Acoustics: A branch of physics concerned with the properties of sound. It includes the production, transmission, and effects of sound waves and their interaction with various environments and materials.

Acoustic Environment: refers to the totality of sound present in a given area or setting, resulting from both natural and anthropogenic sources. It is an aspect of the broader sonic or sound environment that encompasses all the vibrational energy that propagates through the air, water, or solid mediums as sound waves.

Active Listening: A communication technique that involves giving full attention to the speaker, comprehending the information, retaining it, and responding thoughtfully. It encompasses both a genuine interest in the speaker’s perspective and a non-judgmental listening posture. Active listeners provide feedback that conveys understanding of the message, often involving verbal and nonverbal cues such as nodding, eye contact, and paraphrasing. This skill facilitates deeper engagement, reduces misunderstandings, and fosters a constructive dialogue. It is often employed in counseling, conflict resolution, and educational settings to enhance interpersonal communication and comprehension.

Air-borne sound: A sound transmitted through the air as a medium. When a source produces a sound, it creates vibrations that move through the air in waves, eventually reaching our ears and being interpreted as sound.

Ambient sound: The background noise present in a scene or environment. It can be natural (like wind or water) or manufactured (like traffic or machinery). It sets the tone and context for other sounds in the environment.

Ambisonic Sound: A surround sound technique that captures sound sources from above and below the listener in addition to the horizontal plane. Unlike traditional ‘channel-based’ surround systems ambisonics represents a sound field as a continuous entity. Ambisonic recordings are made with special microphones that capture sound from all directions. These recordings can then be decoded to adapt to any speaker setup or binaural format for headphone listening.

Amplification: The process of increasing the volume or intensity of a sound, which is achieved using electronic equipment such as amplifiers and loudspeakers.

Architectural Acoustics: It is the study and application of sound behaviour in built environments. It involves the control of noise, the design of spaces with specific acoustic characteristics, and the enhancement of sound quality for various purposes, such as music performance, speech intelligibility, and overall sound quality in spaces. Architectural acousticians apply the following principles when designing concert halls, recording studios, lecture halls, places of worship, residential buildings, and more.

Reverberation:  This is the persistence of sound in an environment after its source has stopped, caused by reflections off the surfaces in the room. The amount of reverberation can significantly affect the clarity and warmth of sounds.

Sound Absorption relates to materials and design elements introduced to absorb sound and reduce reverberation to control noise levels.

Sound Isolation involves preventing sound from leaking from one space to another, and it is essential in buildings where multiple activities are happening simultaneously, such as an art gallery or a civic space. 

Sound Diffusion is the even distribution of sound in a space, whereby diffusive surfaces scatter sound in various directions for a balanced sound field.

Architectural sound: Refers to how a building or space manipulates and influences the sound within it. Factors such as the size of the room, the materials used in its construction, and the shape of the surfaces can drastically affect sound reflection, absorption, and transmission. It is a critical consideration in the acoustic design of spaces such as concert halls, recording studios, and even open public spaces.

Archival sounds: Sounds collected and preserved for historical, cultural, or research purposes, including recordings of speech, music, ambient sounds, or any other audio material.

Audio Document: An audio document refers to a recorded sound used as a record or evidence of a particular event, person, situation, or period. It could be a recorded speech, an interview, an ambient sound recording, or a piece of music. They are used for research, historical documentation, legal contexts, journalism, and many other fields. Audio documents capture the aural aspects of our world and experiences, preserving them for future study, reference, or enjoyment. They are an essential part of the broader field of audio-visual documentation and archiving and offer unique insights that are not available through written or visual sources.

Audio sampling: A technique used in electronic music production where a segment of sound (a ‘sample) is appropriated from one recording and reused in another. It can involve manipulating the sample’s pitch, speed, or length or integrating it with other sounds. It is commonly applied in hip-hop and electronic music and can be a way of recontextualising or paying homage to existing music.

Audio walking: A term that refers to an exercise or activity where individuals walk and focus on the sounds they hear, like a ‘soundwalk’. It could also refer to guided audio tours, where individuals listen to pre-recorded explanations or narratives while exploring a specific location.

Aurality: A term used in various fields of study, including musicology, sound studies, and media studies, that refers to anything related to the sense of hearing, like how ‘visuality’ refers to the sense of sight. It often denotes the characteristics, qualities, or properties of sound, particularly as a listener perceives and understands it. Aurality is employed to explore how auditory practices shape cultures and examine the role of sound and listening in social and political power dynamics.

