Episode 2. Compost/composing: soil as acoustic ecology of growth & decay

Tower like casting ejected by a species of perichaeta (earthworm), 1880-1881.
Our collective tendency is to regard soil as the inanimate material ground upon which life flourishes, rather than to think soil itself as a lively and multi-bodied ecology. We might refer to the ‘fertility’ of soil, but only insofar as it provides a rich, humetic substrate for sustaining plant life. Without a tangible (or audible) presence that speaks to its animisms, the lives and tropisms of soil itself remain as a virtual conceptual horizon that is difficult to affectively grasp. One strategy for recalibrating and extending ‘arts of noticing’ our earthy, more-than-human ecologies is in finding new ways to listen to the vibratory movements and multispecies aliveness of soil. Soil bioacoustics is a relatively new and interdisciplinary area, which makes use of relatively low-cost recording tools to sonically perceive the richness and diversity of different soil ecologies.

Composting is a technique that has been described in artistic practices (for instance, by Pierre Huyghe in relation to his approach to organic and multispecies installations such as After Alife Ahead) and in the feminist environmental humanities (by Astrida Neimanis & Jennifer Mae Hamilton, wherein composting infers a material-discursive labour of care and attention). Compost is also a rich and lively material ecosystem of growth and decay, dematerialisation and nutrient cycling; transformation of ‘waste’ matter into elemental energy in mutable bodies of becoming-soil. This project works with compost both as a practice and as a material body, in order to draw out the acoustic movements of soil as a life/death ecology of growth and transformation. It also attempts to think composting as a compositional strategy for bioacoustically-informed artistic sound works.

Full essay available as publication available Mid 2020

Sonic Essay

👂🏽  Sonic essay available mid 2020

Texts for an expanded reading practice

📖  Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, 2019. “Re-animating soils: Transforming human–soil affections through science, culture and community”. The Sociological Review Monographs Vol. 67(2) 391 –407 

📖  Matthias C. Rillig et al., Sounds of Soil: A New World of Interactions under Our Feet? Soil Systems 3(3).
📖  Astrida Neimanis and Jennifer Mae Hamilton, 2017. “Composting Feminisms and Environmental Humanities”. Environmental Humanities 10(2): 501-527.

👀  http://soundmap.soundingsoil.ch/