Language Has No Positive Terms

  • David Prescott-Steed

Abstract

This sound art composition is a meditation on the arbitrariness of linguistic signs and the idea that language has no positive terms: "signs have no special right to mean something in particular and not something else" (Bignell: 9). As a first-time father, the interactions I have with my four-year-old daughter are mostly related to my responsibility to facilitate her sensory exploration of the world around her. This includes supporting her formalisation of linguistic expression and numeracy skills through story recall and construction, number identification, and pattern/rhythm awareness. These language-based learning activities benefit early childhood development by progressing a child's social awareness, confidence and resiliency. A tension exists, therefore, between the power of language as a vital navigational tool and the unassailable instability of meaning.


As a creative response, this composition features extracts from audio recordings of our conversations. The fragments of utterances, like the synthetic buzzing that returns and haunts, shift between audibility and inaudibility, meaning and non-meaning. Each time it's played, digital audio technology brings our absence into the present; we become acousmatic textures inside the body of the listener who "cannot listen away as one can look away" (Connor: 133), oscillating the small bones in the middle ears and sending electrical signals to the brain . Through this treatment of language, we may be emptied of meaning but not of the positive meaningfulness of our interactions.


 


BIGNELL, Jonathan (2002). Media Semiotics: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
CONNOR, Steven (2011). “Ears Have Walls: On Hearing Art.” Sound: Documents of Contemporary Art. Ed. Caleb Kelly. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 129-39.

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References

BIGNELL, Jonathan (2002). Media Semiotics: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

CONNOR, Steven (2011). “Ears Have Walls: On Hearing Art.” Sound: Documents of Contemporary Art. Ed. Caleb Kelly. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 129-39.
Published
2017-12-27
How to Cite
PRESCOTT-STEED, David. Language Has No Positive Terms. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 1, p. 93-94, dec. 2017. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <http://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/article/view/5044>. Date accessed: 23 june 2018. doi: https://doi.org/10.14195/2182-8830.
Section
Mediarama | Mediascape