Auditory and Technological Culture: the Fine-tuning of the Dancehall Sound System “Set”

Henriques, Julian F.. 2011. Auditory and Technological Culture: the Fine-tuning of the Dancehall Sound System “Set”. Journal of Sonic Studies, 00-00. [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This paper describes how sound engineers in Jamaica fine-tune the huge and powerful dancehall sound systems to achieve their best auditory performance. This provides an example of how cybernetic systems combine musical and technological processes. The phonographic apparatus of the set requires the three basic material electromagnetic processes: (1) power; (2) control (Bateson 1987) and (3) transduction (Simondon 1992). The sound System engineers fine-tune with a technique of compensation, described in terms of two corporeal sensorimotor practices: (1) the kinetic motor process of manipulating the value of particular components, or substituting one for another; and (2) the haptic sensory process of monitoring the auditory output of the set. Further the engineers are engaged in (3) evaluating or skilled listening (Sterne 2003) for the particular sonic qualities such as “balance,” “weight” and “attack” that the fine-tuning aims to achieve. Engineers learn to evaluate, select and combine sounds in the sociocultural milieu of an apprenticeship – as elements of a communication system (Wilden 1972).

Keywords: cybernetics, technique, evaluating, milieux, transduction

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Topology Research Unit


October 2011Published

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Date Deposited:

17 Oct 2011 11:54

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:31

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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