Podcasting: The Becoming-Space of Voices’

Turner, Lynn. 2017. 'Podcasting: The Becoming-Space of Voices’'. In: Wild Minds. ICA, London, United Kingdom 31 March 2017. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

Moving between philosophical and cetological frames of thought, this paper speculates on the conditions of whale song. Paradigmatically charismatic megafauna, the naming of the sounds recorded at first incidentally by the US military as ‘song’ enabled the mobilization of conservation efforts on behalf of whales. Today ‘everyone’ knows that whales ‘sing’ even as the significance of their vocalisations remains substantially mysterious. In his recent magnum opus, The Sounding of the Whale, D. Graham Burnett cautioned that using the term ‘song’ in reference to cetacean vocalisations risked being ‘too Lilly:’ an anthropomorphisation of non-human sounds beholden to the hallucinogen assisted work of scientist and psychonaut John C. Lilly in 1960’s America. But what is a song, and what articulation does it perform? While a philosophical legacy ranging from Aristotle to Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Jacques Lacan may seem eccentric to the study of cetacean vocalisation, by means of the late writing of Jacques Derrida, we can see how key ideas supporting human exceptionalism can repeat even in the context of cetological research. One such idea relegates whale vocalisation to behaviour in the service of sexual reproduction. Sometimes curiosity in observation can disrupt such predictable conclusions, as in the short but highly suggestive essays on cetacean communication by Gregory Bateson. Taking Bateson’s speculation that such communication may ‘resemble music’ seriously, this paper repositions the connection between human and non-human vocalisation not as the vanity of anthropomorphism but a common condition of vulnerability.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


15 January 2017Accepted
31 March 2017Published

Event Location:

ICA, London, United Kingdom

Date range:

31 March 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

27 Apr 2017 12:31

Last Modified:

27 Oct 2017 13:52



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