Go back to article: Towards a more sonically inclusive museum practice: a new definition of the ‘sound object’


As museums continue to search for new ways to attract visitors, recent trends within museum practice have focused on providing audiences with multisensory experiences. Books such as 2014’s The Multisensory Museum present preliminary strategies by which museums might help visitors engage with collections using senses beyond the visual. In this article, an overview of the multisensory roots of museum display and an exploration of the shifting definition of ‘object’ leads to a discussion of Pierre Schaeffer’s musical term objet sonore – the ‘sound object’, which has traditionally stood for recorded sounds on magnetic tape used as source material for electroacoustic musical composition. A problematic term within sound studies, this article proposes a revised definition of ‘sound object’, shifting it from experimental music into the realm of the author’s own experimental curatorial practice of establishing The Museum of Portable Sound, an institution dedicated to the collection and display of sounds as cultural objects. Utilising Brian Kane’s critique of Schaeffer, Christoph Cox and Casey O’Callaghan’s thoughts on sonic materialism, Dan Novak and Matt Sakakeeny’s anthropological approach to sound theory, and art historian Alexander Nagel’s thoughts on the origins of art forgery, this article presents a new working definition of the sound object as a museological (rather than a musical) concept.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170805/001