This is a story about two sounds—a howl and a hiss—that I experienced in the summer of 2019 in rural upstate New York.[1] On a sweltering July day, the kind we would have called unseasonal a few short years ago but now just call summer, my sons and I encountered a large turtle, as wide as a manhole cover, plopped down in the center of a country road. At first we thought it was dead, a victim of the intense heat radiating down from the sun and up from the asphalt. When I knelt to take a closer look, however, I realized it was looking back at me through camouflaged eyes. Our faces separated by just a few inches, I was mesmerized by the intensity of the turtle’s gaze, but also struck by its opacity: it seemed to be looking past me, beyond me, rather than at me or into me. Ours was less a mutual beholding or baring of souls, and more a sharing of a physical space without a whiff of intimacy or mutual understanding. My sons, ever the pragmatists, nudged me out of this reverie and observed that if we didn’t move the turtle, it would surely get run over by one of the pickup trucks that occasionally hurtled around the blind curve up ahead. Drawing upon my vast knowledge of turtles (which I received exclusively from cartoons and fables, all of which affirm that turtles are characterized by their radical slowness and philosophical orientation to the world), I confidently moved around behind it and attempted to lift it by the rim of its shell.


What happened next happened extremely quickly. Without warning, the full-grown snapping turtle’s head exploded forward and swung around toward my left hand on a shockingly extended neck. A sharp and powerful beak opened wide and chopped shut an inch from my left index finger. Four beclawed legs shot out in four directions and made an aggressive raking motion in the air. I broke contact and leapt back as an involuntary and extended “HO!” escaped my lips. The turtle let out a sustained, menacing hiss from that long-necked mouth, and then fell silent, pulling its head back in toward its body and resuming its stumplike stillness.





As a music scholar, my first thought—which came to me a few moments later, once my heartbeat returned to its proper tempo—was that the turtle and I had just performed a kind of interspecies “call-and-response.” Call-and-response, as you probably know, is an extremely durable musical ur-form; it undergirds a vast array of music praxes, from the Blues and gospel music to Bach motets, from many West African drumming traditions to children’s songs the world over. The form’s characteristic oscillation—between soloist and rhythm section, between antiphonal groups of instrumentalists, between charismatic preacher and engaged congregation—stylizes and intensifies the back-and-forth structure that all conversations share. Here, it struck me that my call and the turtle’s response had erected a fragile sonorous bridge or communicative channel that spanned, temporarily but profoundly, the vast chasm of biological difference between us. It seemed to go something like this:


Call:              HO! = “Hey, I see you!”

Response:       HISS! = “And I see you!”


Or perhaps:


Call:              HO! = “I am scared!”

Response:       HISS! = “You should be!”


I would later discover, however, that while snapping turtles have ears, they don’t really use them for hearing. They can faintly detect some low-frequency sounds through their ears and skin, but, lacking a tympanic membrane, their ears cannot powerfully transduce airborne vibrations into the mechanical energy necessary to set off the complex set of chemical reactions that ultimately triggers the synaptic firings the auditory cortex registers as sound. Their ears, it appears, are better suited for detecting differences in water and air pressure—an important dimension of experience for creatures that spend half their lives in various depths of water. The turtle’s hiss, it turned out, was not a response to my vocal call, but to my touch.


I also learned later that snapping turtles possess a highly developed sense of smell. Small beardlike protrusions called barbels hang from their chins; they function like external noses.  As I moved around to face the turtle after lifting him (by comparing photos online I discovered that the turtle was male) he was almost certainly straining to smell me, to learn something about me and my intentions from the me-scented air. Moreover, his hiss released a stream of breath that infused the air between us with the penetrating scent of his own dark interior. The smell was memorable: a complex, airborne evocation of rotting marsh, body odor, overripe fruit, dead fish, and brine. I inhaled deeply, pulling microscopic particles of the turtle’s hiss into my lungs. He breathed in my howl as well. We faced each other, connected not so much by the sound of our voices as by the charged air our voices released.





