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The Word "phonography" Joel Smith (posted 6/12/01)
The word "phonography" speaks to me precisely because, like "photography," it
is agnostic; I mean it's factual rather than semantically loaded like "music" or
"art" -- words that signal worthy ambitions and hierarchies that may, or may not,
help you hear (or see) fresh.
"Phonography" (translated literally) says nothing but: soundwriting. To me as a listener
that means: audio "read" -- sound attended to -- for any revelations and resonances it
turns up -- not only those that music knows how to handle, but the whole thing. (What does
"audience" mean, after all?). Space, narrative, pain, hypnotism, temperature -- a sound's
interesting dimension might be anywhere. Once you've listened to unauthored sounds in that
spirit, music too sounds richer, more deeply authored (by the inventor of the drum, for
example): fuller of history and space. Any time a sound is selected -- whether recorded,
or just singled out ("listen!") -- attention has already transformed it.