This chapter sets out the ways in which sound studies can contribute to our thinking about place; listening to a place can help us to perceive it as an active and unstable agent, participating and constituting in the moment the action takes place. The environment around us affects the absorption, reverberation, and diffraction of sound; therefore, sound gives us an indication of the space it is in. Additionally, the activities that occur in a place – along with their associated sounds – cause the place to be given meaning. In other words, a place provides a stage for a specific practice, and is an intersection of happenings.
We then discuss why sounds are impactful and important for our culture; sound offers us a possibility to explore and reveal new ways of knowing, and to gain new knowledge of how human and non-human agents relate to one another and their environment. The dominance of the eye in Western history is detailed, through to the modern rise of ‘auditory culture’ and ‘sound studies’.
The chapter also outlines the intent to sketch some contours of what sonic materialism could be(come) and how it deviates from the conceptual frameworks which have dominated Western culture and discourses. The objective behind this is to create affective relationships to places, to explore various listening attitudes, and to give a voice to the less ear-catching sounds of everyday life. The development of sonic materialism is described as being a quest into how the sonic can contribute to and participate in current philosophical discourses, without being encapsulated beforehand in the written or spoken language typical of philosophy or theorizing. In other words, it involves thinking in and through the sonic, rather than thinking about it. The identity of sounds is discussed, as well as the movement involved in creating them.