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.