Institut für Musikwissenschaft

Sound, Density, and the Environment

Dissertationsprojekt von Victor de Souza Soares

Dwellings of Sound: Auditory Knowledge and Sonic Symbolism amongst the Geraizeiros of Central Brazil


The scenery of this investigation is the Central Brazilian Plateau’s countryside, also known as Gerais, and its subjects are the Geraizeiros, traditional people who dwells that vast rural region. The geraizeiro communities are organized in either small neighboring ranches or tiny villages, and its people have been traditionally devoted to subsistence agriculture, cattle raising, fishing and craft production. One of the most remarkable cultural features among this population is that, besides revealing century-old musical traditions, they appear to experience their environment, learn about it and relate to its elements by means of a very particular relation to the soundscape. Accordingly, the subproject's central question is: how is a local soundscape comprehended, symbolized and developed into music in the realm of this specific human cultural context? A central task of this sonic ethnographic investigation is the comprehension of local broad-sense acoustic phenomena as symbols; i.e. as elements subject to interpretation, metaphorization and development into artistic or expressive forms. To enable such analysis, a framework based on three main conceptual pillars was established, each of which respectively supported by a major theoretical corpus, namely: a) sonic symbolism, in the realm of anthropology of sound, aural anthropology and anthropology of the senses; b) soundscape and acoustemology, within the field of interdisciplinary sound studies; c) non-human agency (Hediger & McFarland 2009), appurtenant to agency theory. By combining different theories into one main framework, this dissertation aims to establish a dialogue between different implications of listening which can bring several answers pursuant to human-nature sonic interactions in rural environments.


The dissertation is part of the SNF-Project “Sound, Density and the Environment”.