Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Sound of Elsewhere

This is what the eighteenth century sounded like. It was a thing to have one of these in your house, in the window. Kind of like an iPod with speakers now. Coleridge and Shelley incorporated Aeolian harps into immanent materialist ontologies, in beautiful and disturbing ways. See this essay (DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2007.00520.x).

The sound of an Aeolian harp is unearthly yet caused by very ordinary phenomena—they're like wind chimes really, only with sympathetic strings instead of smooth metal.

And now, its strings
Boldlier swept, the long sequacious notes
Over delicious surges sink and rise,
Such a soft floating witchery of sound
As twilight Elfins make, when they at eve
Voyage on gentle gales from Fairy-Land,
Where Melodies round honey-dripping flowers,
Footless and wild, like birds of Paradise,
Nor pause, nor perch, hovering on untam'd wing!
O! the one Life within us and abroad... (Coleridge, “The Eolian Harp”)

In Ecology without Nature I talk about the Aeolian as an effect of ambient poetics—the illusion that sound, imagery etc. is emanating from an unseen source, like wind in sympathetic strings.

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