I think we can extract a few lessons from this story. First, it highlights two of sound’s relatively undertheorized aspects; let us call them the provinciality and contingency of sound. Sound is provincial in the sense that it is always localized within a vast mesh of forces, ranging in this case from turtle barbels to human hands, from snapping jaws to hot blacktop, from evolutionary camouflage to careening trucks that pose an imminent threat to creatures on the blind curve and a fractal threat to climate. In my encounter with the turtle, sound was on the periphery of this mesh, subordinate to forces that had vastly higher stakes for him and for me.[2] (The provincial nature of sound may seem obvious to the anthropologist-readers of Sensate, but I assure you it is much less obvious within the disciplines of—note the names—music studies, acoustic ecology, and sound studies in which I participate.)


Sound is contingent in the sense that it is active only for those creatures who transduce vibrations into the chemical pulses we call thoughts, and those material entities (e.g., record-cutting needles, magnetic tape, digital recorders, Chladni plates) that are designed to register sound waves in some way. Plenty of creatures, from the snapping turtle to many insect species to all microbes, exist in relatively soundless worlds. This last point, on the role the individual sensorium plays in the constitution of a phenomenal world, has a long history.[3] But it bears repeating here, given how frequently music and sound scholarship presents sound as an empirical force that (a) is unaffected by the receptive capacities of the body that encounters it, and (b) possesses only characteristics that are detectible and meaningful to humans with high-functioning auditory apparatuses. Sound is, according to this logic, that which we hear, with the “we” in that phrase denoting an exclusive, unmarked, naturalized group of human auditors. The turtle’s ear reminds us that the relationship between sound and environment cannot begin to be grasped until one takes account of the epistemologies and embodied capacities through which entities come to know sound—or through which sound remains for them unknown and unknowable.


My smelly vocal encounter with the turtle can also be used to advance a second, corollary proposition: that voice is more than sound. Voice may manifest for you and me as sound, but it also involves mediatic transformations that exist wholly outside the sonorous frame. On the country road, you will recall, the sound of my howl and the turtle’s hiss was accompanied by an exchange of odors and microscopic airborne material. It also involved a subtle but measurable change in the chemical composition and dynamic flow pattern of the atmosphere itself. Focusing on these inaudible changes and exchanges puts pressure on a tradition of Western humanist thought that dates back at least to Aristotle, in which vocality is framed in audiocentric, anthropocentric terms. In other words, the tendency is to understand voice, first, as a special sound, one that stands out against other sounds by virtue of its intense expressivity and communicative potential; and second, as an embodied capacity that is either limited to humans or that humans—with their big brains, agile tongues, deep linguistic reservoirs, and (for Aristotle at least) ineffable souls—perform exceptionally well.[4] One must lay these conventions aside in order to make sense of my odiferous howl and the turtle’s hiss—and in laying them aside, a more expansive and environmentally resonant exploration of voice becomes possible. Such an exploration speaks to a number of urgent contemporary concerns. To take only the most obvious among them: the COVID-19 novel coronavirus—the invisible, inaudible entity that began turning choirs and conversations the world over into vectors of infection in the spring of 2020—has definitively proved to the world that vocality is not limited to sound or language alone.[5]





To better understand a world populated by COVID and turtles, we need a posthuman, post-sonorous conception of voice, one that acknowledges the provinciality and contingency of its sounded dimension and highlights its many environmental entailments.[6] With this in mind, I will here be treating voice not as a purposeful sound issuing from a human throat that expresses human thoughts and identities, but rather as a widespread atmospheric phenomenon that is not limited to humans, or even to biological life. From the standpoint of the atmosphere, voice can be understood as a convergence of five processes: (1) gaseous exchange between conjoined environments; (2) some amount of turbulence or atmospheric disturbance that accompanies this exchange; (3) some amount of cross-pollution or sharing of airborne elements between these environments; (4) a potential for durational effects as a result of this sharing; and (5) a concomitant blurring or even dissolution of boundaries that separate the environments.[7]

