Frances Dyson – The Tone Of Our Times


The MIT Press, ISBN13: 9780262028080, English, 208 pages, 2014, USA

Dyson tries to interpret spiralling global economic debt and environmental crises through an updated philosophy of music in her new book The Tone of Our Times: Sound, Sense, Economy, and Ecology. The author expands her previous work on “Sounding New Media,” focusing here on the economies of noise, tone and voices. This analysis involves a few steps. The first is understanding the consequences of Pythagoras defining harmony as a mathematical interval between sounds, positioning an understanding of the universe in mathematical terms, with an “order” reminiscent of the current “digitalisation of everything.” From here she dissects Christian Trinitarianism and its use of acclamations and songs of praise to consolidate the governmental apparatus (here the famous “Listening Post” installation is interpreted as a liturgical chant.) Then there’s an analysis of noise and its negative positioning and inclusion/exclusion from Western culture. Subsequently the voice is examined in its new role in constant computation and remote digital connections. Most of the above are then used to re-read the crisis of “eco” (both economy and ecology), helped along by Michel Serres’ writings, which the author defines as the “general states of anechoica.” Finally, financial noise is put under theoretical scrutiny, including aspects like (eco) guiltiness and the condition of debt. In the end, the understanding of present abstract spaces is literally expanded through listening, theory and interpretation of sound artworks, with a structured and inspired path.