Bass: In the realm of music, "bass" denotes the lower ranges of pitch and the instruments and voices that produce these deep tones, typically within a frequency range of 16 to 256 Hz. Derived from "basso”, the Italian word for "low”, bass is essential for providing both rhythmic and harmonic foundations in musical compositions and performances. The bass spectrum includes the gamut of lower register notes achievable by both instruments and singers, noted on the bass clef in musical notation. Instruments like the double bass, electric bass guitar, bass drum, and tuba specialize in these lower frequencies, which in electronic music, are often synthesized or electronically altered.

Harmonically, bass lines are fundamental for delineating a piece’s harmonic structure, fleshing out chord progressions, and setting a tonal base that supports other musical elements. Rhythmically, the bass often collaborates with percussion to establish and sustain a piece’s tempo and beat. Due to their longer wavelengths, bass frequencies behave uniquely in different environments, an aspect that is particularly salient in acoustics and sound engineering. In orchestration, the bass adds depth and gravity to the ensemble’s sound. In genres like jazz, rock, and funk, the bassist plays a central role in ensemble dynamics, often engaging with other instruments in intricate ways. While typically seen as supportive, bass instruments and voices can also lead solo performances, demonstrating their expressive breadth.

In studio production, capturing and mixing bass frequencies is crucial for sound balance and impact, with techniques like equalization and compression frequently employed to refine bass sound quality. From a theoretical standpoint, bass notes anchor the harmonic series, and their richness is enhanced by the overtones that accompany the fundamental pitch, contributing to the sound’s timbre. Historically, the evolution of bass instruments has paralleled technological and cultural shifts, from early forms like the viola da gamba to modern bass guitars. The significance of bass has evolved culturally, from the foundational basso continuo in Baroque music to dominant bass lines in today’s popular genres. Bass is a comprehensive term that encapsulates the technical, acoustic, and cultural aspects of music, with its study being a crucial component of music theory, performance, composition, and audio engineering.

Bass Culture: Refers to the collective practices, narratives, and social groups centred around music characterised by prominent bass frequencies. It spans genres such as reggae, dub, drum and bass, and electronic dance music, which all emphasise the importance of bass in their auditory experience. This culture is closely tied to the Jamaican music scene, which has been instrumental in influencing a variety of musical styles worldwide through its focus on the bass line.

Cultural Movement: More than a musical style, bass culture represents a movement with profound social, political, and historical implications. It serves as an avenue for expressing identity, solidarity, and resistance, especially within African and Caribbean diaspora communities.

Sonic Expression: The prominent bass lines in this culture are not merely musical elements but are powerful forms of sonic expression that resonate with collective experiences of displacement and the quest for self-determination.

Physical and Emotional Impact: The low frequency sounds characteristic of bass culture are explored for their capacity to physically move individuals and create shared spaces and experiences.

Cultural Significance: The bass line is viewed as a cultural symbol with meanings that extend beyond its musical function, often reflecting and shaping wider societal narratives.

Technological Influence: Studies of bass culture also investigate how advancements in sound technology, such as sound systems capable of producing deep bass, have evolved the production and enjoyment of music, giving rise to novel cultural expressions.

Spatial Dynamics: Bass culture plays a crucial role in shaping environments, such as clubs or festivals, where the tangible aspect of bass can forge communal bonds and atmospheres.

As an interdisciplinary area of study, bass culture is a vibrant subject in musicology, sociology, cultural history, and technology. It provides a framework for scholars to examine how low-frequency soundscapes not only define musical genres but also embody and mould cultural identities and collective actions.

Broadcast audio: Audio content transmitted over the airwaves or via digital platforms to a dispersed audience. It includes radio programs, podcasts, television audio, etc.

Counterpublics:  According to Michael Warner intheir book Publics and Counterpublics (2002), a counterpublic have a conflicted relationship with larger publics. They are formed in opposition to the norms and discourses of the dominant or established public sphere and are often associated with marginalised groups. They enable the development of alternative forms of discourse and identity expression that run counter to those accepted or endorsed by the dominant public. Counterpublics serve as spaces where subordinate social groups invent and circulate counter discourses as a method to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs. 

Critical listening: An advanced form of active listening that requires more profound engagement with the sonic material. Rather than simply perceiving and enjoying a sound or music, critical listeners analyse and interpret the sound to probe its aesthetic qualities, potential meanings, place in social and cultural contexts, and creation and reception processes.

