Vocalities, Noises, Soundscapes: How Cultural Studies Began to Listen Again


Vocalities, Noises, Soundscapes: How Cultural Studies Began to Listen Again

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Lecture: Vocalities, Noises, Soundscapes: How Cultural Studies Began to Listen Again

Lecturer: Nelly Valsangiacomo (Université de Lausanne)

Date: Friday, June 16, 2023, h. 6:30pm

Place: Monte Verità (Ascona), Auditorium

Cycle: Eranos-Jung Lectures 2023 - The Great Worksites of Contemporaneity. Looks at the Knots of the Present

Language: Italian

Chairperson: Fabio Merlini (Eranos Foundation, Ascona; SFUVET, Lugano)

Discussion with the audience and aperitif to follow

The recording of the conference can be viewed on the official YouTube channel of the Eranos Foundation.

Lecture Presentation

The voice announcing the train from the loudspeaker, the music accompanying our purchases at the supermarket, the sonorous madeleine of a riale lulling our sleep. The helicopters over our heads, the cow bells, the transistor radio shouting the games on the beach. The perfect silence extolled by an advertisement, the radar against noisy cars, that precise song. The cicadas, the melting glacier, the roar of motorcycles echoing over alpine passes... We each have our own sound list, but it is not just a subjective list. Since the 1990s, the humanities and social sciences have developed a great interest in acoustic and auditory phenomena, with the aim of denaturalizing the perception of sound, showing that it, like all the senses, is also an integral part of our social and cultural constructions. While the importance of the senses and sound in understanding the complexity of historical phenomena is well established, the topic remains a challenge still only partially met. It will be a matter in this presentation to take a virtual sound walk through some possible interpretive avenues to probe the richness of this fruitful field of research and ask the question about the role of listening as an object of inquiry.

Lecturer' Bio-bibliography

Nelly Valsangiacomo is full professor of contemporary history at the Université de Lausanne, where she directs the Centre des sciences historique de la culture (SHC). She has worked on the social and cultural history of Switzerland and has written and edited articles and volumes on social movements, Alpine space and Italian-ness. Her current research interests include audiovisual media, particularly radio, vocality, and sonorities. On this topic, among others, he has edited the following works: Dare un corpo alla voce (“Genesis. Rivista della Società italiana delle storiche”, 19/2, 2020, with S. Cavallo), Sinneslandschaften der Alpen. Fühlen, Schmecken, Riechen. Hören, Sehen (with J. Mathieu, 2022; French ed., 2023), and Résonnances. La dimension sonore des Alpes (with L. Chanteloup, 2023, forthcoming).


To mark the 90th anniversary of the Eranos Conferences (1933-2023), the Foundation wanted to question some leading figures in today's cultural world, asking them to present the projects and issues on which they are working. The idea is to bring into dialogue at a distance qualified gazes on the nodes of our present, to highlight their risks, opportunities, and prospects. Not, of course, to listen to the last word on what is happening today, but rather to enter their laboratories of thought and try to focus on a kind of ongoing geography of the present time: to orient ourselves, to find ourselves, to map out possible virtuous paths-despite the disorientation and uncertainty that characterizes us, in an age that is very rich in technological resources, but very poor in future perspectives. Rather than inviting them to reflect on a guiding theme, as is the Eranos-Jung Lectures usual practice, we wanted to offer the lecturers the chance to present to the audience the issues they are working on, to see how the gaze on an object is constructed, through what sensibility, what concerns, what desire for understanding, and what method. And, of course, what passion. It will be a journey that will allow us to visit some “great worksites of contemporaneity” dedicated to different thematic areas: i.e., the state of health of our democracies; the fate of the “book” object and interiority in the time of endless distraction and social media; the reality of the metaverse, the overcoming of the human, and the resources of mysticism; the sonic perceptive in a society that continually solicits the sense of hearing; the solitude of the artist in the glittering world of the commodification of creativity; the drifts of the divine; and the meaning of making culture. In essence: a journey outside and inside ourselves.

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