edited by David Novak and Matt Sakakeeny – Keywords in Sound


Duke University Press, IISBN-13: 978-0822358893, English, 296 pages, 2015, USA

How we can define “sound” in the 21st century? Moreover, how can we define it indirectly through some of its key components? This book edited by David Novak (author of “Japanoise”) and Matt Sakakeeny is an attempt to answer these questions in the form of a collection of twenty essays/chapters, titled with single keywords (like ‘acoustemology,’ ‘resonance’ or ‘radio’), and inspired by Raymond Williams’ celebrated book “Keywords”, which in 1976 tried to define “culture” in the same way. The majority of the essays here begin with the “official” definitions of the respective terms as a starting point, before expanding from sonic significances to broader cultural domains. The apparent strategy of the editors is to form a basic, redefined lexicon and this is nicely accomplished. In the introduction there is an interesting mapping of academic publications’ rising interest in sound studies over the last couple of decades, through different disciplines. The texts themselves were commissioned taking into account the experience of the writers and how they have developed their own web of conceptual connections with the selected keywords. There are recurring themes (for example the antagonism between aural/visual cultures, or the problem of the permanence of sounds, but also many less well-known topics, such as the use of sound in Sufi rituals or the importance of listening in hospitals. Eventually this interesting and thorough experiment reflects the subtle innate heterogeneity of sound, drawing one of the many possible cultural galaxies around it.