Critical listening is central to various professions and practices, including music producers, sound engineers, musicologists, sound artists, and acousticians.

Diegetic sound: In the context of film and media, diegetic sound refers to the sound that originates within the world of the narrative. It includes the dialogue between characters and any sound that would logically be heard in their environment, such as a radio playing in the background, footsteps, or the rustling of leaves. These sounds are perceived as ‘real’ within the story’s world.

Drone: A harmonic or monophonic effect or an accompaniment where a note or chord is continuously sounded throughout the majority or all of a piece. Drones are found in many traditional music cultures, such as Indian classical music, which helps to establish a tonal framework which enables the listener to perceive the intricacies of the music. Drones are in minimalist and experimental music and ambient and drone metal genres. Minimalist composers utilise drones to explore subtle shifts in harmony and the psychoacoustic effects of sustained tones to produce a deep, immersive listening experience. In comparison, drone metal (also known as drone doom) uses heavily distorted, sustained tones to create a dense, powerful sound. Drone is not just a musical technique but also a tool for meditation and sonic therapy, with drone sounds used to facilitate focus and relaxation.

Electronic music: A genre of music that employs electronic musical instruments, digital instruments, and circuitry-based music technology in its production. The sounds can be created or altered through electronic devices, often leading to unique, synthetic timbres and sonic textures. It covers various styles and formats, from experimental art music to popular forms such as synth-pop, techno, and electronic dance music (EDM).

Embodied listening: A form of perception that recognises the physical body as an instrument for understanding and interpreting sound. It refers to how our bodies resonate and responds to sonic stimuli, not just through hearing but also through physical vibrations and sensations.
Environmental sound: Sounds generated from our surroundings. They can be natural (like birds singing, the wind blowing, or water flowing) or manufactured (like the sound of traffic, machinery, or human activity). Environmental sounds are crucial in our perception and understanding of the spaces around us.

Ethnography: A qualitative research method used in social sciences, especially anthropology and sociology. Ethnographers study people and cultures by observing them in natural environments to understand their customs, behaviours, and interactions. In the context of sonic methodologies, an ethnographer might focus on the sonic practices and experiences within a particular culture or community.

Feminist listening: A method that seeks to acknowledge and challenge the power dynamics and biases that have traditionally marginalised or silenced women’s voices and sounds. It may also aim to reconceptualise listening practices to promote equality and representation.

Gendered listening: Refers to the idea that listening practices and experiences can be influenced by gender norms and biases. It involves analysing how sounds are gendered or how different genders socialise to listen.

Hardcore continuum: Coined by music journalist Simon Reynolds, this term refers to a succession of British music genres from the late 1980s to the present day, including acid house, jungle, UK garage, dubstep, and grime. These genres share specific stylistic threads and a focus on breakbeats, bass, and a culture of production and distribution that often sidesteps traditional music industry structures. 

Hardcore (electronic music): Hardcore electronic music is a genre that emerged in the late 1980s and is characterised by its fast tempos, heavy use of synthesisers, and aggressive, often distorted beats. Typically, the tempo ranges from about 160 to 200 beats per minute (BPM), though some subgenres can exceed this range. This genre is known for its intense energy and is often associated with a rebellious or counter-cultural ethos.

Hardcore electronic music encompasses various subgenres, each with its distinct style and cultural connotations. These subgenres include:

Breakcore: This subgenre fuses elements of jungle, drum and bass, and hardcore. It is known for its complex and rapid breakbeats and eclectic, often experimental sound.

Gabber: Originating in the Netherlands, Gabber is distinguished by its fast tempo (around 160-200 BPM) and heavy use of distorted kick drums. It often features aggressive or provocative themes.

Happy Hardcore: Contrasting with the more aggressive forms, Happy Hardcore is characterized by its upbeat melodies, faster tempos (around 160-180 BPM), and often includes vocal samples.

Industrial Hardcore: This style combines elements of industrial music with hardcore, resulting in a darker, more atmospheric sound. It often incorporates heavy, mechanical beats and distorted, industrial noises.

Speedcore: As the name suggests, Speedcore pushes the limits of tempo, often exceeding 200 BPM. It is characterized by extremely fast beats and aggressive, chaotic compositions.

Hardcore electronic music is not just defined by its sound but also by its cultural context. It has a strong community and underground scene, especially in Europe. Events and festivals celebrating this genre often feature a unique aesthetic, with attendees sometimes donning specific styles of clothing and participating in vigorous dance styles like "Hakken" – a fast-paced style of dancing typical in the Gabber subculture.

