like or unfriend—your ear-brain registers the formal significance of this sound as immediately as the alert gazelle tenses at the crunching of a twig beneath a predator’s paw: it means that the network is calling you to insert yourself into it once more.

Once more. This ‘once more’ is common to all these registers of sound and listening: it’s a matter of refrains, repetitions, the inculcation of response patterns: listening is a training, a discipline, and this is the case at the level of the evolution of the species, of the social, the development of the individual, and, as we’ll see, even that of the sub-individual. For sound to be truly heard it has to be recognized, and to be re-cognized in this way, it must already be a repetition, even if it repeats something that one has not lived oneself—even if it triggers a phylogenetic rather than an epigenetic memory—for the amphibian, the monkey, and the hunter-gatherer within you are still listening as intently as the teenage you who first heard that song on the radio.

The listener is stratified, ancient and antediluvian as well as modern and cultured, an impersonal set of responses as well as an individual endowed with a personal history, And, because what we call sound is appropriated by a whole range of instinctive and cognitive operations, listening is not whole, or one phenomenon. It’s a result of the harnessing of environmental signals by a range of neural, social, psychological, cognitive, and cultural capacities.

Therefore, while of course there is synthetic sound—sound which is not produced directly by resonating bodies, but constructed according to some electronic or digital protocol—before we examine and question our response to it, we need to recognise that, composed of this multiplicity of capacities for the utilisation of physical sound waves—capacities which continue to be reconfigured and reengineered by human culture, precisely through new repetitions and new disciplines—the listener is not an analytic unity, a centre of consciousness that simply receives and processes sound. The listener is also and already synthetic, and continues to be remixed and reengineered today.

2. Integration

Listening is, in effect, a patchwork of modular systems that evolved at different periods during the history of the species. In turn, they are integrated with the other senses in order to produce an integral and coherent image of the world and of the self. If, in everyday life, these modules succeed in producing such a coherent image, this is no doubt because, for the most part, our environmental miliieu was relatively stable throughout the evolution of homo sapiens, and remains relatively stable within our individual lifetimes, never straying far outside of the parameters within which our ancestors lived. There is undoubted evolutionary advantage in this integration, and our brains serve us remarkably well in harmonising the data of our senses to identify both stable, identifiable and localisable objects, and patterns of change. But, in evolutionary terms, we shouldn’t make the mistake of understanding the auditory system teleologically, as if its current configuration were, as a whole, an adaptive trait, or essentially attuned to an accurate representation of reality; rather, it results from the slow integration of multiple capacities each of which was adaptive at some time during our long history.

In addition, traits that were once valuable for survival later became supernumerary as environmental constraints were removed by the development of more sophisticated social and cultural structures; they therefore became a kind of surplus, available to be appropriated for other uses. As Gary Tomlinson shows in his remarkable book 1,000,000 Years of Music, our capacity for musical perception and activity owes to a convergence of cognitive and motor system capacities that had been adaptive for entirely other reasons.

The synthesis of physical sound waves into something that is heard takes place at many different stages: of course, there is information in the sound waves themselves, but these are subject to physiological mediation, the inner ear carries out complex transformation, limitation and selection of the waveform, which is then converted to neural stimulus, and processed by many different areas of the brain.

Many times the listener needs to answer a series of apparently simple problems: how many sound sources? What is their location? Are the discontinuities I hear breaks in one sound or the end of one and the beginning of another? Should multiple groups of sound be understood as one complex sound, or several simpler ones?

To take just one example of research into the cognitive mechanisms that resolve such questions, Alfred Bregman’s work on Auditory Scene Analysis concerns the way in which we partition sound into separate streams that we take to be telling us about ‘the same’ environmental source or event. The experiments he presents, involve changing various parameters – separation in time or frequency, difference in timbre – in order to reveal the threshold where the perceptual allocation of some segment of the sound to one object rather than another takes place. What ASA aims at, therefore, is a ‘map’ of the allocation mechanisms that have proved instrumental to the species.

Bregman’s ‘continuity illusion’ specifies conditions under which a sound is ‘heard’ to continue ‘behind‘ a louder interrupting sound when, in fact, it is not present. This is an example of default assumptions which, in general, were of value to the organism, but which nonetheless may not accurately represent the reality of environmental signals.

