New article on Georges Perec published

My article ‘Species of Sonic Spaces’ has been published in the new issue of Literary Geographies. This is a themed issue on the work of Georges Perec, inspired particularly by his classic 1974 text Species of Spaces.

Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces (1974) offers the author’s most explicit and extensive meditation on space understood as both everyday reality and source for speculation. The book is organised according to a ‘visualist’ logic and does not address sound as a way of understanding our environment. This article takes Species of Spaces as an invitation to consider ‘species of sonic space’, a variety of related chunks of the sonic environment we share. It asks how we might explore the sonic environment by way of Perec’s text and through consideration of other spaces which Perec does not discuss. It reflects on existing attempts to think of sonic spaces and on the differences between describing sonic, visual and other felt spaces. Aspects of Perec’s text lend themselves to comparison with other writers’ attempts to bring sound and space together: his analysis of domestic spaces can be usefully placed alongside Gaston Bachelard’s work on ‘the poetics of space’; his descriptions of urban rhythms can be compared to those of Henri Lefebvre; his attention to interiority can be considered in light of Peter Sloterdijk’s ‘microspherology’; and his division of space into species find a potentially productive aural analogue in Brandon LaBelle’s account of ‘acoustic territories’. These and other thinkers are considered here as ways of setting up an ‘auralisation’ of Species of Spaces. The role of sound in Perec’s A Man Asleep (1967), An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (2010) and Life a User’s Manual (1978) is also discussed. These works, it is argued, extend, develop, anticipate or reverberate with Species of Spaces in ways that are useful for auralising that text.

Upcoming symposium: Singing Places

Friday 22 November, University of Sussex

Organisers: Richard Elliott and Sally Jane Norman
Fado_houseThe interweaving of song and place as a resonant cultural identifier offers a richly interdisciplinary research focus. Music, sonic arts, cultural anthropology, and human geography feature amongst disciplines mobilised by this domain, which is also strongly invested by a range of creative practices (music, poetry, architecture, acoustic ecologies, site-specific sound art). From a popular music perspective, we’re interested in songs about , or strongly connected to, specific places (and vice versa), while from a sound studies perspective, we’re thinking about the resonant qualities of particular places, how places can be made to ‘sing’. A combination of popular music, ethnomusicology, folklore/song studies and sound studies will, we hope, allow for some interesting discussions. This initial symposium, which draws together theorists and practitioners, aims to identify key research questions associated with the theme of ‘Singing Places’, with a view to launching a longer-term programme of academic and artistic events.

The Recital Room, Falmer House Room 120, University of Sussex


Arrival from 9:00

9:20 – 9:30 Welcome and introduction

9:30 – 10:00 Margaretta Jolly, ‘Singing Feminist Lives: Oral History as Autobiographical Place’

10:00 – 10:30 Amy Cunningham, ‘The Voice of the Iron Horse: Mechanical Voices and Nostalgia’

10:30 – 11:00 Eugene McCloskey, ‘…over borders…’

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 11:45 Richard Follett, ‘Soundscapes, Creolized Identities, and the Matrix of Memory’

11:45 – 12:00 Richard Elliott: introduction to first plenary session ‘Songs of/and place’

12:00 – 12:30 Plenary discussion

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch – Student Union meeting room

13:30 – 14:00 Jean Martin, ‘Echoes of the Past’

14:00 – 14:30 Matthew Hodson, ‘Architects of Composition’

14:30 – 15:00 Danny Bright, ‘Subterranean Sound Tunnel: singing the ghosts of the melting shop’

15:00 – 15:15 Break

15:15 – 15:30 Sally Jane Norman: introduction to second plenary session ‘Making places sing’

15:30 – 16:00 Plenary discussion

16:00 >>> Final plenary, chaired by Michael Bull

Free event but registration required. Please visit for details

Further information, including absracts and presenter bios here.

grief reconfigures time

Grief reconfigures time, its length, its texture, its function: one day means no more than the next, so why have they been picked out and given separate names? It also reconfigues space. You have entered a new geography, mapped by a new cartography. You seem to be taking your bearings from one of those seventeenth-century maps which feature the Desert of Loss, the (windless) Lake of Indifference, the (dried-up) River of Desolation, the Bog of Self-Pity, and the (subterranean) Caverns of Memory.

Julian Barnes, Levels of Life, 84

time gathered up

Those who say that even the young posess and know time, even though they thoughtlessly live for the future dimension, which is also time, such persons have never yet had the experience of feeling for themselves that time is nothing-but-time. This future into which the young tumble … is, to be sure, not time at all: it is world or, more exactly, it is space. The young say of themselves that they have time before them. But what really lies before them is the world, which they absorb and by which they let themselves at the same time be branded. The idea is that the old have life behind them, but this life that is no longer actually lived is nothing but time gathered up, lived, passed away.

To the young, that which they believe to be time becomes consciously an impatient expectation for what is coming to them and is properly due to them after the course of life and death. Time is for them something that obviously moves in space and will enter and step into their life and into them. Characteristically, one is more liekly to say of a young person that the world is open to him rather than that he has time before him.

Améry, On Aging, 14