Michel Chion – Sound: An Acoulogical Treatise


Duke University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0822360391, English, 312 pages, 2016, USA

What is acoulogy? One of its definitions is: “the study of the mechanisms of listening and the musical potential of sound.” It’s a neologism defined by Pierre Schaeffer that Michel Chion is redefining in this ample essay, written in 1998, revised in 2010, and now finally available in English. This is an important contribution to the analysis of acousmatic sound, especially the embedded concept of missing the visual referent of a sound’s origin, which has become more extreme with the development of media technologies. Chion is a musique concrete composer and film theorist, but he sees film as both a visual and sonic medium at once (crucially investigated in “The Sound That You Cause” and “The Audiovisual Couple in Film” chapters). There are different themes in sound studies being examined, such as Schaeffer’s “sound object” which is tentatively demystified; the slippery territory in between music and noise; and the acknowledgement of the multiple influences that intervene in our appreciation of sound. Related to the latter, there is a recurring reference to the listening practice, its invisible hierarchies and stratifications, which is explored from multiple perspectives. Among the many different examples, we can find even popular situations explained. For example, the frustration of being forced to listen to a mobile phone conversation only from one side, compared to being accidentally present to a two-way one. This can give an idea of Chion’s acousmatic approach, which assumes persuasive and intriguing forms in this book.