Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“The Duration of the World as a Continuous Melody” – Anthony Nestel

In his lecture on sonification titled Sonification for Sharing Auditory Perspectives on Data (2020), dr. Thomas Hermann reminded us of the complexity of our human listening system.   According to Hermann, “the benefits of using the auditory system as a primary interface for data transmission are derived from its complexity, power, and flexibility.” (Hermann, Hunt and Neuhoff 2014, 3) Sound’s power has largely been neglected by our contemporary western civilizations by granting the sense of sight, an undefined dominance over our other senses. Consequently, our senses have been split up and fragmented in thousands of pieces. I will argue, though, that our auditory system can capture, as no other sense, the constant transformation and becoming of our world, putting us and all our senses in what Henri Bergson calls duration.

Everything has a rhythm that modifies with time, things are thus not things but processes in relation to other processes. These processes are indivisible, unmeasurable, and necessarily get altered when enduring them as an attempt at division. Why is it then that our surroundings seem static? Why does my room seem the same when I go to bed every night? Bergson argues in Matter and Memory (1896) that we, humans, interrupt the continuity of experienced duration as a result of social life and practical necessity into words and objects – things. (Bergson 2004, 241) Therefore, I will see my mattress, upon which I sleep almost every night, as separate from me and static. Our sense of sight is not able to see our beds in duration – vibrating in close proximity with the floor, with the window, with the ceiling, etc. We see very little vibrations, rhythms, frequencies of the world since these microscopical events are not useful for our survival. However, what can our auditory perception do?

I argue that hearing is central to understanding the nature of duration. Imagine that you are at a concert, listening to a song you have never heard before. As each music tone affects your ears, connecting this note to all the preceding ones, every note will determine its function and nature within the song as a continuous heterogeneous multiplicity. In the words of Craig Lundy, “the character of each emerging note in a melody is contoured in part by its interconnections or relations of ‘mutual penetration’ with previous notes and the melodic progression.” (Lundy 2018, 73) Unlike our beds for our eyes, the world to our ears is continuous, in becoming, in process, in duration. The current sound as a becoming – that which is being continuously transformed.


  • Bergson, Henri. 2004. Matter and Memory. New York: Dover Publications Inc.
  • Hermann, Thomas, Hunt, Andy and Neuhoff, John G. 2014. The Sonification Handbook. Berlin: Logos Verlag Berlin GmbH
  • Lundy, Craig. 2018. Deleuze’s Bergsonism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.