The genre’s evolution has seen it influence and be influenced by other styles of electronic music, leading to a dynamic and constantly evolving musical landscape. Despite its niche appeal, hardcore electronic music has a dedicated fan base and continues to be a significant and influential genre in the world of electronic music.

Hauntology: Hauntology is a term coined by philosopher Jacques Derrida intheir 1993 work ‘Spectres of Marx’. The term is a portmanteau of ‘haunting’ and ‘ontology’ (the philosophical study of being). It refers to the idea of the past’s pervasive influence on the present, to the extent that the present is ‘haunted’ by the spectre of the past. In the context of cultural and sound studies, hauntology is a critical method to understand and analyse how past sounds, music, and auditory cultures continue to influence and resonate within the present.

Hearing: A physiological process of perceiving sounds. It is a sensory experience where the ear receives sound waves, which are transformed into electrical signals and interpreted by the brain. It is mainly involuntary and happens automatically when sound waves reach our ears. In audiology, "hearing" also refers to the overall health and functioning of the auditory system and is evaluated with tests like audiograms. It is a more passive process compared to listening.

Human sound: Sounds produced by human beings, such as speech, singing, or body noises. These sounds are often the focus of disciplines like linguistics, music, and anthropology.





Listening: Listening is an active process defined as a conscious and intentional act which requires the listener to focus on specific sounds to try and understand or interpret meaning. It is a selective and subjective process that involves not just the ears but also the brain. It is a process that evidence humans’ complex relationship with sound. It is not a neutral or passive act nor solely a sensory phenomenon but also a cognitive, cultural, and existential one.

Musicking: Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening, (1998), by Christopher Small, re-evaluates music, conceptualising it not as an inert commodity but as a vibrant, participatory process. This philosophy encompasses a broad spectrum of musical engagement, including playing instruments, vocalising, dancing, attending concerts, and simply listening — all integral aspects of the musicking experience. Central to this concept is the recognition of music as an interactive endeavour, one that transcends consumption. It is a rich, multi-layered range of interactions between those who perform, those who listen, and those who orchestrate musical events, thereby linking individuals through a shared, complex experience.

The work underscores the significance of musicking within the fabric of society and culture, observing how active participation in music enables individuals to explore and give voice to the complex web of relationships that define their social and cultural situations. Musicking is a vehicle for personal and communal expression, rather than just an outlet for entertainment or aesthetic enjoyment.

A further fundamental premise of the work is that music’s meaning is not fixed within the musical notes themselves but is dynamically generated through the act of musicking. Meaning emerges through the collective and individual interpretations of those engaged in the musical experience, thus rendering each musical event distinct and interpretively rich.

Musicking promotes an expanded definition of music beyond an auditory experience but also the setting, the actions, and interactions of those present, and the broader cultural circumstances, thereby acknowledging the full complexity of the musical experience. Additionally, the work critically examines the Eurocentric leanings of traditional musicology, advocating for a more inclusive appreciation and understanding of the diverse musical traditions and practices globally. It champions a view of music that is inclusive, equitable, and acknowledges the myriad forms of musical expression found across the world.

Noise: In general terms, noise refers to unwanted or disturbing sounds. The distinction between sound and noise is often subjective and depends on context and personal preference.

However, in sonic studies, ‘noise’ is a complex term and the subject of much theoretical and philosophical examination for its capacity to hold significant cultural, political, and philosophical meanings connected to power, social order, subjectivity, and the materiality of sound itself.

For example, Jacques Attali posits noise as a form of violence with the power to disrupt in the book, Noise: The Political Economy of Music (1977). He proposes that noise threatens established orders and is often silenced or disciplined into music, reflecting societal structures and indicative of social change. Artist and theorist Brandon LaBelle echoes this position and interprets noise as a form of sonic resistance that emerges as a way of disrupting dominant narratives to create space for alternative voices and communities.their work links noise with issues of space, power, and identity. 

Holger Schulze considers noise a subjective concept intrinsically tied to context and cultural interpretation. What may be noise to one person (unwanted, disturbing sound) could be meaningful to another. While Christoph Cox interprets noise from a philosophical perspective, discussing its relationship to materialism and realism in philosophy, at which point the material reality of sound goes beyond human meanings or musical structures.

