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Workshop with David Roden: Sonic Art and Sonic Events

Updated: Mar 1, 2023


Feb. 19th: Reading Group -- 10 am PST

Feb. 26th: Reading Group -- 10 am PST

Mar. 4th: Public Lecture -- 10 am PST

David Roden's workshop will be in three parts--one public session and two private sessions. Everyone is welcome to join the public sessions. If you would like to also participate in the private presentations and reading groups, please send an email to

Reading Group 1: Promethean and Posthuman Freedom

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This paper begins with a critical reading of Ray Brassier’s short essay "Unfree Improvisation/Compulsive Freedom". It questions Brassier’s ‘normative functionalist’ account of improvising subjectivity in favour of a perceptual model in which the agent sculpts the individual or collective generating mechanisms responsible for action. The principles of endogenous variation behind such activity are then linked to the idea of ‘functional autonomy’ as a model of posthuman freedom in a technologically ramifying world. Throughout, I will attempt to illustrate some of the ideas on improvisation and harmonic indeterminacy in this paper and in the work of Martin Rosenberg with live keyboard improvisation.

Reading Group 2: Sonic Events

Sonic Art and the Nature of Sonic Events
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My paper ‘Sonic Art and the Nature of Sonic Events’ argues for a sonic metaphysics in which sounds are identified with generative events located in sounding objects. For this reason, it is argued, it is impossible to phenomenologically ‘bracket’ the generative mechanisms productive of sound since sounds just are processes in these mechanisms. I try to reconcile this with the phenomenology of auditory experience and the aesthetics of sound art. In this group I will explore this argument and consider some of outstanding questions regarding the where and what of sounds, whether the analytic metaphysics of the paper is unstable and requires a more subtle and speculative approach. As in the first reading group, I will illustrate these ideas with practical examples, using software instruments and processing in Ableton Live and Max MSP.

Public Talk: Sonic Art and Sonic Events

This talk will walk us through the argument of my 2010 paper ‘Sonic Art and the Nature of Sonic Events’ and will consider its conclusions in the light of work by speculative philosophers of sound and noise such Amy Ireland, Eugene Thacker, Martin Rosenberg, Ray Brassier, Cecile Malaspina and Naomi Waltham-Smith.


Musicians and theorists such as the radiophonic pioneer Pierre Schaeffer, view the products of new audio technologies as devices whereby the experience of sound can be displaced from its causal origins and achieve new musical or poetic resonances. Accordingly, the listening experience associated with sonic art within this perspective is ‘acousmatic’; the process of sound generation playing no role in the description or understanding of the experience as such. In this paper I shall articulate and defend a position according to which an adequate phenomenology of auditory experience must refer to mechanisms of sound generation. This position is shown to follow from a phenomenology of sounds as located events and a physicalist account of auditory properties as features of the temporal development of such events.

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