Likewise, psychoacousticians Kubovy and Van Valkenburg present experiments which show how, in hearing, Spatialisation (whereness) is separated from identification (whatness) whereas in vision they can’t be dissociated, so that careful engineering of a signal can produce an ‘object’ that is ‘blurred’ across multiple spatial locations.

What appears when we probe into the cracks between the modules that make the patchwork of listening are hallucinations: the systems begin to disagree with each other, or their inbuilt functional assumptions misfire, and hallucinatory objects begin to appear. And hallucination disintegrates not only the object of hearing, but the subject too. Our spontaneous, integrated image of the world becomes denaturalised , our stable allocation of sensory phenomena to something ‘out there’ , and our integration of sensory data into a coherent whole is challenged by synthetically constructed stimuli: it no longer appears as a natural and transparent assumption.

What such effects reveal is that, within the field of what is heard, there are a whole range of experiences that fall outside of the spontaneous image of perceiver and object understood as fixed instances, and of auditory perception understood as a unified system for the re-presentation of an object that belongs to a coherent world ‘out there’.

Opportunities to provoke such hallucinations grow as we investigate the structure of auditory perception, rather than trusting in the manifest, integrated image of the soundscape that we have been disciplined to accept and expect, across our own lifetimes and those of our ancestors.

In this way, the technical analysis of sound and listening produce a kind of extravagant surplus: they reveal both that the virtuality of listening extends beyond the unified image of world and self, and that it contains faultlines where what is heard can no longer be attributed straightforwardly to an environmental source. In effectively turning sound into a type of electronic writing that can be manipulated and rearticulated, the technical tools of synthesis help to reveal the synthetic nature of listening itself.

3. Capitalism, subjectivation, sound

So what is happening to sound and listening today, under these conditions?

What is interesting about the use of sound in the capitalist system of control is the way in which it avails itself, with the help of technical systems, of the inherently synthetic character of sound and listening, while at the same time re-imposing the integrated image of the self.

As Deleuze and Guattari say memorably somewhere in their magnum opus Capitalism and Schizophrenia, ‘capitalism invents nothing’. This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that Capitalism is not a social system: it is, rather, the progressive disassembly of all social systems and the reassembly of their component parts according to the profit axiomatic. And for capitalism, anything goes, so long as it can be used and integrated with this primary axiom. Capitalism is cyberpunk, it uses whatever it can find to assemble itself.

If we want to understand what a contemporary politics of sound might be, therefore, we have to take our lead from Capitalism, which doesn’t operate on the basis of any ‘theory’ or ‘ontology’ of sound, and doesn’t need to essentialise any of the various modes of listening: it is ready to instrumentalize without compunction any of the different registers of hearing and listening that we mentioned above: from the most primal animal response to sound, to the most high-level capacities for extracting inner meaning from subtle sonic articulations.

As Félix Guattari shows in his analysis of capitalism as a semiotic system, the production of subjects within the capitalism is remarkable for its powerful articulation of two processes: social subjection, and machinic enslavement. Operating via what he calls asignifying semiotics—that is, non-referential signs which do not pass via language but instead address and direct bodies and brains on a sub-personal level—the operations of machinic enslavement (or rather, slaving: what is in question here is the use of human capacities as cybernetic servomechanisms) are indifferent to the inherited symbolic order, interfering with its functions and potentially threatening it with obsolescence and disintegration. When the cognitive capacities of the human are addressed not at the level of a whole, intact subject, but through stimuli that are processed below the level of conscious perception, doesn’t this corrode the self? It produces a world in which, rather than facing each other as personalised subjects of language and identity, humans are integrated into a cybernetic system of control with which they interact through micro-gestures, the emission of informational fragments, and semi-unconscious responses to stimuli. This is what Deleuze presciently diagnosed as the ‘control society’—in which human parts are integrated via processes of modulation, by way of asignifying semiotics, rather than via discipline and punishment by way of physical coercion and symbolic violence.

