Brandon LaBelle – Sonic Agency: Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance


Goldsmiths Press / The MIT Press, ISBN-13: ISBN: 978-1906897512, English, 224 pages, 2018, USA

Brandon LaBelle is a key figure in contemporary sound art studies. In this book he expresses the role of sound in political issues through a contemporary resistance, triggered by “sound’s agentive potentiality”. LaBelle structures his theory through four figures: the invisible, the overheard, the itinerant and the weak. The invisible builds on the same essential characteristic of sound, particularly embodied in the darkness characterising acousmatic works, or the selective familiarisation of specific sounds used as a political strategy by Ultra-red group. It is extended to how invisibility has been a key word to understand dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, and sound is here more a metaphor than a protagonist. Overheard is defined as “sounds upon sounds” in relationship with theoretical notions of “vibrant matter” (Bennet) and “vibratile body” (Rolnik). Subjectivity here is defined as “interference to others”, and Attali’s “noise” and McLuhan’s “nervous system” both help to discuss the Pirate Parties International strategies. The itinerant starts affirming that “sound is movement” expressed through the processes of poetry and creolization. Finally, the weak takes weakness as a “resistance stance”, understanding it as a “weak-strength” and how historical resistance movements since the 1960s have operated it, to the potential of AMSR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) phenomenon, inducing euphoric sensations through auditory stimulation. A compelling reading and a perfect inaugural book for the new Sonics series of the just started Goldsmiths Press.