Non-Diegetic Sound: A term used in film studies, media studies, and related fields to refer to sound not part of the narrative’s world. It can include elements such as the film’s score, voiceovers, and sound effects added in post-production. For example, the background music accompanying a scene is non-diegetic – it’s not a sound the characters can hear. It is added retrospectively to enhance the mood or emotional impact for the audience. If a character narrates events from the past while the scene shows those events, the narration is non-diegetic - a sound that does not exist within the original location. 

Non-human sound: Sounds produced by entities other than humans, such as animals, plants, natural phenomena, or machines. These sounds can provide insights into ecology, ethology, and technology studies.



Palimpsest: A term rooted in manuscript studies, it describes a parchment page written on, scraped off, and reused. It carries metaphorical significance in various fields such as archaeology, architecture, and sound studies, denoting anything altered or reused retains traces of its earlier form. This concept applies to cities as historical layers visible in their architecture and planning and to soundscapes as an amalgamation of sounds from diverse sources and periods. The essence of a palimpsest lies in its encapsulation of past traces within the present, adding to its intricacy.

Phenomenological Listening: A theoretical approach to sound that draws upon the philosophy of phenomenology, which focuses on the structures of experience and consciousness. In the context of listening, phenomenology emphasises how the auditory experience shapes our understanding and perception of the world.

For example, Edmund Husserl made fundamental contributions to exploring phenomena from a ‘first person’ perspective. Although he did not specifically write about listening,their theories provide a framework for thinking about sound, particularly the concept of ‘intentionality’. The idea is that consciousness is always consciousness ‘of’ something and applies to listening as an intentional act directing our awareness towards sound.

The American philosopher Don Ihde specifically applied phenomenological concepts to auditory experience intheir influential work Listening and Voice: Phenomenologies of Sound. He argues that aural experience is an integral part of our human existence, emphasising that sounds heard in a particular context are bound to a sense of space and time and are deeply intertwined with our memories and emotions. He distinguishes between ‘listening to’ and ‘listening in’ experiences. The former involves focusing on a specific sound or sequence of sounds as an object of attention, such as a piece of music or a spoken language. In contrast, the latter term refers to immersion in the general soundscape or ambience, where individual sounds do not stand out.

Phenomenological Listening encourages a profound engagement with our sonic environment, acknowledging that our experiences with sound shape and form our understanding of the world. An approach that advocates listening actively and mindfully, paying close attention to how sound influences our perception of space, time, and self. 

Political Listening: It refers to an approach to listening attuned to sound’s social and political dimensions. It involves recognising and interrogating how power dynamics, social relations, and cultural contexts are embedded in and expressed through sound and listening practices.

It is an active, critical process. Rather than passively receiving sound, the listener is actively engaged in interpreting the sound and its socio-political implications. It involves questioning power structures and how to produce or control sound in each context. How certain sounds or ways of listening reflect or challenge societal norms and systems, and how sound can be used as a tool for political expression or resistance.

Political listening can be used to examine sounds of protests or rallies, how sound is employed in political propaganda, or the implications of noise pollution in urban environments. It is a method to engage with the world and raise questions of power, identity, and justice. It encourages participants to focus beyond a direct sonic experience to consider the broader socio-political conditions in which sound exists.

Physiological Resonances: These refer to the natural frequency at which a part of the human body vibrates and how different parts of our bodies have specific resonant frequencies. It applies to the context of sound and music in several ways listed below:

Vocal Resonance refers to the amplification of the voice within the resonant cavities of the throat, mouth, and nasal passages. The shape and size of these cavities can alter when speaking or singing, determining the voice’s timbre.

Bone Conduction is the transmission of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull, an alternative to the usual method of sound travelling into the ear canal. It is how we hear our voice and why it sounds different in recordings.

Tactile Resonance is felt as physical vibrations in the body, often noticeable at high volumes or low frequencies. Hence why, loud, bass-heavy music can feel so powerful and immersive.

Psychoacoustics: A branch of psychology concerned with the perception of sound and how it is processed in the human auditory system. It examines the physiological and psychological responses to acoustic stimuli, studying how we interpret, perceive, and respond to sound features such as pitch, loudness, timbre, direction, and spatial characteristics. Psychoacoustics is foundational to many areas of study and fields of work, including music, acoustic engineering, sound design, and audiology. It has influenced the development of music theory, audio compression algorithms (like MP3), architectural acoustics, and noise control.

