While research on the educational properties of sound have opened up important pathways for research, there is a tendency to approach sound through meaning and information. This paper charts another tendency to explore sound as educational precisely because it resists our attempts at meaning making, thereby moving us from the process of understanding to the experience of thought itself. The force that guides this trajectory is that of timbre, or the nuance of sounds. I begin with Nina Sun Eidsheim’s, which aims to delink timbre from essence and identity by showing the infinite potential of vocal timbres. While Eidsheim surely weakens the link, the pedagogy she articulates remains within the drive to produce knowledge and under the aesthetic of the beautiful. To experience timbre’s pedagogical charge requires a move to the aesthetic of the sublime. To make this move, I link together Jean-François Lyotard’s writings on writing, thinking, aesthetics, and sound, which allows expansive conception of timbre and shows the sonic dimensions of writing and thinking, through which the writer suspends their drive to know and becomes passible to the timbre (or phoné) of the word.
Ford, D.R. (2020). The sonic aesthetics of writing: Timbre, pedagogy, and thought. Pedagogy, Culture and Society, online first.