Marina Peterson – Atmospheric Noise, The Indefinite Urbanism of Los Angeles


Duke University Press, ISBN 978-1478011828, English, 256 pages, 2021, USA

In the extensive debate about noise and its multiple roles, meanings and effects on culture, there are some specific modern environments that are rarely considered but which can reveal the multi-layered effects of noise on our society. Marina Peterson conducts an attentive ethnographic case study in this book, focusing on the acoustic space around one of the largest airports in the US (the Los Angeles International Airport – LAX). The urban restructuring of this part of the city, which has been affected by airport noise since the 1960s, is the result of an interweaving of human, non-human and atmospheric forces and systems. From endangered butterflies to flight paths, sound frequencies and broken glass, the impetus of air and machinery is analysed focusing on moments that characterise ‘thematic concerns’. By assimilating these specific noises with wind and water (which come from an almost undefined place), the ‘atmospheric’ is defined differently, pushing the agenda of contemporary listening from both a human and technological perspective. Noise then materialises in glitches, and is the protagonist in bureaucratic procedures as well as in vibrating structures, ‘amplifying modalities of listening’. Atmospheric Noise, The Indefinite Urbanism of Los Angeles is an exemplary study that stimulates the repositioning of our listening through its historical research and theoretical development.