Seth Kim-Cohen: In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art (2009)

10 February 2013, dusan

“An ear-opening reassessment of sonic art from World War II to the present.

Marcel Duchamp famously championed a “non-retinal” visual art, rejecting judgments of taste and beauty. In the Blink of an Ear is the first book to ask why the sonic arts did not experience a parallel turn toward a non-cochlear sonic art, imagined as both a response and a complement to Duchamp’s conceptualism. Rather than treat sound art as an artistic practice unto itself—or as the unwanted child of music—artist and theorist Seth Kim-Cohen relates the post-War sonic arts to contemporaneous movements in the gallery arts. Applying key ideas from poststructuralism, deconstruction, and art history, In the Blink of an Ear suggests that the sonic arts have been subject to the same cultural pressures that have shaped minimalism, conceptualism, appropriation, and relational aesthetics. Sonic practice and theory have downplayed – or, in many cases, completely rejected – the de-formalization of the artwork and its simultaneous animation in the conceptual realm.

Starting in 1948, the simultaneous examples of John Cage and Pierre Schaeffer initiated a sonic theory-in-practice, fusing clement Greenberg’s media-specificity with a phenomenological emphasis on perception. Subsequently, the “sound-in-itself” tendency has become the dominant paradigm for the production and reception of sound art. Engaged with critical texts by Jacques Derrida, Rosalind Krauss, Friedrich Kittler, Jean François Lyotard, and Jacques Attali, among others, Seth Kim-Cohen convincingly argues for a reassessment of the short history of sound art, rejecting sound-in-itself in favor of a reading of sound’s expanded situation and its uncontainable textuality. At the same time, this important book establishes the principles for a nascent non-cochlear sonic practice, embracing the inevitable interaction of sound with the social, the linguistic, the philosophical, the political, and the technological.

Artists discussed include: George Brecht, John Cage, Janet Cardiff, Marcel Duchamp, Bob Dylan, Valie Export, Luc Ferrari, Jarrod Fowler, Jacob Kirkegaard, Alvin Lucier, Robert Morris, Muddy Waters, John Oswald, Marina Rosenfeld, Pierre Schaeffer, Stephen Vitiello, La Monte Young.”

Publisher Continuum, New York/London, 2009
ISBN 082642970X, 9780826429704
296 pages

Reviews: Laura Paolini (MusicWorks, 2010), Will Scrimshaw (2010), Brian Kane (NonSite, 2013).


PDF (updated on 2020-7-13)

5 Responses to “Seth Kim-Cohen: In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art (2009)”

  1. Konstantin on December 16, 2014 9:38 am

    Hi, any chance to reload “In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a Non-Cochlear Sonic Art”? Thanks in advance.

  2. dusan on December 16, 2014 10:12 am

    Try now.

  3. Konstantin on December 17, 2014 1:24 pm

    Thank you so much!

  4. Julio on July 11, 2020 5:13 pm

    mmm… it’s broken again

  5. dusan on July 13, 2020 7:49 pm


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