Sensing Sound

Singing and Listening as Vibrational Practice

Sensing Sound

Sign, Storage, Transmission

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Book Pages: 288 Illustrations: 28 illustrations Published: December 2015

Cultural Studies, Music > Sound Studies, Theater and Performance > Theater

In Sensing Sound Nina Sun Eidsheim offers a vibrational theory of music that radically re-envisions how we think about sound, music, and listening. Eidsheim shows how sound, music, and listening are dynamic and contextually dependent, rather than being fixed, knowable, and constant. She uses twenty-first-century operas by Juliana Snapper, Meredith Monk, Christopher Cerrone, and Alba Triana as case studies to challenge common assumptions about sound—such as air being the default medium through which it travels—and to demonstrate the importance a performance's location and reception play in its contingency. By theorizing the voice as an object of knowledge and rejecting the notion of an a priori definition of sound, Eidsheim releases the voice from a constraining set of fixed concepts and meanings. In Eidsheim's theory, music consists of aural, tactile, spatial, physical, material, and vibrational sensations. This expanded definition of music as manifested through material and personal relations suggests that we are all connected to each other in and through sound. Sensing Sound will appeal to readers interested in sound studies, new musicology, contemporary opera, and performance studies.


"Even if we consider 'the voice' as a sound source, in an average personal imaginary ‘sound’ is something external, while 'the voice' is something internal and intimate. If we add to that the extreme power of language, it’s even harder to treat the voice as 'sound.' Eidsheim explores these contradictions in her book with knowledge and vision. Her theory of sound as a 'universal connection of entities,' for example, is simply enrapturing...."  — Aurelio Cianciotta, Neural

"Eidsheim’s formulation of music as vibrational practice engenders new ways of considering communication between singer and audience, environment and body, and animate and inanimate materials. ... Her work generates wide-ranging and pragmatic resonances for those interested in questions surrounding sound and multi-sensory experience." — Amy Skjerseth, Theatre Research International

"Eidsheim’s key achievement, then, is to destabilise the musicological frames through which we perceive music as a sum of its fixed components (such as pitch, duration and aural fidelity) towards a broader understanding based on the shifting interplay of energies and contexts.... Through her particular focus on the voice, Eidsheim also helps us to understand contemporary opera through a much-expanded perspective that relies as much on space, choreography and materiality as on staging, costumes and libretto." — Julian Day, Tempo

"[Eidsheim's] book invites readers to remember that music itself is a complex phenomenon better understood as an experience and practice of 'intermaterial vibration.'" — Cecilia Livingston, Cambridge Opera Journal

"Sensing Sound offers a singular and original perspective on the status of the voice and the theory of music. Nina Sun Eidsheim teaches readers to think about voice as a multisensory phenomenon and, in so doing, turns the tools of sound studies and critical musicology against themselves, demonstrating conclusively that an understanding of sound is not enough for understanding voice, singing, or music."  — Jonathan Sterne, author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format

"Imaginative, bold, theoretically wide-ranging and rooted in readings of contemporary culture, Sensing Sound proposes a radical, genuinely original rethinking of human beings' acoustical behavior and experience."  — Suzanne G. Cusick, Professor of Music, New York University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nina Sun Eidsheim is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Illustrations  viii

Acknowledgments  xi

Introduction  1

1. Music's Material Dependency: What Underwater Opera Can Tell Us about Odysseus's Ears  27

2. The Acoustic Mediation of Voice, Self, and Others  58

3. Music as Action: Singing Happens before Sound  95

4. All Voice, All Ears: From the Figure of Sound to the Practice of Music  132

5. Music as a Vibrational Practice: Singing and Listening as Everything and Nothing  154

Notes  187

Bibliography  241

Index  261
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6061-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6046-9
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