However, since it needs to reproduce narcissist workers-consumers with a sense of self, and the concomitant social relations, the control society cannot do without a continually recalibrated complementary process of social subjection, which endlessly recycles the image of personhood. It is this process that decants decoded flows back into the readymade vessels of the symbolic order, ensuring that there are persons to desire, consume, and work.

Indeed, what is notable is the plasticity that these complementary processes lend to each other: flows of decoded machinic signs that would seem to destabilise the very notion and experience of subjecthood are in fact mobilized to reinvigorate obsolescent myths of individual agency. While on the other hand, performances of social cohesion and individual expression are increasingly obtained through subscription to informatic ‘services’ for which human subjects are so many atomized content-providers. Two refrains operating on different scales yet set in resonance with each other.

The ubiquitous smartphone in many ways acts as a kind of switching station between these two processes. While ownership and operation of the device operates as an index of selfhood and identity, the original function of the telephone has shifted. It is no longer an acousmatic extension of bonding and identity-reinforcement through language. The linguistic-signifier function of the telephone has gradually been sidelined by other systems: by the injunction to insert one’s sensorium into a transglobal flow of continuous alerts, calls for action, polling points and pattern-precognitions, modulated algorithmically at infra-cognitive speeds, where every interaction immediately generates yet more demands for attention. While the ‘content’ resembles a high-octane remix of simian bonding, aggression, group dynamics and courtship behaviors, at the machinic level this ostensible content is a mere pretext for the reinforcement of compulsions that ensure absorption into the profitable circulation of data: a new kind of living that is at once consumption and labour.

As we understood on our forest trip, the contrast between this multimodal harassment and the obsolete model of telephony—between the subjective intimacy of speech and a machinic enslavement to triggers and alerts—indexes different modes of audition. And this explains the shifting function of the telephone. As explored at length by Derrida and his successors, the immediacy of hearing oneself speak is the originary model for a phenomenological transparency and intimate self-presence, vouching for a subjective interiority unassailable by the empirical world, which it thus deposes into a secondary register, that of inert and lifeless space. The transparency of signification in spoken language eclipses the sonorous nature of speech, the physicality of its source and its medium of transmission. In speaking to another, this shared interiority burrows under the space where the voice sounds. As we see with the telephone, even the thickness of technological mediation does not vitiate the magical immediacy of speech. The promises of Skype and Facetime in the present day—‘it’s as if you were right there’—still promise the reinstatement of presence and the disappearance of their own artificial materiality.

But the mode of listening involved in alertness to these sounds that channel subjectivity into asignifying circulation, the alerts, pings, and beeps of your smartphone, is different, and perhaps more primordial. While it is the product of the upfront, brightly-lit spaces of online communication, the effective operation of these alerts could well be qualified as crepuscular and animal, if Nietzsche is right to say that the ear is ‘the organ of fear’, and that it

could have evolved as greatly as it has only in the night and twilight of obscure caves and woods, in accordance with the mode of life of the age of timidity, that is to say the longest human age there has ever been.

The primordiality of this connection with fear and vigilance makes these sounds a distressed acousmatics. But once again, in capitalism, this reflex animal response is hooked up to the circuits of hypercomplex digital networks; but only so as to elicit symbolic exchanges that reinforce the most banal routines of subjectivity and signification, once again ensuring the disappearance of material operations into the phantom world of subjective interiority.

The successful articulation of these two apparently disparate registers is the final measure of the achievement of capitalist subjectivation: social media interfaces mesh with unreflective compulsive behavior verging on the addictive, while on the level of ‘content’ they reinforce the cult of individual expression and identity-formation. This is a form of subjectivation that operates both through plugging bodies into technologically decoded flows and through discursive reinforcements of the symbolic order. It is a subjectivation that at once names faces, and modulates ‘dividuals’. It instrumentalizes both the manifest image of phenomenological self-presence and the scientific image of the animal body as an involuntary signal-processor.

If, as we have seen, the scientific and technical analysis of sense data and its reconstruction into asignifying semiotics harbors the potential to unlock affects and experiences that escape discursive overcoding, in capitalism they become unprecedented artificial fortifications for social subjection. This is a subjectivation-machine that both subverts and reinforces the supposed polarity of inside and outside—without ever perishing from this ‘contradiction’.