By privileging the movement of air over the intention of the vocalist, this definition is counterintuitive, to say the least. One of its most obvious drawbacks is that it de-emphasizes most of the aspects of vocality that I (and I imagine you) cherish—the power of rhetoric, the beauty of singing, the distinctive flavors of vocal timbre, etc. This is a necessary price to pay, however, as the changing composition and dynamics of air are connected to many of the local and global challenges we face. The above definition encompasses a broad spectrum of gaseous phenomena that most people don’t tend to think of as vocal: from car exhaust to landfill gas leaks to plant respiration. It also embraces all of the human sounds we conventionally think of as vocal, but highlights important aspects of these sounds that are often hidden.


Your voice, when mapped onto the five processes above, would involve: (1) an exchange of air between the microenvironment of your lungs and the room or open space where you are reading this. The (2) disturbance this exchange creates would manifest in part as vibration, which you and creatures like you may register as sound. It would also involve a certain billowing of air from your mouth into the atmospheric currents and eddies that surround you, and a chemical shift away from oxygen (which your body harvests) and toward carbon dioxide (which it releases). The air you inhale in order to initiate this disturbance contains (3) particulate matter—from turtles, perhaps, but also from pollinating plants, distant oil refinery emissions, mid-20th century nuclear tests, and other human and nonhuman sources. These elements are shared as you breathe them in, they (4) stick inside the moist pathways of your lungs, and some of them exert durational effects, working carcinogenically to kill you. Conversely, you exhale microscopic entities, and they float through the air, giving those who are close to you a sense of your oral hygiene and recent food intake, along with a possible case of flu or coronavirus. As a result of this microscopic sharing, (5) you are materially connected to the entities that take in your breath; the individuals, groups, technologies, and enterprises whose particulate matter you have taken in; and the many delayed and distributed gaseous acts for which you and others bear at least partial responsibility. The fictive nature of the boundaries between “you” and “not you” is revealed.


These acts of gaseous exchange, atmospheric disturbance, cross-pollution, durational effects, and boundary blurring are extremely common. They take place constantly among the earth’s fifteen quintillion respiring creatures (most of them insects), as well as among its many geysers, nickel plants, and pipe organs.[8]  Just as the howl and hiss opened me and the turtle up to one another through the intermingling of airborne material from our interiors, so are we all opened up by the charged air that flows around and inside and from and between us. Framing these and other acts of consequential gaseous exchange as “vocal” draws attention to the hidden agencies and dramatic potentialities of smokestacks, off-gassing carpets, methane-leaking landfills, and the rest of the vast array of atmospheric acts that silently “express” (in both senses of that word) what it means to be a modern human.[9] Or what it means to be a nonhuman on a planet where the atmosphere has been thoroughly “humanized”: charged with volatile substances through centuries of industrial and other pollutive acts.




The flows of charged air that I am here calling “atmospheric vocality” do not unite us all in a universal state of co-vulnerability, however. It is important to acknowledge that some areas in the earth’s atmosphere are more dirty and deadly than others, and that this dirt and death are to a large extent the byproducts of colonial histories and capitalist logics. Within the sociopolitical systems that are their heirs, pollution, poverty and population density are often coterminous, shortening the lives of those who cannot escape them. According to some estimates, if you were to stand outside in the Indian capital of New Delhi in the smoky month of November and breathe the air for a full hour, you would be reducing your life expectancy by one hour. There are, in other words, places on the planet where the life-sustaining and life-negating capacities of the atmosphere are in a kind of terrible balance.[10] In the United States, maps of polluted air overlap significantly with maps of economically depressed regions, which themselves overlap with maps of racial/ethnic minority populations. The fact that the sonorous voices emanating from polluted regions have been historically ignored and devalued is therefore not coincidental, but a foreordained dimension of a broader situation of atmospheric inequity.