Publics: In their book Publics and Counterpublics (2002), Michael Warner puts forward a complex understanding of publics and counterpublics with the employment of concepts fundamental to democratic theory, media studies, and cultural sociology. He states that ‘publics’ are social spaces of discourse, which are self-organised by the circulation of a given discourse. What makes a public unique is that it is an open space where strangers can come together through the exchange of ideas, thus creating a social space, which only comes into being when it is addressed, but only in relation to the discourse that addresses it.

Recorded Music: Recording music for storage and reproduction has evolved with technological advancements. Initial recordings used analogue devices like phonographs, preserving sounds on media such as wax cylinders or vinyl discs, latterly magnetic tape technology improving audio quality and enabling multitrack recording. In the late 20th and early 21st century, digital technology revolutionised music recording, allowing easy manipulation, duplication, and sound distribution without quality loss, primarily via digital audio workstations (DAWs).

This evolution in recording has influenced how people interact with music, making new genres with music creation more accessible. The rise of streaming services and digital platforms has globally democratised music consumption. However, issues concerning audio quality, music ownership, royalties, the cultural influence of algorithmic recommendations, and the preservation of musical heritage amid rapid technology changes have sparked ongoing debates.

Repetitive beats: Common in electronic music, repetitive beats form the structure of many tracks, creating a hypnotic or monotonous rhythm. It comprises a continuous repetition of a beat or rhythm pattern, foundational for styles like techno, house, and trance. The predictable rhythms of the beats often encourage dance and movement.

Remix: A different recorded version of a song adapted into a new style often includes changes in instrumentation, texture, harmony, or new sound engineering, for example, effects.

Reverb (Reverberation): A sound effect that occurs when a sound or signal is reflected, causing a large number of reflections to build up and then decay as the surfaces of objects absorb the sound in the space. It is often used in music production to give the effect of an area around the sound, whether a small room or a large hall.

Rhythmanalysis: A concept coined by French sociologist and philosopher Henri Lefebvre, it is a methodological tool and theoretical framework that seeks to study and interpret the rhythms of everyday life. Lefebvre presents this concept intheir book Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time, and Everyday Life (1992) and explores the intersections of time, space, and social practice. Rhythmanalysis considers both cyclical and linear rhythms.

Cyclical rhythms are natural or biological cycles, such as the cycle of day and night, the changing seasons, or human biological rhythms like sleep, hunger, and other bodily functions. These rhythms are recurring and predictable, with a specific natural periodicity.

Linear rhythms are imposed by human activity and relate to an industrial and post-industrial society, including work timetables and transportation, the pace of machines, or the temporal structures of the economy and media. The rhythms are measured and quantifiable and impose a particular order or structure onto time.

The aim of Rhythmanalysis is to understand how these cyclical and linear rhythms intersect and interact within a given space, particularly in urban environments. For Lefebvre, the city is a complex orchestration of various rhythms, both natural and social, which influence and shape each other in dynamic ways. This rhythmical interplay profoundly affects human behaviour, social relationships, and our experience and perception of space and time.

It is about understanding the social implications and effects of these rhythms, which requires ‘listening’ to the city or a space and the interpretation of ‘polyrhythmia’. A rhythmic understanding can offer unique insights into a place’s character, its inhabitants’ lifestyles, and the social forces at work. In short, Rhythmanalysis is a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, bridging sociology, geography, urban studies, and sound studies to invite a deeper consideration of the rhythms around us to become more attuned listeners and observers of the environment.

Silence: The most basic definition is the absence of sound. In a physical context, you have silence when sound waves are not reaching your ears or the microphone of a recording device. However, it’s important to note that silence is a multifaceted concept that plays a significant role in our communication, art, social structures, and interior lives.

Acoustic Silence is an environment devoid of audible sound. A rare state because even the quietest settings often contain some noise, such as distant sounds or the physiological sounds of one’s body.

Relational Silence in a social context can exist as a form of communication. It can include pauses in conversation or remaining silent as a form of protest or resistance. 

Musical Silence or rests are as crucial as musical notes. Silence in music can create tension, resolution, and contrast. John Cage’s composition 4’33, (1952) explores the concept of silence in music by instructing performers not to play their instruments for the duration of the piece. The “music” is the ambient sound the audience hears during the performance.

Spiritual and contemplative silence is a state of mind often sought in meditation or prayer and perceived as a pathway to inner peace, self-awareness, or a deeper understanding of the divine.

Symbolic Silence can be a symbol or metaphor. For example, a ‘moment of silence’ is a common practice to honour someone’s memory or to reflect on a significant event.

