Frances Dyson

(Non)Economies of Sound: Experimental Sound and the Common” [ENG]


Abstract: In the rapid appropriation of the public sphere, what were once public spaces have become sites of institutionalized spectacle, where participation and engagement are not only severely restricted (in terms of access within and to the site), but increasingly beyond the reach of those they were meant to entertain. Price per square metre is now the overriding vector in the reconfiguration of public space. But how is price per square metre figured in terms of sound? In this paper I argue that sound art and experimental music encourage forms of political, economic, and social organization that can resist the deracinated public sphere of neo-liberalism. In the same way that sound’s ephemeral and atmospheric nature circulates outside of exchange, the (non)economy of performance/sound art and live experimental music creates a public sphere relatively free from monetization. As such, it offers an avenue through which social relations can be re-negotiated, via a focused listening praxis that asserts the politics and existential condition of the “in-common.” From here, the movement towards a shared sensibility, a “communism of the senses” that builds sense, the common, and common sense simultaneously, might be possible.


Bio: Frances Dyson is Emeritus Professor of Cinema and Technocultural Studies at the University of California, Davis, and Visiting Professorial Fellow at the National Institute for Experimental Arts, University of New South Wales. She is the author of The Tone of Our Times: Sound, Sense, Economy and Ecology (MIT Press, 2014), Sounding New Media: Immersion and Embodiment in the Arts and Culture (University of California Press, 2009), and the web-based media project “And then it was Now”  on E.A.T., 9 Evenings and Pavilion (Daniel Langlois Foundation for Art, Science and Technology, Montreal 2007). Dyson has exhibited installation/performance works in the US, Canada, Japan and Australia, and has been a regular contributor to Australia’s premier audio arts program, The Listening Room, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Her audio works can be found on She currently serves on the editorial boards of Evental Aesthetics and CTheory (see recent talk at