Atmospheric inequity sometimes takes bizarre forms. I am writing this essay in the middle of a pandemic that has, as of this moment, killed 650,000 people and sickened nearly sixteen million people globally. The United States, a country with four percent of the world’s human population and one quarter of its COVID cases, has emerged as the virus’s epicenter. The virus travels from host to host on invisible plumes of exhaled and inhaled air and the tiny droplets of spittle that accompany your vocal emissions. It doesn’t matter if you are reciting Shakespeare or the phone book—the sonorous dimension of your voice is not part of the virus’s umwelt.[11] What matter most are the vulnerability of the inhaling body, and the proximity, duration, intensity, and degree of mediation of the vocal utterance. In the US, most of these factors are acutely affected by an intersection of race and class: medical conditions such as asthma are overwhelmingly weighted toward the poor and people of color, for example, and low-income essential workers in grocery stores and nursing homes can seldom afford the luxury of isolation from others. Here, the population is divided into those who can and cannot exert a degree of control over the air they breathe.


“Mediation,” by contrast, is widely available to most people in the inexpensive form of the cloth face mask. These masks muffle the sound of one’s voice to a certain degree, but their true purpose is to interrupt and slow down the billowing of air that is an essential component of atmospheric vocality. In countries where the mask is ubiquitous, it serves to reduce atmospheric inequity and viral infection. However, in the United States during the spring and summer of 2020, masks became politicized, with a sizable plurality considering them to be not just unnecessary but anathema. It appears that America’s anti-mask activists are implicitly adopting an audiocentric, anthropocentric position vis-a-vis voice: they see the mask as an attempt to silence them, to rob them of the political agency, masculinity, and freedom that the sound of their voices symbolizes.[12] They deny that voice is anything more than an audible performance of thought and identity. The bemasked masses, by contrast, appear to acknowledge precisely the atmospheric aspects of vocality that I have been discussing here. For them, the mask is a public acknowledgment that voice is more than sound. To live among these polarized populations is to experience atmospheric inequity firsthand, on the granular level of the face-to-face vocal encounter.




While atmospheric inequity is an important part of the vocal story, there are ways in which we (in the most radically inclusive sense of that word) are all suffering in common from the toxic vocal emissions of the modern age. It should by this point be no surprise that I am convinced by the neo-Marxist critique of the term “anthropocene”—that it wrongly assigns responsibility for global warming to the entire human species, which it treats as a monolithic force whose activities have destabilized the climate.[13] We need to acknowledge the complex routes through which western conquest and resource extraction in the centuries since Columbus paved the way for our current global carbon economy. Moreover, we must recognize the massive difference between the colonialists and industrialists who introduced large-scale plantation monoculture, resource extraction, and combustion-based industry, on the one hand, and multigenerational indigenous communities with tiny carbon footprints, on the other. This difference is important, as is the fact that poor communities the world over will be less insulated than wealthy communities against the coming ravages of climate change. Nonetheless, and despite its variegated territories, the earth’s atmosphere does in the end function as a single system, and within this system some traumas can only be understood as universally shared. Human industry has created myriad apparatuses (from coal-fired power plants to flatulating livestock) whose emissions have greatly increased the percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The global warming that these atmospheric changes produce is calamitously out of our control. Warming atmosphere and rising seas are shrinking habitats for all terrestrial creatures, and acidifying oceans promise catastrophe for nearly all creatures that live in the air’s denser analogue. The rapidly escalating numbers of species extinctions are losses that all of us—humans and nonhumans alike—will be forced to endure. Moreover, the increasing carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere may reduce the cognitive capacity of humans—all humans, and presumably many other respiring creatures—by 25% to 50% in the next century.[14] Some atmospheric liabilities, in other words, are universal, and they are expressed in large part through the dynamics of the gaseous exchanges that I am here calling vocal.


