Sonification and the Mysticism of Negation

Kristina Wolfe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Sonification has become a commonly used tool for data
analysis, auditory feedback and compositional inspiration. It is
often described in scientific terms as a means of uncovering
previously unknown patterns in information or data through
the use of the auditory sense. This goal seems to be objective,
but the results and methodologies can be highly subjective.
Moreover, the techniques and sources of information are
strikingly similar to those used in mysticism, especially
mysticisms of negation, even though the frames of reference
and underlying perceptions of the world are markedly
different. Both practitioners of sonification and apophatic
mystics believe that certain types of information are incomprehensible
through traditional analytic means and can only
be understood through experience. In this way, sonification
can be thought of as a source of mystical information.
In this paper, I will discuss the similarities between
sonification and apophatic mysticism, or the mysticism of
negation. I will argue that the practice of sonification, as a
source of mystical information, is ideally suited for creative
contemplation, particularly in electronic music. I will start by
providing some historical background on the mysticism of
negation. I will then present several ways in which sonified
knowledge (sound) is often imagined, discussed and perceived
akin to a mystical object. Finally, I will discuss specific ways in
which sonification exemplifies apophatic mysticism and reveals
mystical information. This information – whatever its nature –
can be used for creative contemplation and is a potentially
invaluable source of compositional and spiritual inspiration
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)304-309
Number of pages6
JournalOrganised Sound
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes

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