Abstract

The 1997 discovery of a fifty-thousand-year-old flute made from the femur of a cave bear, with its intimation of reanimating nonhumans, and the 1977 launch of the Voyager spacecraft carrying an eclectic set of sound recordings intended to be heard in the distant future by nonhuman others: two sonic events that frame the possible meanings of posthumous. Together these examples and others question whether everything audible is already over—the bear's lost life, electronic recording procedures—or indefinitely deferred until an act of listening that may never occur. An ecological address to the problems of making sonic culture at a historical turning point at or beyond terminal risk prompts a politics of the commons grounded in a general imagination (modeled on Marx's general intellect). Against earlier modernist claims for both rationality and its failure, sound cultures enact a drama of melancholy and hope in the ecological continuity of body and world at the moment of their end.

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