Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener  

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Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener (2010) is a book by David Toop. The book is based on research done for the Ways of Hearing tour. On the cover is «Soplones», nº 48 of Goya series Los Caprichos.

Michaelangelo Matos called it "an exploration of sound in novels, poems, and paintings from before the era of sound reproduction."

The title is derived from Henry Cowell’s "Sinister Resonance" (1930).


From the publisher:

Sinister Resonance begins with the premise that sound is a haunting, a ghost, a presence whose location in space is ambiguous and whose existence in time is transitory. The intangibility of sound is uncanny a phenomenal presence both in the head, at its point of source and all around, and never entirely distinct from auditory hallucinations. The close listener is like a medium who draws out substance from that which is not entirely there.
The history of listening must be constructed from narratives of myth and fiction, silent arts such as painting, the resonance of architecture, auditory artefacts and nature. In such contexts, sound often functions as a metaphor for mystical revelation, instability, forbidden desires, disorder, formlessness, the unknown, unconscious and extra-human, a representation of immaterial worlds. As if reading a map of hitherto unexplored territory, Sinister Resonance deciphers sounds and silences buried within the ghostly horrors of Arthur Machen, Shirley Jackson, Charles Dickens, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James and Edgar Allen Poe, seventeenth century Dutch genre painting from Rembrandt to Vermeer, artists as diverse as Francis Bacon and Juan Munoz, Ad Reinhardt and Piero Della Francesca, and the writing of many modernist authors, including Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and William Faulkner. Threaded through the book is Marcel Duchamp's curious observation "One can look at seeing but one can't hear hearing" and his concept of the infra-thin, those human experiences so fugitive that they exist only in the imaginative absences of perception.

Table of contents

Section one: Aerial

1. Drowned by voices

"For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror” (the ominous declaration of poet Rainer Maria Rilke) is the epigraph of this chapter.

2. Each echoing opening; each muffled closure

3. Dark senses

4. Writhing sigla

5. The jagged dog

Section two: Vessels and Volumes

6. Act of silence

7. Art of silence

Documented in the Visual guide to David Toop's 'Sinister Resonance'

8. A conversation piece

Section three: Spectral

9. Chair creaks, but no one sits there

Section four: Interior Resonance

10. Snow falling on snow

Coda: Distant Voices




See also

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