The beginning of the second volume of Resonance expands on our mission to deliver compelling and original scholarship, writings that have unique historical, critical, artistic, and cultural perspectives on sound from a diversity of intellectual voices. In this issue are invited essays and original research that attend to how filmmakers create refined layers of meaning through the unique use of narration and through music’s ability to convey characterization. The issue also researches the detailed relationship between sound and gentrification in Berlin, as well as nuanced artistic processes pertaining to listening in to forests with a democratic ear. By contrast, the composing of ambient sound into an industrial sound design for David Lynch’s film Eraserhead is considered as a sonic lament to the decline of the steel industry in the United States. Also, a close examination of shared intimacy in the soundscapes of Gulu, Uganda, expands our understanding of the expressiveness of sociability. The subversive role of sound and music in the works of Dakota artist-activist Gertrude Bonnin (Zitkala Ša) forms a valuable study of Indigeneity at the turn of the 20th century. Finally, we present an interview with the artists who created an installation and documentary video portraying how horses and their sounds aided in shaping gender roles in and around New York City in the 19th century.

Research from the journal’s special issue, “The Soundwork of Media Activism,” will continue through the second volume of Resonance as a special series with our interdisciplinary team of guest editors Jen Shook, Georgia Ennis, Alex Sayf Cummings, and Josh Shepperd. As stated in the previous issue’s introduction, the special series “engages some of the most pressing issues of the early 21st century by tracing affective, embodied, sometimes playful, sometimes violent experiences of aurality in activist and otherwise transformative media.”

Ufuk Önen, in “Voice as a Narrative Element in Documentary Films,” investigates how the human voice serves as a primary and creative sonic element in contemporary documentary film. Önen specifically examines five music-themed documentaries: Lot 63, Grave C (Sam Green), Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul (Fatih Akin), Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen, and Jessica Joywise), Decline of Western Civilization Part II: Metal Years (Penelope Spheeris), and Searching for Sugar Man (Malik Bendjelloul). Each documentary focused on unique ways to tell its story using the human voice to frame its subject creatively. As the classic or expository documentary becomes less practiced in a world propelled through rapid-fire imagery and creative sound design, one might easily argue that documentary films might be strengthened when narrative voice is considered a critical aesthetic component in the storytelling process, its story then becoming strategically situated in the sound mix. In this way, the human voice, apart from its body, takes on a central role in the documentary, without diminishing, but enhancing, conditions for the creation of new meaning. Its sonic presence within the documentary offers a fresh perspective, or even counterpoint, to the shared experience, shaped through both presentation of fact and fiction, in the latter case by allowing the imagination of viewers and listeners to move the story forward.

In their essay “Hearing Is Believing,” fiction author and journalist R.A. Frumkin judiciously collides important sonic tangents from the 1927 film The Jazz Singer and the 2018 HBO series Succession into a hybrid essay that challenges readers to complicate our understanding of what a film score can come to mean. Frumkin pings the troubled cultural history of The Jazz Singer, and the reflection that returns makes for an ideal present mesh into the narrative and sonic arc of Succession, a show about a patriarch-led media empire. It’s not only about the relational histories present between communications technologies but also, as the author playfully reminds us, “let’s not forget the Vitaphone, or today’s vital phones.” About the platform that delivered the first sync sound film, Frumkin writes:

The Vitaphone, which was essentially a projector coupled with a sophisticated turntable, looks either like the stuff of science fiction or like a Rube Goldberg machine—unwieldy, with several moving parts, an analog dinosaur that Silicon Valley oligarchs have since collapsed into something dark-screened and pocket-sized.

A close listen to composer Nicholas Britell’s music for Succession is essential for Frumkin, who excels at discovering the places where sound and narrative form a more active bond for the viewer:

When we watch Succession, we’re witnessing the pairing of a polyphony with a corporate body. Better even: We’re witnessing rebellion on a cellular level. When Kendall rejects his father’s role for him, he rejects the corporate structure altogether. He acquires for himself a consciousness as multifarious as Britell’s score. In the words of the jazz singer’s mother: “He’s not my boy anymore—he belongs to the whole world now.”

The essay also offers adroit commentary on how art aspires in capitalist models of production and in reference to Hannah Arendt, the author writes:

If we can learn anything from Britell’s score, it’s that human beings have bodies but cannot be bodies, that the expression of a consciousness and a conscience are worthier projects for the individual than jockeying for wealth and power. While it’s true that whoever controls the media has a stranglehold on the juridical being of the consumer, it’s also true that sound is just as persuasive and controlled by no one.

In Florence Feiereisen and Erin Sassin’s “Sounding Out the Symptoms of Gentrification in Berlin,” the reader is invited to consider how sound informs the history of the neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg. Sound can actually tell a more powerful albeit different story. Whereas most research focuses on the visual aspects of gentrification, ironically, sonic history is often eradicated through beautification. Through the process, restoration obliterates sound marks, which are further obstructed by the noise of construction. But in the end, the neighborhood’s voice has been silenced. Feiereisen and Sassin explore the case of the legendary Knaack Club, once a concert venue vibrant with several floors of live music that attracted nightly crowds of young people. Over the years, it became a highly contested sonic space that led to numerous noise complaints, especially as the neighborhood became more family oriented. The once-disco now stands quiet, with its rich history silenced by modernization. The authors argue that Berlin’s architectural and cultural history is now devoid of important sonic markers that once represented the voice of East Berlin youth and that had historically made the neighborhood “so attractive” to its residents in its early days.