No wonder, then, that social media, or mediated sociality, tensed between the two major modes of capitalist subjectivation, is now seen to induce both low- and high-level psychopathologies: nervous tics, continual vigilance, compulsive re-checking, and on the other side, a transformation of selfhood into a distressed media performance; and in the auditory realm, the lab-rat shocks of ringtones, idents, bleeps and dings, an asignifying chatter that won’t let you off the hook.

For it is all of this, in a sense, that is compacted into that simple, moronic DING, into the mode of listening that it calls for and indeed produces, and the way in which that mode of listening is, at the same time, troubles and reinforces the integrated image of the human self.

Sound is precisely playing a crucial role here: it is ensuring control even when you look away from the screen. Since we can never close our ears, the use of sound is a crucial means to cross that last barrier to integrate the human into the control system. The role of sound in the control society could be summed as the extension of control beyond the line of sight. In order to ensure this, sound must be mastered, both in terms of the control of sound sources and the promulgation of sound in space, but also by sound being turned into a form of illiterate, asignifying writing—‘capitalism is profoundly illiterate’, say Deleuze and Guattari—so that it can be codified, articulated, and reassembled as flexibly as possible.

And here, at the other pole, we encounter the technocapitalist destiny of the voice. The voice in contemporary capitalism remains a locus of emotional labour; even in the most artificial and cynical setting, such as a call centre conversation, it retains a residual power for comfort and pacification: it reinforces the proper place of the human, for a voice always has a name and a face, and a face always signifies interiority, an interiority that is powerful enough to eclipse the materiality of the sound thorugh which it is rendered present.

But we are also all-too-familiar with acousmatic voices in our environment today. Our habituation to them means that we end up reacting to them as pure control signals: these are the voices that bark ‘information’, warnings, and directions at us.

With the increasing sophistication of artificial speech voice, however, we will soon go beyond this dichotomy between the human voice and the obviously mechanistic reproduction of it. The grain of the voice, and our emotional reaction to it, all of the subtle sonorous parameters that make speech such a ductile and affecting form of sound that keys into our interior selves and assures us of authentic communication, will soon enter into the loop of control and machinic slaving. We can certainly imagine a Siri that modulates its tone imperceptibly to engineer our mood, or a subscription service that not only says to you, on demand, exactly what you want to hear, in the voice you long to hear it from, but says it exactly how you want to hear it, modulating its timbre to caress those cilia in just the right places. This is what the movie ‘Her’ shows us this, in all its insinuating detail: how a cybernetic future invades the present not in the form of a Terminator-style robot army, but through the intimacy of the voice.

Indeed it is quite possible, even given the current state of technology, that on the basis of an archive of voice recordings, one could assemble a virtual persona that would continue to deliver those sensual whispers in your ear even after the death or departure of the loved one.

Beyond the mere reproduction or simulation of a person, though, we might ask what kinds of emotions, eroticisms, and disruptions of language could be wrought from this virtual material, made available through the technical manipulation of the voice. But within capitalism, as this process corrodes the self-evident humanity of the voice by delving deeper into the inner articulations of speech, turning it into a form of flexible electronic writing, it will always be repurposed in order to ensure the integral image of the human is kept in place. As with the crepuscular signalling of the smartphone, what it decodes with one hand, capitalism puts back into place more effectively with the other.

And yet the surplus value produced by these virtualities may begin to creep out, creating unprecedented experiences of listening that cross over, disrupt, interbreed, and clash together the modes of hearing bequeathed to us by our natural and cultural evolution.

This pincer movement between the authenticity of the human, as embodied in the voice, and a slaving to the network, as embodied in machinic signalling, leaves unheard a vast surplus of sonic potential, some of which, possibly, would not conform to either the animal response to sound nor the its heavily overcoded symbolic deployment in spoken language.

Rather than being used to reproduce the integrated subject, the non-functional potentialities released by our technical probing beneath the surface of sound may allow us to sense and to think a subject of listening that doesn’t yet exist: one that inhabits the interzones of the virtuality of sound, exploring sonic spaces that are not yet subject to any territorial claim.

