Sonic Possible Worlds

Sonic Possible Worlds: Hearing the Continuum of Sound



Salomé Voegelin

Published by Bloomsbury Academic

Inspired by its use in literary theory, film criticism and the discourse of game design, Salomé Voegelin adapts and develops “possible world theory” in relation to sound. David K Lewis' Possible World is juxtaposed with Maurice Merleau-Ponty's life-world, to produce a meeting of the semantic and the phenomenological at the place of listening.

The central tenet of Sonic Possible Worlds is that at present traditional musical compositions and contemporary sonic outputs are approached and investigated through separate and distinct critical languages and histories. As a consequence, no continuous and comparative study of the field is possible.

In Sonic Possible Worlds, Voegelin proposes a new analytical framework that can access and investigate works across genres and times, enabling a comparative engagement where composers such as Henry Purcell and Nadia Boulanger encounter sound art works by Shilpa Gupta and Christina Kubisch and where the soundscape compositions of Chris Watson and Francisco López resound in the visual worlds of Louise Bourgeois.

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“Listening is an important sensory process through which one receives the feeling of 'being there': the experience of presence in a rapidly changing spatial-temporal world. Using a sensitive phenomenological approach, Salomé Voegelin leads the reader through sonic worlds (everyday events, sound art, music) with the aim of raising awareness of existential questions about the inaudible, invisible 'being' that the feeling of 'being there' normally makes tangible only as a 'Quod' (what it can be) but not as a 'Quid' (what it is). Voegelin’s book is an essential contribution to the current discourse in aesthetics.”Prof. Dr. Helga de la Motte-Haber, Technische Universität Berlin, and editor of Klangkunst. Die gedanklichen und geschichtlichen Voraussetzungen (1999)


“Sound is like a dream--fleeting and difficult to remember and describe. Sonic Possible Worlds is a grand tour through the depths of ways of listening and responding. In these pages we find the making of auditory language that can balance with visual language to bring forward the sonic underpinnings of our lives and dreams. The structure of life is both audible and in audible. These listening possibilities help us to hear our way to new understandings.” Pauline Oliveros, Founder, Deep Listening Institute, Ltd.


“Voegelin's Sonic Possible Worlds is a rather provocative and challenging endeavor to take this necessary discussion to a high scholarly level without losing the connection with the art works themselves ... It should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in listening and the counterpart or supplement to new materialism, sonic materialism. Additionally, it is one of the few books which deals with both sound art and music, thus contributing not only to the discourse on sound studies but also offering new perspectives for musicologists.” –  Journal of Sonic Studies


A launch event was held at London College of Communication on 17th September 2014 - readings by the author and a conversation with Angus Carlyle was followed by responses to the book by Neil Cummings and Daniela Cascella.


Book cover - "sonic possible worlds"


ISBN 9781623568009
216 pages
Available to buy from Bloomsbury