Leah Toth parses the influences, origins, and artistic use of audible noise as a compositional strategy used by David Lynch for the creation of the sound design for Eraserhead in “‘Beautiful, If You See It the Right Way’: David Lynch and Eraserhead’s Aural Tableau of Industrial America.” In her article, Toth revisits initial and recent scholarship of the seminal film combined with interviews and focused analysis that renders a new perspective on the aesthetics of Lynch’s industrial America:

[B]y imagining the industrial setting just as it is, but beautiful instead of ugly—it becomes plausible to think of Eraserhead and its onslaught of relentless machine and analog noise as a sort of requiem for the United States’ industrialized past. Furthermore, the film’s sound design makes it an anomaly among feature films; its incorporation of mechanized noise serves ultimately to buttress Lynch’s syncretic surrealism while simultaneously leading to a labyrinth of interpretive possibilities, creating a powerful, sometimes ghostly atmosphere of a lingering industrial past.

For a more comprehensive and historical understanding of the specifics of Eraserhead’s concentered and rusted surrealism, Toth looks to political economists Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison for clues about postindustrial loss and corporate disinvestment during the 1970s. She also weaves in key aspects of the collaboration and artistic practices shared between Lynch and sound designer Alan Splet, allowing Toth to squarely center Lynch’s work in the emerging industrial culture movement of the ’70s. The composed noise of Eraserhead and the artful anti-aesthetic at play in the sound design form a kind of sonic alloy that for Toth results in a strength:

But there is so much noise can tell us if we prioritize it: about how much our own interpretations depend on the synchronization of film sound and image, how the film’s surrealist impressions are expressed through sound, and how its aural representation of an industrial neighborhood inaccessible and tucked away in time somewhere suggests a nostalgia for industrial power and might.

In “Listening to the Democratic Forest with Brian Harnetty,” Alex Sayf Cummings speaks with sound artist Brian Harnetty about how wooded spaces can serve as listening rooms. It’s a project that brings together “diverse groups of Appalachian residents, young and old, activists and oil drillers,” entering into dialogue and trading perspectives on environmental issues. These natural rooms offer a unique setting for sharing, and each person’s perspective is shaped within the acoustics of the forest, with each voice freed yet secured within the foliage. Forest Listening Rooms reimagine “the space of the forest as one of democratic immediacy.” As people listen to one another, the forest also has a voice. Cummings notes that the forest becomes the mediator “between people from different backgrounds, classes, and ideologies.” The author continues, “The forest steps between us and offers an excuse to pay attention to something other than ourselves, and then we can start to listen to one another.” Cummings also traces the roots of listening rooms to the late 1880s, when miners gathered and conspired to discuss labor disputes.

Cultural anthropologist Joella Bitter draws on her ethnographic field work in “Cross-fading the City: Expressive Sociability as Relational politics in Gulu, Uganda.” Bitter’s research argues for broader consideration for African cities to be understood as spaces where the sensory, sounded politics of daily life are valued for their expressive sociability. Her finely detailed accounts of the city of Gulu and of a group of friends who gather there to share in musicking and vocal freestyling help to illustrate the cultural valences of sound present in the city:

By activating relational combinations rooted in sonic intimacies, even while the forces of racial capital continue to impinge on their lives vis-à-vis Gulu’s urbanization process, the group of artist-friends effectively tune out and turn down or tune in and turn up the city. This fading manifests an urban relational micro-politics.

In building her model, Bitter expands on Schafer’s concept of “sounds that matter” and Feld’s acoustemology to include what is intimate about soundscapes as informed by feminist theorists Wilson, Parreñas, and Povinelli. For Bitter, expressive sociability is an active and also fundamental component of the sensory space of Gulu:

In these moments, and through these relations, the city becomes elaborated through the ebb and flow of pleasurable, sounded feelings. Rather than shared meaning or juridical claims-making, these feelingful events register an aesthetic sensibility with an intensity of lived experience, sensation, or affect. As a relational politics, these practices operate through often-subtle shifts in orientation that shape the city and one’s place in it.

In “Tiny Taps and Noisy Hacks: Listening to Zitkala Ša’s Sonic Politics,” Kristen Rose Brown shares the story of Zitkala Ša, a.k.a. Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, who advocated for women’s rights as well as for justice for all Native Americans in the mid-1800s. Brown expounds on how Zitkala Ša captivated her audience by creating a multisensory experience for her tribal listeners. Her speech would connect with women through sound and song, creating a sensorium that would accompany her narration in essence to legitimize the Indigenous connections to the land. The performance created a harsh and loud soundscape that underscored the brutality and injustice against her people and their land. Brown asks the reader to consider “the Indigenous sonic-cultural expressions that have been imposed on Indigenous people.” Zitkala Ša understood how to use sound as a political force to create a voice of resistance that would bring her listeners into her way of thinking. As a musician, she became extremely skilled at sonically designing her message of decolonization.

Digital and performance dramaturg Jen Shook interviews Kim Marra, Mark Anderson, and Wade Hampton, creators of the multimedia exhibit The Pull of Horses on National and Local Histories and Identities and the accompanying documentary video, The Pull of Horses in Urban American Performance, 1860–1920. The artwork and scholarship discussed in the interview stems from Marra’s 2009 Horseback Views, which centers on the phenomenon of Anglo-American women’s riding as well as her interest in how her own works function as queer performance historiography. While the group of collaborators articulate the process of making the projects together, they also define what role sound plays in the recovering and re-performing of a past.

We would like to thank the authors and reviewers and are proud to share their valued research here in the first issue of our second volume. Additionally, we want to thank the following people for their support, hard work, and guidance in the development of this journal: David Famiano, Cheryl Owen, Laura Kenney, Honna Veerkamp, Jen Shook, Georgia Ennis, Alex Sayf Cummings, and Josh Shepperd. Our continued thanks go out to the members of our talented editorial board for their hard work, insights, and guidance.