Silencing is a socio-political act of suppressing speech or preventing someone from expressing their thoughts, often linked with power, control, and oppression issues.

Situated acoustics: The study of acoustics within specific contexts or environments, considering factors such as local architecture, social practices, and cultural norms that could influence the production and perception of sound.

Situated sounds: Sounds that are understood in relation to their specific contexts or environments, considering factors like the location, time, cultural practices, and social interactions that influence and are affected by these sounds.

Sonic artefacts: Objects, recordings, or phenomena with specific sonic characteristics or historical significance. They can be applied to study or understand auditory cultures, technologies, or environments.

Sonic excavation: The process of uncovering and examining the historical, cultural, or physical layers within a soundscape or audio material, like an archaeologist excavating a site.

Sonic fiction: A term coined by Kodwo Eshun, sonic fiction refers to a speculative approach to sound and music, at which point new realities and perceptions are imagined and constructed through sonic experiences. This concept can be used in art, literature, and cultural theory to challenge and expand our understanding of the world.

Sonic frequencies: The number of cycles a sound wave completes per second, measured in Hertz (Hz). Different frequencies correspond to perceived pitches; for example, humans can typically hear frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz.

Sonic histories: An approach to history that focuses on the role of sound and listening in the past. It involves researching historical sounds and environments, recording technologies, listening practices, or the use of sound in cultural rituals and events. Sonic historians use archival recordings, written descriptions of sound, and oral histories in their research.

Sonic palimpsest: Borrowing from the concept of a palimpsest in literature and archaeology (a manuscript or piece of writing material on which writing is superimposed on effaced earlier writing). A sonic palimpsest refers to a sound or an audio recording where new sounds overlay or intermingle with older ones, creating a complex layering of sonic histories.

Sonic persona: The distinct ‘voice’ or sonic identity that a person, character, or entity presents. It could include the literal voice and the specific sounds associated with them, such as a musician’s unique style or a brand’s audio logo.

Sonic publics: Communities or groups formed through shared sonic experiences or interests. It could refer to listeners of a specific music genre, inhabitants of a particular acoustic environment, or participants in a sound-related social movement.

Sonic resistance: The use of sound or music as a form of protest or defiance against power structures. It often involves creating sounds that challenge normalised behaviour or refusing to listen to sounds imposed by authorities.

Sonic topography: The study of the layout or arrangement of an acoustic space. It considers an environment’s physical and spatial properties and how they influence the sound within it.

Sonic Art or Sound art: An artistic discipline where sound is the primary medium. It is often interdisciplinary, overlapping with other fields such as music, visual arts, and performance.

Sounding: The act of producing or emitting sound. It can also refer to exploring or investigating something through sound or measuring the depth of a body of water using sound waves.

Sounding (as conceptualised by Julian Henriques)

In "Sonic Bodies: Reggae Sound Systems, Performance Techniques, and Ways of Knowing" (2011), Julian Henriques offers an in-depth study of the "Sounding" concept. This idea captures the intertwined processes of sound production and perception, highlighting the multifaceted nature of sound. It goes beyond the auditory aspect to include the physical and material realities of sound as it interacts with human senses and the environment.

Materiality of Sound: Henriques identifies sound as a physical entity that travels through media such as air and water. This perspective reveals sound as a concrete phenomenon, not solely an auditory experience but also a tactile one.

Embodied Experience: This facet of "Sounding" extends past mere auditory perception, emphasizing the corporeal sensation of sound. The concept argues that sound is an experience felt through tactile and kinesthetic senses as vibrations move through the body.

Cultural and Social Context:  Henriques probes into the varied cultural meanings and engagements with sound, investigating its influence on cultural identities and social connections.

Sound Systems: The concept analyses the crucial role of sound systems in creating community identities and social environments, focusing on the shared experience generated by the physical arrangement and use of these systems in public spaces.

Acoustic Ecology: Sounding deepens our comprehension of how sounds shape and define environments, affecting individuals and communities alike.

Music and Performance Studies: The concept expands to consider how music is bodily and spatially experienced, advancing beyond traditional considerations of melody and harmony.

Media and Communication Studies: Sounding is essential in evaluating how sound experiences are mediated by technology across different media, especially in audio-visual contexts.

Sounding is a comprehensive concept that encompasses the physical, experiential, and cultural facets of sound. It fosters a complete understanding of auditory experiences by exploring the intricate relationship between sound, the human body, and the environment, highlighting its significant cultural and social implications.

