Journal of Sonic Studies, volume 2, nr. 1 (May 2012)Adel Wang Jing: AFFECTIVE LISTENING: China’s Experimental Music and Sound Art Practice
When we listen affectively, we listen with and to our bodies. The ear-becoming-body. When a sound does not carry any identifiable, decodable, or communicative message, it affects the listening body in the way touching does. Sound touches the listening body, causing concretely felt intensities before the mind knows. Affective listening is a commitment to forces, intensities and becoming. One listens to the Qi or ‘haecceities’ of sound, which are only later reduced and signified as harmony, melody, or emotions (Cox 2011; Deleuze and Guattari 1987; Massumi 2002). Affective listening resembles Buddhist meditation in that both emphasize the practice of Qi (of body-mind-soul) rather than the mind alone, and both lead to self-transforming rather than self-transcending. In the context of Chinese experimental music and sound art practice, affective listening functions as the cultivation of the self, aspiring to the state of selflessness. This paper presents the initial stage of a larger project to formulate the model of ‘affective listening’ as a mode afforded by China’s free improvisation and experimental music practices.