Sonic Warfare (2010) Steve Goodman. Extracts from chapter “1977: A Sense of the Future”.

Around thirty years ago, French economist Jacques Attali asked whether one could “hear the crisis of society in the crisis of music?” But that was only the conventional side of his argument. More singularly, he inquired whether turbulent transformations within the world of music were in fact prophetic of political or economic crises to come. Beyond controversially suggesting a basic intersection between music and violence, Attali formulated a kind of stilted audio futurology.

[…] the idea of sound as a sense of the future keeps its “ear to the ground,” listening for microsignals, in an immediately present future, where the present virtually coexists with the resonances and vibrations of the past and opens on to its futurity. A closer listen to the sonic dimension of the affective sensorium reveals a model for challenging the time lines that underpin many traditional futurisms and futurologies. Instead of gazing to the far future, attention returns to the futurity folded into the present. […] Anticipation, sensing the future, has always been more a preoccupation of the ear, of audio culture.

Noise, as the outside of a regime of coded sound, continuously perturbs music, threatening its regulation of sonic flow. Noise, in fact, as it scrambles music’s signal, destroys, for Attali, the coding regime, transforming the relationship between inside and outside and spawning a new musical order in the aftershock of its arrival. For Attali, noise brings with it the future seeds of a new musical regime.

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