Sound Design: A Phenomenology

  • Christopher Wenn
Part of the Performance Philosophy book series (PPH)


Phenomenologies of sound are, in general, phenomenologies of listening or performing—that is, they privilege the moment of sound’s making or the moment of its hearing. This chapter broadens this to include the process of the sound designer, integrating the experience of the audience in an account of the complex temporalities and intentionalities of the full experience of sound in performance, rooted in our intersubjective understanding of other beings in our world. It argues that sound design and other design disciplines within performance are an integral part of the performance, not an afterthought. Further, the work of design is figured as a work of phenomenology itself, as an intersubjective transcendence of designer, actor, director, audience as individual hearers—a coming-into-being of ‘listener’ and ‘listened-to’ in the time of a work’s creation as well as its presence on stage. In the work of sound design for performance, the designer must be open and turned towards an audience that does not yet exist—the designer must render the thinkable imaginary of design as the knowable of performance. The philosophies of Badiou, Heidegger and Nancy are brought together with leading theorists of sound to address notions of truth and the temporality of performance in the role of the designer in theatre, exploring the movement of meaning between listener and listened-to, and positing that the rules and conventions that are shaped in the rehearsal and performance process are unique systems of meaning which imagine an intersubjective audience for an other.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Wenn
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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