Soundscape: A term coined by R. Murray Schafer, a Canadian composer and environmentalist recognised fortheir significant contributions to sound studies, mainly throughtheir concept of the ‘soundscape’. According to Schafer, a soundscape refers to the acoustic environment as perceived by an individual. In other words, it is our sonic surroundings, everything we hear around us, whether it is natural sounds (like birds singing, the wind blowing), human-made sounds (like music, conversation), or noises (traffic, construction work, etc.). He divides soundscapes into three categories:

Keynote sounds (background sounds present in each area).

Sound signals (foreground sounds, which we consciously listen to).

Soundmarks (sounds which are unique or possess qualities that make the area acoustically distinct).

The concept of the soundscape was introduced as part of a larger ‘acoustic ecology project aimed at promoting healthier sonic environments. He criticised noise pollution in modern society and called for greater awareness and understanding of our sonic environment.

Anthropologist Tim Ingold critiques R. Murray Schafer’s ‘traditional’ concept of the soundscape. Ingold believes that sound and music are intertwined with a broader set of concerns that acknowledge the relational, processual nature of perception and the environment. In contrast to Schafer’s view of soundscapes as a static, object-like portrayal of sounds within a landscape. Ingold offers a holistic and relational understanding of sound, inseparable from perception and the broader environment. 

In the essay Four Objections to the Concept of Soundscape, he raises several questions about the dichotomy between sound and silence, wherein soundscape studies identify silence as the absence of sound and something that disrupts silence. For Ingold, this dichotomy is false; he believes that silence is filled with tension and anticipation of sound, which can emerge from and recede into silence. 

In the passage Sound as Process, Ingold objects to sounds as objects or entities within a soundscape. Instead, he argues for understanding sound as an ongoing, ever-unfolding process. Sound is not a thing but an activity, always in the making. 

The interplay of perception and environment identifies sound as being intertwined with the context of its perception and rejects the idea of the environment as a container filled with sounds. Instead, he advocates for a relational approach that sees the listener, the environment, and the sound as interconnected. 

Ingold also critiques the distinction between the natural and artificial sounds made in soundscape studies. He argues that this division reflects an anthropocentric view that separates humans from the rest of the world. Intheir view, all sounds emerge from the same process of living and dwelling in the world.

Soundsystems: A cultural and technological innovation, began in 1950s Kingston, Jamaica. They have since evolved into a global phenomenon, deeply influencing various musical subcultures. Originating in Kingston’s streets, sound systems were devised to share music communally. They have been pivotal in spreading ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub, and dancehall music, shaping the musical preferences, styles, and dances of Caribbean cultures and their diasporas.

Comprising turntables, amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, effect processors, and large speakers (‘bins’ or ‘stacks’), sound systems are designed for robust bass and high-volume output. Customisation is common to enhance sound quality and ensure an immersive experience. A sound system operates collaboratively, featuring a selector (DJ) who curates music and an MC who engages the audience. These performances are dynamic and interactive, with the team responding to the audience’s feedback. Beyond equipment, sound systems are foundational to their communities, serving as hubs for social interaction, celebration, and collective expression. They often act as platforms for social commentary and solidarity.

Sound systems have left an indelible mark on global music genres such as U.S. hip-hop, UK grime, and electronic music, adapting to and influencing diverse cultural settings. Within ethnomusicology, cultural studies, and sociology, sound systems are analysed for their impact on music production, community identity, and diasporic traditions. Academics also consider their significance in music’s political economy, intellectual property rights, and the material culture of technology. Soundsystem are multifaceted, intertwining technology with cultural and community dynamics. They demonstrate music’s role in fostering social bonds and embodying cultural and creative evolution.

Soundwalking: A method of exploring an environment that focuses on listening to ambient sounds. It’s often used in fields such as acoustic ecology, sound studies, and sound art to create a deeper understanding of the sonic characteristics of a place.

Structure-borne sound: Sound transmitted through solid materials, often causing vibrations. It is different from air-borne sound, which is transmitted through the air. Structure-borne sound is often a concern in architecture, engineering, and noise control.

Temporal sounds: These are sounds understood primarily in terms of their timing or duration. They can refer to rhythmic patterns in music or how the sounds shift and change over time. In a broader sense, ‘temporal’ applies to sounds from a specific historical period or how historical and cultural changes are reflected in a sound.



Viral sound: Refers to sounds or audio content that become rapidly popular and widely shared or replicated, often through the internet and social media platforms. The concept borrows from the idea of viral media or viral memes.