4. Synthetic Sonic Practice

And it is here that we reach the question of synthetic sound. In the performances we are about to hear tonight, what kind of listening will be activated, what kind of listener-subject will be produced?

Start with the most standard club track, which in fact bears some resemblance to our forest scene: at first, you are surrounded by an ambient space padded out by a synthetic wash of sounds. An unrecognized noise emerges out of the texture, alerting you to some obscure movement, and then disappearing before it can be identified. Then the kick drum comes in, activating the sensorimotor system, thumping through your chest cavity at the same time as it reaches your ears. A voice, meticulously EQ’d to draw the maximum stimulus from its high frequencies, emits a disconnected series of eroticised, broken syllables, activating the speech centres without producing anything like meaning. The auditory system is bombarded, the activation of different strata of listening is intensified to the point of absurdity, they begin to bleed into one another, and sound becomes only sound, rather than a sign of something else.

Yet at a meta-cognitive level, all of these effects are subsumed under a generic categorisation—it is, after all, only another track. That is to say, even sound freed from its human matrix can easily be recaptured.

First of all by dismissal—either it is only music, mere entertainment; or it is only noise, and therefore, unworthy of attention, it can be safely ignored, exiled to a space outside of all social significance.

Secondly, by being attributed to a charismatic leader, the DJ or musician, so that the sound becomes only an expression of the power of yet another authority figure, and an occasion to worship them, with the audience expecting the expected, and producers reliably delivering it.

Thirdly, by museumification, where tracks and soundspaces become exhibits to be appraised, categorised, and treasured as tokens of social esteem and criteria for self-definition and social cohesion—whether you identify as a member of the analog synth club or the extreme noise club.

In all of these cases, the listening mode becomes one in which sound is encountered discursively, narcissistically, or not at all. In this sense we could say that synthetic sound is also vulnerable to capture: it, also, can become a double articulation between decoded flows and the conventions of social subjection.

But the best synthetic sound work testifies to a constant struggle between the disintegration of the integrated auditory subject and its generic subsumption: Personally my favourite moments are when I sound engages me both in extreme sensory attention and in meta-cognitive reflection: when I ask myself why am I listening to this? I am aware, of course, that my listening is governed by the cultural code of its being categorised as music or sound art or noise experiment; and yet the effects it is having on me don’t answer to any known criteria. They scramble the organic functions of listening, and disturb my sense of my self and my motives for listening.

The task of working with sound today, perhaps, is to contribute, in the auditory realm, towards what Rimbaud called a ‘deregulation of the senses’, by producing a synthetic delirium that activates, on both a sensory and a meta-cognitive level, a fuller awareness of the complexity and non-unity of listening, and experimentally opens up its faultlines rather than exploiting them so as to keep sonic intelligence sequestered from its potential.

From this point of view, what has been called ‘schizophonia’, in a lament for the passing away of an integrated, wholesome sound-world, may in fact be the revelation of the inherently schizophrenic character of sound and listening. For the forest was never as simple and wholesome as it was painted. This is the schizophrenia of sound mobilized so as to dissipate the illusory figure of an ear that is ‘readymade’, passively receptive to signals that come, equally readymade, from a site that is absolutely other than it . Because when synthetic sound functions at its outer limits, the ear is always also cognitive, it’s a brain-ear that constructs what is heard. And when this process of construction is itself rendered audible, it challenges both the subject and the object of hearing, and their anchoring in a preexisting organic system.

No longer subordinated to its organic role in the service of representation, the ear will mutate, engaged in a loop of experimentation and hallucination; where there no longer seems anything ‘natural’ about the referential relation between auditory object and sound source, and where our consensual hallucination of an integrated world heard by a secure subject is placed on the same plane as the heightened hallucinations of synthetic extravagance, producing, even if only momentarily, a listening subject that is the harbinger of a future human, released from both the integrated coordination of its inherited evolutionary capacities, and from capitalism’s reappropriation and exploitation of their differences. Then, the calm ambience of the forest will give way to the delirious, pullulating jungle, seething with inorganic sonic life.