Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Media Studies


Tim Blackmore


This dissertation Becoming Sonic: Ambient Poetics and the Ecology of the Ear in Four Militant Sound Investigations offers a critical and historical analysis of acoustic ecology and soundscape recording —the sounds, noises, and silences that make up our ambient sonic environment and are found and recorded “in the field” by artists to create recordings and performances are then experienced by listeners. Field recording captures the diverse and often unwanted or inconsequential sounds of a space, which can then be used to bring attention to the often unheard and unconscious processes that stratify space. By stratification I am referring to the processes of urban planning, architecture, business, policies, and governance that shape and grid the environment. Analyzing four case studies by the sound collective Ultra-Red, sound activist Christopher DeLaurenti, and field recording artist Chris Watson, that explore the soundscapes of housing redevelopment, using a food bank, public sex in parks, and the slow violence of ecological devastation, this dissertation builds on and analyzes the sonic environmental and spatial implications of ecology by both critiquing acoustic ecology and employing it as a concept to explore the political, aesthetic, and epistemological consequences of soundscape recording. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine what sound indicates through cultural practice and how it can be used and deployed to create different understandings of the places we live and act. This research articulates a poetics of listening to space that constructs worlds and questions how the environment can be used for aesthetic purposes, how the sounds of the city and ‘nature’ influence artists, how artists practice and experience sound by listening, and what kind of knowledges these aesthetic practices produce. In order to accomplish this, it relies on critical approaches to ecology, space and urbanism (Gilles Deleuze and Fèlix Guattari, David Harvey, Nigel Thrift, and Edward Soja); ecologies of sound and listening (Steve Goodman, Murray Schafer, Susan Bickford, Frances Dyson); and affective politics (Brian Massumi, Erin Manning). This dissertation makes substantiative use of interviews, newspaper articles, and artist’s writings and statements to elucidate its investigation.