In the end, my turtle story, and the strange thought contrails it produced, have led me to conclude that voice’s relationship to environment is always one of entanglement, contagion, inequity, co-vulnerability, transgression, perserverance, and possibility. (This is a far cry from current discourse on voice, which tends to present it in terms of sound, language, communication, identity, articulation of difference, aesthetics, and political agency.) We and all respiring creatures are sutured to one another through the tidal rhythms of an atmosphere that we helped create: a dynamic, agentive atmosphere which penetrates and recedes from terrestrial bodies in a manner that generates voices—faint or loud, intentional or unconscious—whose stakes and implications envelop but radically exceed the sonic. Rather than the clarion call of the exceptional species or the barbaric yawp of the heroic individual, voice is a ubiquitous process that radically unmakes the self.  Or perhaps it makes a distributional self, one that is imbricated with a vast body of collectives and environments, implicated in far-away gaseous acts, subordinate to an increasingly humanized atmosphere, coursing with the life and death of others. I don’t need to understand your voice in order to grasp that it is connected to mine. The ontology of air—a substance that is “totally unregulated by the laws of nations, utterly uncontrollable by human beings, completely impervious to our species’ wall-building prowess” (Chaudhuri 2016)—creates that connection ineluctably. For many of us, voice involves sound, language, music, emotion, culture, and the like; but before or beneath these contingent elements, it involves a shaping and sharing of the atmosphere, with all of the cascading consequences that such shaping and sharing create.  What relationships, what alliances, what obligations emerge from this fact?




After a number of missteps, and with the help of a tarp and a snow shovel, we finally managed to drag the turtle off the road and onto the edge of the hay meadow. A small pond glistened about twenty meters away, a turkey buzzard circled menacingly in the shimmering air above, and a few scrawny deer looked on warily from a distance. An unseen frog in the pond issued a gutteral call:


Call: “Gowp. . . . gowp. . . . gowp. . . . gowp.”


Any responses to this call, if they existed, were inaudible or indecipherable to me. I resolved to listen without understanding. The turtle and my sons and I were palpably connected by our breath and by our common wordlessness in the face of the frog’s performance.


After a moment of silent reflection, the boys and I left the turtle, who, though immobile as before, was now at least out of the path of pickup trucks. We returned to our cabin down the road to put away the equipment. A few minutes later we doubled back to take a final look at the creature. In that short period of time, the fifty-pound creature had completely vanished. We searched all around, and couldn’t find a trace of it. A year has now passed and it hasn’t returned—although last week I encountered a small turtle the size of a saucer on that same stretch of road, dragging itself from the hayfield to the wetlands on the other side. Was it the snapping turtle’s progeny? On a whim, knowing it was unlikely to hear me, I called out:


Call: “HO!”


but could detect no response. It continued on its inscrutable way—unperturbed, uninterpellated, unknowable, and unwittingly cherished.


Today, I sit in the shade of the cabin porch, a fewscore meters away from where the large turtle vanished and the small turtle appeared. In my imagination I can still hear the sharp clap and feel the puff of air that the first turtle’s beak made when it snapped shut in an attempt to bite off my finger. We’re four months into the pandemic, but there aren’t any people around, so my mask remains—what a luxury!—in my pocket. Once again, it is aggressively, shimmeringly hot; a fat bee noisily carves its serpentine path through the stifling air, and ends up landing on my knee to take a short breather before buzzing off. The wind activates the leafy trees on all sides into a grand susurrus of white noise. It brings with it the smell of lilac from near the pond, and manure from the hayfield. I am 132 miles from the nearest oil refinery, 47 miles from the the landfill that contains my methane-rich garbage, 6,672 miles and three years from the most recent nuclear test. I am 7,384 miles from Wuhan, 110 miles from the beleaguered Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, 975 miles from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. And I am an indeterminate distance from the turtle, and from you, reader. The atmosphere connects me to all of these coordinates. I breathe in and breathe out, wordlessly—and almost but not quite soundlessly. I have nothing at the moment to express, and yet while one is living and breathing this air, one is always expressing something.



Agamben, Giorgio. The Open: Man and Animal, translated by Kevin Attell. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Biswas, Soutik. “Delhi’s Air Pollution Is Triggering a Health Crisis.” BBC News, 12 November 2017. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41925067.

