Our Sawyer Seminar speakers Suzanne Cusick and Thomas Y. Levin contemplate sonic torture in view of war, musicology, and human rights advocacy. Both Cusick and Levin’s papers are unique for their insistence on shifting the sound and torture discussion away from the removed sociopolitical space of the detention camp towards more general acoustic regimes at home. Their arguments entail a philosophical reckoning with everyday soundscapes and civilian listening practices. Questions emerge on a macro scale: how might general listening practices today condition a Western culture that permits sonic torture? And can we somehow attune ourselves to the torturous soundscapes of Guantánamo and Bagram by working through our own auditory atmospheres?
Everyday Soundscapes, Sonic Torture features video footage and field recordings taken in and around Boston during March 2013. Sites include Boston Logan International Airport, a 9/11 memorial outside the Hilton Hotel, South Station, various MTBA subway stations and late night trains, downtown streets with workmen and buskers and Harvard libraries. Eschewing the totality of a single audiovisual frame, we have utilized a triptych form combining three separate visual panels with underlying soundscapes. The film is structured in four movements: the mechanized sounds and eruptive announcements in public transit spaces, the sounds of the streets, playlist music and quiet ambiances. The results are surprising at times, unpredictable: silence emerges as noise; images and sounds collide. In our audiovisual explorations of quotidian sonic experiences, we consider the possibility that ‘re-soundings’ of sonic torture may not be that far away from home.
produced by Hayley Fenn and Caufield Schnug