What is Reembodied Sound?
"Reembodied Sound" is a term coined by composer David Coll to refer to a loose set of practices and techniques shared among a growing group of sonic artists that use Sound Exciters to activate or resonate objects in lieu of traditional loudspeaker practices. The sound, produced from one source (whether electronic or acoustic) is then "reembodied" into another object, or recursively back into itself, usually with some transformations/mixed synthesis along the way. The practices, aesthetics, and techniques vary tremendously, and its use is by no means ubiquitous. Some artists' definitions include:
- the term places the resultant sound on a more even keel with the source, and what you hear is also a result of what you see.
- furthermore, it hopefully makes you question what the original resonant body was of the sound, because of how the resonant material gives it something as well (in this sense we can think of convolution reverb). You hear a sound and your familiarity may allow you to imagine the physical actions involved to produce it. This new material adds a narrative based on its own material.
- the new resonant material must have its own character (as a way of differentiating itself from a box).
- often, it is performed somehow (its shape is manipulated/dampened/excited in ways additional to the transducer). For me, this is where I keep pushing to go from project to project.
- the more the diversity of resonant objects is emphasized (whether we're talking about pre-existing instruments, new instruments, or found objects), the more interesting this field can become.
In a sense, sound is both re-embodied and dis-embodied when one records a sound and plays it back through any speaker/transducer. A traditional box speaker is still a ‘new body’ -albeit an ugly-ish one.
"I take ‘disembodied’ sound to mean recorded sound that is separated in space and time from its source. So it’s re-embodied by whatever object reproduces it. With headphones, the re-embodiment is quite intimate - inside our heads.
I’m also interested in recursive embodiments - so, for example, recording the sound of a teacup, and then playing that sound back through the teacup itself (using transducers or vibration speakers attached to the bottom of the teacup). ’Teacup squared' as my friend and colleague Caroline Bassett put it. Or using paper - the sound of crumpling paper played back through a crumpled paper speaker. It only works with certain objects, and of course, some kind of resonance is helpful! But, arguably, the object re-embodies the sound, as if inhabited by its own ghost, and perhaps by the ghost of the human interaction that produced the sound in the first place. Another colleague, Danny Bright, is doing some really interesting work on what he calls ‘sonic ghosting’.
Now I’m wondering if live amplified sound is also a form of disembodiment - or it it perhaps multi-bodied?”
Reembodies sound has become an aesthetic and philosophical centrality for me. The notion of taking a sound from an object, manipulating it, and then reintroducing it into that same object, in particular a resonant musical instrument, opens up notions of the physicality of music-making and the cultural musicking ritual. My interest in composition is deeply embedded in my experience as a performer and improviser- of the importance of a physical connection to an instrument and the tactile feedback loop that emerges through the creative process, and how that relationship extends to the listeners and audience. Bringing in new technologies in this way both intensifies and adds another layer to that complex phenomenon and history. In many ways, it is the inversion of acousmatic sound: the source of the sound is apparent and in a physical relationship to the audience, but the activation is veiled and the augmentation or distortion of that sound is hyper-real. It produces a kind of mysterious or transcendental physicality, where the sound is not only "reembodied" back into the instrument, but where, in opposition to the acousmatic ideal, the act of listening/experience becomes inseparable from the physical world.