Butler, Shane. “What Was the Voice?” In The Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies, edited by Nina Sun Eidsheim and Katherine Meizel, 3-17. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Chaudhuri, Una. “The Fifth Wall: Climate Change Dramaturgy.” 17 April 2016. https://howlround.com/fifth-wall.

Daughtry, J. Martin. “Afterword: From Voice to Violence and Back Again.” In Music, Politics, and Violence, edited by Kip Pegley and Susan Fast, 243-264. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2012.

Daughtry, J. Martin. Listening to War: Sound, Music, Trauma, and Survival in Wartime Iraq. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Daughtry, J. Martin. “Hyperchoral Entanglements: Reflections on Voice and Environment in the Anthropocene.” Music, Media and Place Lecture Series, Memorial University. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXtbQcnI2BQ.

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Eidsheim, Nina Sun. 2015. Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

Hess, Amanda. “The Medical Mask Becomes a Protest Symbol.” The New York Times, 2 June 2020. https://nyti.ms/3gOpVaE.

Howes, David and Constance Classen. Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society. London and New York: Routledge, 2014.

Ihde, Don. Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound, 2nd edition. Albany: SUNY Press, 2007.

Karnauskas, Kristopher B., Shelly L. Miller, and Anna C. Schapiro. “Fossil Fuel Combustion Is Driving Indoor CO2 Toward Levels Harmful to Human Cognition.” GeoHealth 4 (2020), https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GH000237.

Kumar, Hari and Kai Schultz. “Delhi, Blanketed in Toxic Haze, ‘Has Become a Gas Chamber.” The New York Times, 7 November 2017. https://nyti.ms/2hR6Ojs.

Moore, Jason W. “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 44, no. 3 (2017), 594-630.

Niklasson, Annika et al. “Air Pollutant Concentrations and Atmospheric Corrosion of Organ Pipes in European Church Environments.” Studies in Conservation, Vol. 53, No. 1 (2008), 24-40.

Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.
Waldstein, David. “Coronavirus Ravaged a Choir. But Isolation Helped Contain It.” The New York Times, 12 May 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/12/health/coronavirus-choir.html?searchResultPosition=2.

[1] I would like to acknowledge and thank Una Chaudhuri, Ashon Crawley, the Daughtry family, Beverley Diamond, Nina Eidsheim, Steven Feld, Annie Garlid, David Howes, Christine Sun Kim, Emmanuel Levinas, Jairo Moreno, Rob Nixon, Imani Perry, Val Plumwood, Jessica Schwartz, Jakob Johann von Uexküll, Konstantine Vlasis, and Tyler Volk, all of whom actively shaped my thinking as I wrote this essay. (I don’t know all of these people personally; I am getting to know some of them through their words.) I am particularly grateful to Marina Peterson and the other authors in this special issue for their camaraderie and collaboration, and to Harris Berger and his colleagues at Memorial University, where I delivered an early version of this essay (see Daughtry 2020). The larger project of which this essay is a part could not have come into being without the crucial, if esoteric, support of the Analogue Humanities Archive and Symposium (AHAS), an organization that by design has no online footprint.

This essay is in large part about the partial dissolution or “unmaking” of the self that takes place through respiration, atmospheric flows and microbial sharing. This doesn’t mean, however, that all things are shared. I will endeavor, for example, to maintain exclusive ownership of this essay’s flaws, infelicities, and other shortcomings. If there is an autonomous “me” who can be separated from the aforementioned thinkers, and turtle, and you, then he is solely responsible for these.

[2] The provinciality of sound is a familiar notion within phenomenology and the anthropology of the senses. See for example Don Ihde, Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound, 2nd edition (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007), 73-84; and David Howes and Constance Classen, Ways of Sensing: Understanding the Senses in Society (London and New York: Routledge, 2014), 11-13.

