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Sounding the Limits of LifeEssays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond$
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Stefan Helmreich

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164809

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.001.0001

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Underwater Music

Underwater Music

Tuning Composition to the Sounds of Science

Chapter:
(p.137) Chapter 1 1 Underwater Music
Source:
Sounding the Limits of Life
Author(s):

Stefan Helmreich

Sophia Roosth

Michele Friedner

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.003.0011

This chapter examines water and seawater as media for modernist and experimental music, representing the ocean as a site of life sublime and endangered. More specifically, it considers the ways that the underwater realm manifests a scientifically, technologically, and epistemologically apprehensible zone. It does so by auditing underwater music, a genre of twentieth- and twenty-first-century composition performed or recorded under water in settings ranging from swimming pools to the ocean, with playback unfolding above water or beneath. Composers of underwater music are especially curious about scientific accounts of how sound behaves in water and eager to acquire technologies of subaqueous sound production. The chapter shows that listening to underwater music reveals water transforming from the static and sonared seas of Cold War modernism to the dynamic and confusing seas of global warming, from seas sound and sounded to seas unsound.

Keywords:   water, seawater, experimental music, underwater music, sound, Cold War, modernism, global warming, ocean

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