Sounding Materiality : Explorations In Resonant Practice

Bulley, James. 2018. Sounding Materiality : Explorations In Resonant Practice. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

How might we explore material agency in sound arts practice to promote more
ecological ways of knowing our world? Through practice-based inquiry what
methodologies might emerge that can provide a framework for novel, open ways of
exploring the relation between sound and materiality?

Sounding Materiality is an account of arts research that works at the intra-face
(Barad 2000) of theory and practice. Through the critical analysis and portrayal of three
case-studies, the thesis contributes two novel sound practice techniques of ‘live
composition’ and ‘locative sound’, which it is proposed enable a closer and more fruitful
relationship between materiality and sound. Within the case-studies that underpin the
thesis, the process of experimenting with an expanded source bond between sound,
meaning, and materiality leads to diverse explorations with natural systems, haptic art,
phonography, sonic spatialisation, and participatory practice. Three sound-based
installations are the catalysts for these inquiries, including two place-specific works
driven by natural processes, Variable 4 and Living Symphonies, and the haptic sound
installation Tactus, conceived as a direct communicative artwork for the blind and
visually impaired. These iterative works took place over the seven-year duration of this
thesis (2010–2017) and have been exhibited publicly, with cross media documentation
of their occurrences imbricated in this text. In their critical analysis two distinct
contributions to sound practice emerge: ‘live composition’, a framework that uses
sonification and generative techniques to drive real-time sound composition based on
live source data, and ‘locative sound’ a technique that promotes the placing of sound in
the reality of the world, drawing relationships of ‘synchresis’ (Chion 1994) between
materiality and composed ‘sonic events’ (Cox 2015).

A methodological framework of ‘resonant practice’ inspired by Schön’s
‘reflective practitioner’ (Schön 1987) emerges by reflection on these case-studies,
portraying a praxis built on specific methodologies of ‘material thinking’ (Carter 2004),
iteration, dialogic collaboration, and communication of knowing through an ‘artstext’.
‘Resonant practice’ takes an ‘acoustemological’ approach (Feld 1994), venturing that an
arts research project rooted in sounding materiality promotes unique, ecological and
vibrant ways of knowing through sound. Through a resonant practice artists working
with sound can aim to propagate a ‘vibrant materialism’ (Bennett 2010), forwarding
communicative, ecological and sustainable approaches to our sonic and material

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Art, Music, Sound, Sound Art, Installation, Site-Specific, Touch, Tactile, Haptic, Composition, Nature, Systems, Resonance, Resonant Practice, Locative Sound, Live Composition

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Music > Unit for Sound Practice Research


31 October 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

28 Feb 2019 15:53

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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