[3] Here I have in mind Jakob Johann von Uexküll’s influential concept of umwelt, the distinct phenomenal world that is accessible to a creature based on its sensory capacities. For examples of treatises that draw upon this concept see Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), 255; and Giorgio Agamben, The Open: Man and Animal, translated by Kevin Attell (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 45-48.

[4]  Recall Aristotle’s tautological statement: “Voice (phōnē) is a kind of sound characteristic of what has soul in it; nothing that is without soul utters voice, it being only by a metaphor that we speak of the voice of the flute or the lyre.” Shane Butler discusses this and other ancient understanding of voices, observing that, in Aristotle and Lucretius, “despite their differences, the voice tends, teleologically, toward language. . .” He continues: “[g]iving as it takes away, philosophy bestows ‘voices’ on animals but then makes these into little more than caricatures of human communication.” Shane Butler, “What Was the Voice?” in The Oxford Handbook of Voice Studies, edited by Nina Sun Eidsheim and Katherine Meizel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 7.

[5] David Waldstein, “Coronavirus Ravaged a Choir. But Isolation Helped Contain It.” The New York Times, 12 May 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/12/health/coronavirus-choir.html?searchResultPosition=2.

[6] I am far from the first person to perceive this need; a number of contemporary writers, such as musicologist Nina Sun Eidsheim and sound artist Christine Sun Kim, engage with aspects of vocality that stretch well beyond sound. Eidsheim positions voice as an “intermaterial practice” and “multisensory phenomenon,” that is in a dynamic interrelationship with the medium through which it travels. See Nina Sun Eidsheim, Sensing Sound: Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015). Kim, in works such as “feedback: seeing voice” and “face opera ii,” radically provincializes sound, and renders voice thoroughly strange to a hearing audience. http://christinesunkim.com/works/.

[7] For simplicity’s sake I focus here on voice as something that propagates through air, but the vocal criteria that follow here could easily be adapted to aquatic environments as well. Eidsheim’s exploration of Juliana Snapper’s experiments with underwater opera powerfully demonstrates the “material dependency” of sound, voice, and listening, as well as the capacity of these practices to be adapted to a medium other than air. See Sensing Sound, 27-56. Clearly, amphibians, as well as creatures like turtles who spend significant periods under water, have much to contribute to the conversation on the media-specificity of voice.

[8] Annika Niklasson et al., “Air Pollutant Concentrations and Atmospheric Corrosion of Organ Pipes in European Church Environments,” Studies in Conservation, Vol. 53, No. 1 (2008), 24-40.

[9] Figuratively, “to portray, represent,” “to represent in language; to put into words . . . to give utterance to (an intention, a feeling).” Literally, “to press, squeeze, or wring out; to press (juice, air, etc.) from, out of (anything),” “to emit or exude, as if by pressure.” OED Online, June 2020, Oxford University Press, https://www-oed-com.proxy.library.nyu.edu/view/Entry/66738 (accessed July 21, 2020).

[10] Soutik Biswas, “Delhi’s Air Pollution Is Triggering a Health Crisis,” BBC News, 12 November 2017, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-41925067. “The toxic haze blanketing New Delhi was so severe on Tuesday that politicians announced plans to close schools, flights were delayed and the chief minister of Delhi state said the city had ‘become a gas chamber’.” Hari Kumar and Kai Schultz, “Delhi, Blanketed in Toxic Haze, ‘Has Become a Gas Chamber,” The New York Times, 7 November 2017, https://nyti.ms/2hR6Ojs.

[11] See note 3 on umwelt.

[12] Amanda Hess, “The Medical Mask Becomes a Protest Symbol,” The New York Times, 2 June 2020, https://nyti.ms/3gOpVaE.

[13] See Jason W. Moore, “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis,” The Journal of Peasant Studies 44, no. 3 (2017), 594-630.

[14] Kristopher B. Karnauskas, Shelly L. Miller, and Anna C. Schapiro, “Fossil Fuel Combustion Is Driving Indoor CO2 Toward Levels Harmful to Human Cognition,” GeoHealth 4 (2020), https://doi.org/10.1029/2019GH000237.