2022, a Year of Sound Actions

I have over the last few years worked on a book project with the working title Sound Actions. The manuscript has been through peer reviewing and several rounds of editing. Now it is an editorial process and will be published by The MIT Press later in 2022.

Action-Sound Couplings and Mappings

The book is based on the action-sound theory I developed as part of my dissertation. My main point is that we experience the world through action-sound couplings and mappings. An action-sound coupling is based on the interaction between physical objects and its sound is based on the mechanical and acoustical properties of the objects involved.

An action-sound coupling is based on the interaction with physical objects.

On the other hand, an action-sound mapping is designed and constructed using either analogue or digital technologies.

An action-sound mapping is designed and constructed using electronic technologies

My main argument in the book is that action-sound couplings and mappings are different. This is not to say that one type is better than the other, they are just different. I also suggest that we experience them differently. This is based on ecological psychology, focusing on how we experience the world through our interaction with the environment. The environment in my context can be anything that leads to sound production, which, in fact, is a lot of the things we do.

Sound-producing actions can be thought of as “chunks” of continuous motion. These actions are related to “chunks” of the continuous sound. Such sound actions form the basis for our experience of musical gestures.

Sound Action Types

We all produce and experience a number of sound actions every day. Most of them we don’t think about. Sometimes we do, for example, when we enter a quiet place, such as a library. Then we try to be quiet, that is, adjust our actions to produce less sound. We may also be aware of others’ sound actions, particularly if someone is loud. There is clearly a social aspect of sound actions.

There are many different types of sound actions. Based on the taxonomy of Pierre Schaeffer, we may talk about three main types of sound actions: impulsive, sustained, and iterative.

An illustration of the three main sound types proposed by Pierre Schaeffer, and their relationship to sound-producing actions.

Daily Sound Actions

Throughout 2022, I will publish one sound action daily. These will be short video recordings of particular sound actions. I have three goals with this project:

  • Allow people to reflect on various types of everyday sound actions. Hopefully, I can inspire others to contribute with some more sound actions as well.
  • Serve as a “countdown” to the publication of my book later this year.
  • Explore sound actions as I am about to start up my new research project AMBIENT: Bodily Entrainment to Audiovisual Rhythms.

With that, here we go:

Manuscript in preparation

Ever since I finished my dissertation in 2007, I have thought about writing it up as a book. Parts of the dissertation were translated and extended in the Norwegian-language textbook Musikk og bevegelse (which, by the way, is out of print but freely available as an ebook). That book focused primarily on music-related body motion and was written for the course MUS2006 at the University of Oslo. However, my action-sound theory was only partially mentioned and never properly presented in a book format.

I started on a book manuscript around ten years ago, but it has taken a long time to get it finalized. Family life, a period as Head of Department, and building up RITMO have taken up much of my time over the last decade. Last summer, I managed to complete the first draft of a book manuscript.

I am thrilled to announce that The MIT Press has accepted to publish the book. As an Open Research advocate, I am equally thrilled that the book will be published Open Access. The plan is to submit the final manuscript in August. So over the last month, I have been polishing up the text. What is the book’s content? Well, quite a lot, but here is a short summary:

What is an instrument? How is it used? How do new technologies change the way we perform and perceive music? This is a theoretical music technology book, informed by new research in embodied music cognition. The author argues that there are some fundamental differences between acoustic and electroacoustic instruments. Instruments have traditionally been sound-makers. New electroacoustic instruments are often music-makers. The book explores current and future approaches to music-making by analysing instruments. This is done through four distinctive themesmusicking, embodiment, interaction, and affectionthat all tap into different academic disciplines: music sociology, music psychology, music technology, and music aesthetics. The aim is to combine some influential existing theories from each of these domains with the author’s thinking about the future of musical engagement.

And here is a sneak peek at the table of contents:

Although I think the main structure and content are in place, there will surely be some more changes. The challenge is that as I am reading through and checking citations and references, I come across new exciting things that I want to include. But at some point, I realize that I will have to say that enough is enough…