Pre-Modern Design of Post-Natural Soundscapes (2011)

Lacey, J and Harvey, L. 2011. ‘Pre-Modern Design of Post-Natural Soundscapes’, Paradigms of Nature: Post Natural Futures, KERB 19, edited by Caitrin Daly, Sarah Hicks, Adrian Keene and Ricky Ricardo, Melbourne Books, Melbourne, pp.114-119. ISBN 9781877096433.



Claims that humanity can synthesise nature can be connected historically with Cartesian thinking: the functioning of the mind, and its constructions, placed above other ways of knowing. As an outgrowth of this thinking industrialization, mechanization and progress has sublimated nature and isolated humanity from its necessary sensual connections with natural processes. Like the landscape, the contemporary soundscape continues to be inscribed with the artifacts of modernity, without design or consideration of biophilic relationships. This paper proposes a biophilic relationship between pre-modern culture and the entraining soundscape of the natural world, in the hope that this could go some way to informing design of post-natural soundscapes. The complexities and intelligences inherent in the natural world, as theorized in the biophilia hypothesis, can hopefully be understood before application of technological advances toward synthetic ecologies are pursued. The model draws on the research of ethnographers from the 1950’s onwards, who studied indigenous knowledge – empirical, sensual, mystical – thereby inducing the post- modern critique of modernity through imbuement of this knowledge. Before the future immerses itself in the technological potentialities of post-natural features, it is necessary to draw knowledge from pre-modern cultures that enjoyed millennia long co-existence with their contemporary natural ecologies; we must ask the question, do we have the non-technological resources to create an affective post-natural synthetic world, and are these non-technological resources interfaced with qualities and aesthetics that are emergent only when interrelated with the natural world? Non-technological resources are impossible to retrieve from cultures long lost to modernity’s intolerance of the Other, such resources belonging to the custodians of knowledge, however we can attempt to understand broadly the dynamics that led to the successful relationships between globally distinct indigenous cultures and their natural soundscapes. There is a risk of technocratic dreaming and a submission to the inevitability of the elimination of the natural world when discussing the synthesis of post-natural ecologies; an alternative derivative to extirpation of natural ecologies is offered in this paper in the context of pre-modern and post-modern acoustic ecologies.

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