Reading Thoreau in Another’s Voice Reading Thoreau

  • Ryan LaLiberty


Reading Thoreau in Another’s Voice Reading Thoreau is an experimental sound work that elucidates the complex network of materialities present in literature. Two sound sources are taken from two public-domain audio readings of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The two verbatim excerpts — from the chapter “Sounds” where Thoreau expresses his at times ambivalence, at times exuberance, but constant alertness to the soundscape of Walden Pond — are fed into a modular synthesizer. Within the processing domain of the synthesizer, each excerpt is fed into an envelope detector that traces the volume contour of the reading, creating an extractable mimesis of the auditor’s rhythm. These rhythmic envelopes are then applied to the opposite excerpt, forcing the reader to read in the rhythm of the other’s voice. The resulting audio stutters and glitches as one reader opens and closes the mouth of the other. In concert, both readers open up pulsating oscillators that accompany the readings. Sound here is voltage, apart from all semantic content. As the rhythm of the reader’s words is extracted, so too are the extra-semantic components that emerge from the noise of the recording. The network of Walden is broadened thus to include the bodies of its auditors and the noises of its medium. 

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How to Cite
LALIBERTY, Ryan. Reading Thoreau in Another’s Voice Reading Thoreau. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 5, n. 1, p. 88-89, dec. 2017. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 25 may 2019. doi:
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