Holger Schulze – The Sonic Persona: An Anthropology of Sound


Bloomsbury Academic, ISBN-13: 979-1501305450, English, 272 pages, 2018, UK

The relationship between the body and the listening of sounds definitely can’t anymore be reduced simply to our ears. Holger Schulze in this book argues the extensions of the listening possibilities, labelling as an “aural fixation”, the concept crystallized in the 19th century that “we hear through the ears”, which brought to consequent in-depth ear studies. The author explains the fundamental difference between “listening” and “receiving” sounds, focusing on this essential expansion of the notion of hearing. Our listening is affected by our increased moving from one space to another, and especially while multitasking. The author elaborates these concepts on different levels, suggesting the need to take into consideration our bodies’ shapes, the fluids emitted by our sickness, and in general our ‘materiality’ that deeply affects how we “receive” sounds, and possibly condition, consequently our actions. Schulze’s approach in his own word is a “non-anthropocentric and materialist anthropology of sound”. It’s a form of “thick listening”, an immersive sensory experience, which should activate the option (we all have) to evolve our sensibility currently shaped by our planned environments. His positioning of listening as a situated practice opens several new possibilities, but eventually calls into question how we think about sound.